Lululemon – How NOT to Market to Women

Lululemon co-founder Chip Wilson steps down

Lululemon co-founder Chip Wilson

For a brand that has done such an outstanding  job of marketing to women, it is amazing how quickly that brand can be seriously damaged, almost to the point of no return.

Yup – one comment can torpedo an entire brand.

Well, one comment followed by one of the worst “apologies” I’ve ever seen.

Mistake #1 – Bashing your customers

It all started when Lululemon co-founder Chip Wilson made the following comment in an interview with Bloomberg about problems with Lululemon yoga pants that were too see through.

“Some women’s bodies just don’t actually work for Lululemon’s yoga pants.”

“It’s really about the rubbing through the thighs, how much pressure is there over a period of time and how much they use it.”

Now, bashing sounds like a harsh word, but it’s not just what you say, it’s how it’s perceived. Word to the wise to men – do not ever, and I do mean EVER make disparaging comments about women’s bodies.   It will not end well for you.

Mistake #2 – Posting an apology that isn’t an apology

In my opinion, the real damage was done with the following video.

This is actually not an apology to Lululemon customers.  It is only addressed to the people who work at Lululemon.

Here’s how a customer hears this video:

Chip:  I’m sad, very sad, I’m sad for the repercussions from my actions.  I’m sad for the people at Lululemon who I really care about.

Customer hears:  I’m sad, very sad, not that I said what I did, but that my comments hurt business at Lululemon, and that the company and I are taking flack and are losing money because of it.

Chip:  I take responsibility for all that has occurred and the impact it has had on you. (NOTE:  He looks up and to his left when he says, “I take responsibility” – he does not look directly at the camera)

Customer sees:   A guy who can’t look directly into the camera when he says he takes responsibility.    In other words, they see a guy who is lying.   (Looking up and to the left is often a sign of someone lying.)

Chip:  I ask you (Lululemon employees) to prove that the culture you have built can not be chipped away.

Customer hears:   Don’t let the women who took offense win.

Again, this was NOT an apology to Lululemon customers OR for saying what he said.    I don’t know if it was intended for the general public or not, but it clearly got out to the public and lead to Chip Wilson stepping down from his position. (Although he still remains on the board).

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