Lululemon is a Canadian word of mouth phenomenon and even though most of their clothes cater to the female set, I love them. I love their story of trying to put some fun back in yoga. I love their product which beyond being extraordinarily comfortable and stylish can make someone that's weight-challenged look physically fit and attractive. I also really love and admire their value system and approach to marketing which is centred around local community development.
They are a Canadian retail success story (and there aren't many of them) and not surprisingly have developed a rabid following through word of mouth. (I personally believe I started their word of mouth inferno in west Toronto three years ago, but that's another story).
Which makes the press following the recent opening of their Kingston store all the more surprising. For the last few years, Lululemon has opened their new store locations with a quirky, buzzworthy promotion - - the first 40 people who lineup and strip naked to the undies can get a free wardrobe of yoga-friendly clothes.
The promotion has been viewed in most circles as a fun, irreverent way to do business. In Canada, where some parts of our country are under the snow for nearly 1/2 the year, it's very press worthy. Perhaps now that Lululemon has expanded across the country from its more liberal roots in Vancouver to the conservative town of Kingston Ontario, this same promotion has sparked an uproar.
What had seemed like a lot of fun in most circles has now raised the flag of "sexual exploitation". My response is "give it a rest". How PC and whiny have we become when free-willed people can't be involved with a brand in an offbeat, fun manner? I'm sure Lululemon can weather this passing storm and doesn't need my support and they will hopefully continue with this stunt.
However, the types of comments that have come back from activists are so out of whack with reality and depress me that they do beg a response. Left up to them, our entire marketing industry would be only allowed to practice in "beige" or "mauve" colours. I'm presuming the same people that are speaking up here would at a moment's notice sue McDonald's for being fat, their employer for being unhappy and their government for being poor.
As a man, I'm probably not adequated suited (attached is support for my comments by a women) to critique the negative "exploitation" outcry but here are the facts:
- the history of Lululemon's promotions had a "bare all" policy, did they think that would change for little old Kingston?
- everybody who was involved in the promotion was there of free choice
- men and women were equally encouraged to be part of the event
- it seems like even right after the event, the press and participant reaction was positive, only after a mea culpa from the one participant whose mom likely seethed with puritan rage did it attract negative spin
From a word of mouth perspective, my hope is Lululemon sticking to their guns and I complement their store manager for immediately diffusing the issue. You can not let a dangerous few sabotage your brand. Hopefully, by having a strong value system and staying firm, this will lead to even more advocates for this outspoken brand and trivialize the ramblings of the angry, likely non-consuming fringe. Unfortunately, this type of silly press makes the risk-averse marketers burrow even further into the holes.