Lululemon Gets Transparent about Yoga Pants

by Bruce Nickson

I think it fair to say that, from anyway you look at it, the black Luon yoga pants transparency situation created an Annus Horribilis for the marketers at Lululemon.

 Nancy Richardson Vice-President, Digital & Brand Strategy at Lululemon (aka @asiandragonlady) began the talk with the following:

Lululemon is a development and leadership company that happens to sell awesome product”. To which my neighbour at the table rolled his eyes. At the risk of sounding disrespectful or incredulous, I thought, aren’t they in the business of delivering shareholder value? But that’s just me ….

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Fundamentally, in the Lulu way, Nancy set about dealing with the age-old problem of damage control. “Our core values were being challenged and we didn’t know what to do”. The marketing team got together and asked themselves where they would go if they didn’t make any fundamental changes. The decision was to “re-write the future” in “harmony” with “guests” (aka customers), “ambassadors and educators” (aka staff) and so on, and in alignment with core values as below:

1. Focus on agility: Lead with our organization’s purpose and shift quickly based on what is needed to achieve that purpose.

2. Possibility:  Create a future that otherwise would not exist.

3. Innovate:  Clear for what is possible.

And according to Nancy, the key to understanding Lululemon and how they set about solving the problem is culture: And this focus on culture led to a kind of Great Leap Forward.

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 Based on the above, the decision was made to develop greater engagement with customers through a different kind of dialogue.

 Which wasn’t 100% successful as the comments were still along the lines of:

“I should add, you guys have really mastered the ‘acknowledge & deflect’ approach to customer service.”

Ouch!

Back to the drawing board. So the video series became more detailed and real.  The conversations became less about “quality” but about the actual product and customer (sorry “guest”) feedback. As in:

 Which in turn led to greater and more detailed conversations with  … ummm … customers.

The next decision was to create a new social channel in addition to the usual Facebook and Twitter streams. And the next thing you know we have Hey Lululemon. A customer engagement blog that was built in 6 weeks and is currently had over 50,000 visitors to the site.

Hey Lululemon was born with the result that visitors to the site began to engage with the brand, and with each other. Additionally the most loyal of the visitors become “ambassadors” in order to “police” people that could be “going down that downward spiral”. In the end, the creation of Hey Lululemon, allowed the customer to “feel heard” and that Lulu was actually doing something about their concerns.

 So essentially through a series of digital trials and errors (test and adjust) Lulu was able to turn a fairly disastrous situation into a win for both company and customers.

There are two lessons to be gleaned from Nancy’s talk. The first is strategic; despite what you may think of Lulu’s people culture, an inculcation of genuine sincerity has taken place. People really do drink the Lululemon cool aid.

The second is that of technology. It is possible through social and other digital strategies to rapidly adjust messages and style to meet corporate objectives, whether they be financial, sales,  or plain old “we made a mistake, and this is how we’re fixing it” customer relations.

Final thought:

A Great Case Study that will be studied in universities soon.

Next up is Earls Restaurant: “How to say NO”

The next Breakfast Speaker Series Event will be Insights on Insights: New World of Market Research on Thursday, November 21, 2013.

 

 

 

 

 

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