A shortage of yoga pants? I’m outraged.

Posted on April 18, 2013

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“Women could be forced to make due with any other kind of pants…” Yoga Pants Shortage – YouTube. Make fun all you want, Jimmy Kimmel. Not having Lulu yoga pants to wear is kind of a big deal.

Jokes aside, Lululemon recently found itself in a PR crisis of sorts when they had to recall one of their most popular yoga pant styles due to a manufacturing issue — the pants were too sheer (which definitely lends itself to a bit of joking). A lot has been said about how Lulu responded to the crisis. They addressed the issue openly and honestly and took steps to ensuring it doesn’t happen again. All sounds good so far, right? Then why the criticism?

Articles like “Sheerly You’re Joking: An Alternate PR Strategy for Lululemon” argue: “The company missed a huge opportunity to reconnect and smooth things over with all constituents. They could have sold the impacted product at a 17 percent discount reflecting the percentage difference in sheerness. I know many loyalists who would have snapped a pair up just for the story. I could just imagine the self-deprecating in-store signs, ‘The Butt of All Sales.’”

The author goes on to suggest other alternatives, but I think he’s missing the point. Lululemon did respond in line with their brand. Sure, they’re a seemingly caring, slightly “hippy” brand. But they’re not the kind of company that offers up gratuitous discounts. They don’t even have a sale section on their website. And they’re super committed to quality – so selling sub-par pants (at any price) isn’t really in line with their ethos either.

What’s more surprising to me is what happened after all this too-sheer pants business went down. As a running lifestyle brand – and one that’s been very vocal about the Boston Marathon – they’ve remained silent on the events of this past Monday. Marketers have been largely criticized for continuing “marketing as usual” in light of the Boston Marathon attacks, but Lululemon was talking about the marathon right up until the finish when one of their featured runners crossed the line. Why haven’t they said anything in support of the runners – and their customers – who weren’t allowed to finish?

I’m not by any means suggesting that companies use a tragic event to their advantage, but if you’ve been touting the marathon and your runners along the way, a message of support is simple enough to share.

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Posted in: Crisis comms