Lululemon's massive fail at crisis management


By Benjamin Haslem

The crisis enveloping US athletic apparel company Lululemon has barely rated a mention in Australia but must rank as one of the most ham-fisted attempts at crisis management seen in quite a while - anywhere.

First some background.

It all started back in June, when Lululemon had to recall a line of its pants because of complaints the fabric became see-through when women bent over to do the downward dog (link here, if like me, you're not au fait with yoga positions). Then, in the past month, customers were complaining that the pants' new material pilled - small balls of fibre form on the fabric.

So step up Lululemon co-founder, Chip Wilson.

In a Bloomberg TV interview, Wilson drops this shocker:

“Quite frankly, some women’s bodies just don't work for [the pants]… It’s really about the rubbing through the thighs, how much pressure is there over a period of time.”

Unleash the social media storm. This piece pretty much sums it up.

After a week, (yes a week) and an online petition asking him to say sorry, Wilson responded by releasing a video on the company’s Facebook page.

We will get to the video shortly but first, why put an apology on your Facebook page? Why not put it on YouTube, tweet the link, email key journalists and bloggers and make sure your mea culpa is sent far and wide? 

As for the video, you can watch it here

Where is the apology to his customers? To women in general? He seems to be only saying sorry to his employees. They're an important stakeholder group and a separate video apologising to them would have been smart.

But there was no apology to those most offended and those who may well have brand loyalty. Sometimes there's something just as bad or even worse than no apology and that's one that misses the mark.

As PR disasters go, this was a doozy, only made far far worse and longer lasting by some very poor crisis management.