There should be a class in every business school entitled, “How to turn lemons (or bad press) into lemonade”, using Lululemon as a case study.
Through the May/June media cycle, the brand’s media performance has remained strong, with June’s media rating unchanged at 65, just 2 points below its trailing 12-month average. With a relatively new CEO and renewed focus on the company’s broader image, media momentum is once again advancing — up +53 percent on strong product and investor coverage.
Looking at the brand’s 4-year media performance, the company seems to be recovering nicely from the double trouble of problems with quality control and unfortunate comments from a former executive.
If you’re a Lululemon employee, then you realize there are three basic constituencies you need to address, just about everyday – customers, investors, and journalists. One way to get beyond these and current troubles with investors is to put money in their pocket. In this arena the stock has not disappointed and recent investor-side coverage suggests this is likely to continue.
As for customers, a rapid and focused response followed by great customer support should be the call to action. It doesn’t hurt if your existing customer base is already quite loyal (and equally forgiving).
On the media front, it’s a little more difficult as the half-full / sky-is-falling editorial bias gets the better of even the most optimistic media outlet.
Lululemon History Lesson
It may be a distant media memory, but not too long ago Lululemon not only bounced back from a firestorm of bad press related to a manufacturing defect in its yoga pants (a defect that made them see-through, like transparent), the brand managed to move through the resulting coverage and greatly expand its traditional and social earned media footprint.
Apparently deja vu is in the Athletic & Outdoor Apparel Brands Sector, because here we are again. But this time Lululemon is recalling nearly its entire line of hoodies containing an elastic drawstring that can snap-back and possibly injure a customer (or “guest” as they’re frequently referred to in the yoga vernacular).
Let’s just say, getting snapped in the face by your favorite hoodie is the last thing you want after achieving your post-yoga nirvana.
Lesson in Media Recovery
But this is not a post about questionable products, or poor manufacturing, or corporate excuses. Lululemon is becoming the model brand when it comes to responding to these types of unforeseen product and executive woes. The brand has elevated its media position from the mid-40 rating level to consistently above 65 points, a +25 point improvement in a 2-year span. And all that media gain has taken place among the likes of media titans Nike and Under Armour with their arsenal of celebrity and athlete endorsements.
So my yoga hat (do they make yoga hats?) goes off to Lululemon, a brand which can take the “lemon” out of “lulu” and make sweet lemonade. Just in time for what looks like a very hot summer!