I saw this article, it was widely shared in my groups and across Facebook, and I just had to write about it. I feel like I’ve been talking about the general lack of color and boredom I’ve been feeling surrounding Lululemon’s offerings for months. This is actually one of the reasons I’ve been writing about other things, like LuLaRoe. Finally, VINDICATION! The market has acknowledged my feelings regarding Lululemon lately, and the CEO has acknowledged my, and countless other fans’ opinions. Does Laurent Potdevin read my blog? Is he in the Lululemon Facebook groups? Because I think we all could have told him that Lululemon needed to produce more colorful “Spring” items. And can Lululemon PLEASE bring back the feminine details, ruffles, ruching and personal touches? I miss the little messages inside pockets or under cuffins. And where have those cuffins been anyhow? Have thumbholes been nearly completely done away with? I know that I am not alone in having noticed that items have been degraded and renamed. The Cool Racerbacks have been renamed to Cool Racerback 2, shortened, narrowed, and had the fabric “innovated” (read: cheapened). I can see it now, “Swift Tech Long Sleeve Crew! Now without thumbholes, silverescent and underarm venting!” Sounds like a terrifying future for the Lululemon we all love. Except that that last one is true. Some of the new LS Swiftlies have no underarm venting- it’s only a matter of time before “cost-cutting measures” become more important than retaining brand value, quality and innovation. I worry that that time has already come for many in Lululemon Leadership.
The Lululemon We All Love
But for some, the love is gone. I know that many of us remember staying up late waiting for upload. We would hop on a group, and comment in threads our upload predictions and wish lists. Ah, nostalgia. We’d share our shopping carts and share in the excitement that in a few days, we could share try-on reports and tell people who were curious but not interested enough to hit the “add to cart” button how we felt about our purchases. Were we in love? Did we return? Is this a future unicorn? What’s the concensus?
That excitement is gone. I no longer even remember to check upload night until I am reminded by a Facebook post. I certainly don’t “wait up”- or even get excited. I used to still be somewhat interested in WMTM uploads on Thursdays, but I almost never check anymore, even for the sale prices. And, while we’re on the topic: $9 off a $68 item, is not a sale. In fact, can we stop pretending that raising the price of a LS Swiftly from $68 to $78, then putting it on sale for $69 is a generous discount? This just means that instead of paying $10 extra for an item, we only have to pay $1 extra.
Careful vs. Careless
It used to be that gaffs and quality issues were rare. So rare, indeed were these quality issues that they became scandals, reported on the blogs, and on news outlets and gossiped about within the community. I have spoken about quality before, on quite a few occasions. I remember a time when nearly every item on Lululemon’s website had 4-star and above reviews. I remember a more careful Lululemon, where fabric choices, fit and function were fundamental considerations, instead of the afterthought. I remember when I didn’t have to check to make sure that an item wasn’t 90% Polyester. I am not even going to touch the sizing inconsistencies, but what about function? Where have all the functional pieces been? Too much Leisure, not enough Athlete.
My Opinion On a Future Advertising Campaign
Recently, Lululemon has expressed an intention to start a formal ad campaign, a step away from their current community marketing campaign. Here are my thoughts on that:
I used to ignore Lululemon. I felt like they advertised directly to me. Even though they didn’t have a formal ad campaign, to me, it was everywhere. That positive, aspirational brand spoke to me. So, I ignored it because I don’t like being “sold” things. Then one day, I went in the store. Everything was so bright and fun. And the sales people were happy and treated me like a human- instead of a customer. And the stuff was pricey, but the details were delightful. I fell in love with Pace Setters and Paris Pink. Less than a year later, I had started a small collection and my obsession with the brand grew from there.
My point is that Lululemon did not need formal advertising to gain me, or the market share it has today. It needs to continue to rely on the viral marketing campaign it has relied on from the beginning, which is why keeping its core fan base happy is so important. Lulu, if you want, go ahead, hire more ambassadors, and give more people R&D discounts for being walking billboards, but in all honesty, a formal advertising campaign will help you sell only slightly more than what you already sell. And at what cost? Starting a formal ad campaign might cause your brand to lose cache. Additionally, Lululemon is known for its irreverence. Lululemon’s core supporters never left over Brahmacharya, we moved on. We keep buying the clothes and we move on. Or how about this? Or this? Well, Lululemon can’t go around offending people during a massive ad campaign. Mass appeal will mean that Lululemon will have to adjust its target audience from Ocean and Duke to Jane and John. Lululemon will lose its edginess, in favor of commercial appeal. Will Lululemon remain an aspirational brand? Maybe. However, I am concerned that the massive campaign will alienate core supporters.
Lululemon is more popular among women than Nike. Last year, Nike spent $804 million on “demand creation,” which included advertising, brand events and digital marketing. Lululemon’s marketing budget is nowhere to be found, and marketing expenses are rolled into general administrative expenses in SEC filings, so there is no official number I could find for them. Please link down below if you find one! The point is, Lululemon spends no where near that much on ads. And is outperforming Nike in the women’s athletic apparel market. An ad campaign is unlikely to make a huge difference, and Lululemon should be cautious with how it spends investor dollars.
My final thought on this is: Do it if you want to. Do it if you think you’ll make more money than you’ll spend on the campaign. But don’t do it for old school, big-money investors who don’t understand the current marketing model (viral) that is the very thing that helped bring LULU to where it is now.
The Future of Lululemon
I think that someone needs to turn this company around and listen to the fans. This core group of influencers have been around for forever and have supported the brand through everything. This company has made some great moves this past year, like honoring “Dufflegate” and the Women’s Day discount. However, there has been plenty for people like me, true fans, to complain about. I think Lulu could get us to spend more, assuming they want to be a profitable company, if they returned to what made them popular. Some of their stuff doesn’t even look like Lululemon anymore. Lululemon is feminine, attractive, youthful and fit. Not boxy, drab, tired and frumpy. But that is what the designs evoke lately. Lululemon’s future depends on a triumphant return to what made them popular in the first place. Those fun designs, those functional, durable pieces that have a go-anywhere, do-anything attitude!