Yoga Man: Lululemon’s Leadership Shift

lululemonIt’s time for a change. Like actually, change your pants. Lululemon is also trying to change your mind about their pants. After the “I see London, I see France” incident, I actually appreciated the response of “we sin”sheerly” apologize” and “we want to be transparent with you”. It’s rare that a company not only owns their mistakes, but then points fun at itself for making them. Next came the messy comments of co-founder Chris Wilson that truly offended Lululemon customers and women in general to the point of boycott and the pressure to put a new face on Lulu was on.

While this piece isn’t focused on a cultural representation, it’s looking at how a company can use a CEO to channel certain reactions and emotions from consumers. For example, Steve Jobs was and still is tied directly to Apple products and that creates a more humanizing affect on the items we purchase at the Mac Store. In Lululemon’s case, they needed all the humanizing they could get.  With a co-founder like Wilson who tried to determine what “types” of women could wear his product, Lulu was now the elitist Abercrombie & Fitch of the fitness world.

Analyst Sterne Agee singled out Chip Wilson in a note he wrote to clients regarding Lululemon. He said the company risked losing current and future customers because of recent controversy of Wilson’s insensitive comments.

“We believe that the core Lululemon customer has been alienated and will begin to look for yoga and active-wear pants from the likes of Nike, Under Armour, Athleta and numerous other brands,” analyst Sam Poser wrote, before downgrading the company’s stock.nts regarding women’s bodies.

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Laurent Potdevin, LuluLemon’s new CEO has definitely been put on the hot seat. With a few dents in Lululemon’s pastimage, Potdevin had to make a quick impression on shareholder’s and the public. What better way to do that than incorporating some impromptu conference calls, a silent indie film and of course, some yoga poses.

Lululemon is known for its unusual “behind the scenes” bonding tools and motivations, but throwing your new CEO into the spotlight of the film world is a new level.

“We wanted to acknowledge that audience, say hello to it and introduce Laurent, and also provide him with the space he needs to really focus internally,’ Hayes explains. ‘The first 60-90 days for the new CEO have to be internally focused, so that he gets a good sense of the business. It’s after that that he would be meeting with people on the investor side,’” (Therese Hayes, vice president of communications at Lululemon).

With this “exposing” approach, board members want to integrate Podevin fully into the company’s community to regain the consumer’s loyalty. And everyone is excited about it.

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Lululemon wanted to show a male role model who lived the life an ideal Lululemon’s costumer would want to live. Potdevin’s resume entails companies like Burton and TOM’s, perfectly dialing him into the persona of a Lulu customer which are dominantly upper class white women who have time for yoga. 

This video was a genius way to connect the new boss to the consumer.  By showcasing his hobbies and interests to the shareholders and the public, consumers are able to identify with him on a more intimate level.  The silent film gives the piece a touch of class by not drowning the audience in empty promises and yoga mantras. You experience Potdevin’s day alongside him.

Many companies put the main focus on their product and their endorsements. Having had so much unwanted attention cast on the company following Wilson and the see-through-pants issue, Lululemon made a smart decision to deliberately introduce their new leading man to the world.  If companies continue to create this bridge between leadership and consumer, it will be interesting to see how these relationships will effect further representations among core customers.

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