Red Banyan Group has closely followed the Lululemon public relations challenges of the past year. From the company’s initial “pantsgate” scandal to unflattering reports that stores were asking customers to literally bend over for their refunds to the exit of the company’s Chief Product Officer, Lululemon’s crisis management has already been in overdrive for most of 2013.
But just as they thought the worst was “behind” them, Lululemon founder Chip Wilson struck the company’s all too familiar “foot in mouth” pose. Wilson worked up another Lululemon PR crisis last week when he rubbed some customers the wrong way by implying that Lululemon’s products were not intended for plus-sized individuals.
“Quite frankly, some women’s bodies just actually don’t work,” said Wilson. “It’s about the rubbing through the thighs, [and] how much pressure is there.”
Wilson quickly issued a teary-eyed Lululemon apology video, which was posted on YouTube and shared on company’s Facebook page on Friday.
“I’m sad for the repercussions of my actions. I’m sad for the people of Lululemon who I care so much about that have really had to face the brunt of my actions,” Wilson said in the video. “I take responsibility for all that has occurred, and the impact it has had on you.” Wilson continued, “For all of you that have made Lululemon what it is today, I ask you to stay in a conversation that is above the fray. I ask you to prove that the culture that you have built cannot be chipped away.”
Though Wilson’s attempt at Lululemon damage control did some things right – moved quickly and apologized – his sincerity has been heavily questioned in media outlets throughout the country. The vague statements of contrition appear to be most regretful of the financial impact on the company, and his apology seems to be aimed at his colleagues rather than the customers he offended. Nowhere in Chip Wilson’s apology video does he directly address his insensitive comments, and he wraps his statement by asking the recently ridiculed customers to “stay in a conversation that is above the fray.”
A word to the wise in crisis communications – be specific in your apologies if you want to be seen as genuine, and definitely do NOT place any responsibility on the individuals whom you are asking for forgiveness.
Stay tuned to the Red Banyan Group blog for the latest on the Lululemon crisis PR efforts over the coming weeks.