If you are hip to yoga fashion you may already be familiar with Lululemon. If not, you may have heard about it recently, and not for reasons the company would prefer. It seems that the founder of the company got in some hot water for some unflattering remarks about his customers.
After some women complained about the company’s pants being too flimsy for their legs, the company’s founder Chip Wilson responded by saying, essentially, that some people should just not try to wear his company’s pants. “Frankly,” Wilson said, “some women’s bodies just don’t actually work for it … It’s about the rubbing through the thighs, and how much pressure there is.”
Most women took that to mean the founder was calling them too fat for yoga. As you may imagine, the Yoga Universe was none too thrilled. Then, he went and made it worse.
In an interview, Wilson went on to say that “he only meditated in a yoga mindset when standing at a urinal”, and that he was “too wealthy” to come back as CEO in order to fix some current company issues.
These elitist-sounding quotes, coupled with the insensitive remarks about his customers’ leg size generated endless – and blistering – commentary on social media.
But, Ronn Torossian says, this was not what really set people off. Wilson posted a video online after the social media explosion promising an apology. Then he apologized by saying he was sad that Lululemon employees has to put up with complaints from outraged customers.
Cue the rage.
“The one thing you don’t want to do in a crisis PR situation is to open your mouth, and make it worse,” Torossian said. “It’s like anything else, you might think something, but there are some things you just don’t say. And that’s just in a social situation. When your name is tied to a corporate brand, that sort of blasé commentary can sink your company.”
Even when Wilson continued the apology, he didn’t come across as sincere, or contrite. He repeated that he was sad about the repercussions of his actions, but not for having said them. And in a final bizarre bout of cheek, Wilson encouraged his employees to engage in “conversation that is above the fray.”
Someone may need to explain to Mr. Wilson that one of the purposes of a PR team is to provide a filter when you really have no idea what the consequences of your conversation could be.