Lululemon Founder Steps Down After PR Gaffe

 Lululemon Founder Steps Down After PR Gaffe

THE PR VERDICT: “B” (Good Show) to Lululemon, for taking a drastic measure.

Time was a company founder could be forced out of the corner office by flagging sales, tumbling stocks – the usual business problems. But with the advent of the Internet, one bad statement can take a company down fast. This is what Chip Wilson, founder and chairman of Lululemon Athletica, found out the hard way.

Yesterday the company announced that Wilson resigned as chairman of the board of directors after a series of PR gaffes that will make the textbooks. The upscale yoga and exercise apparel company initially irked its cult-like following with product issues. Wilson blamed some women’s bodies for not “working with” their designs.

His comments went viral and were met with demands for an apology. Wilson did apologize – to Lululemon staff for having to deal with the results of his actions. Insult, meet injury.

Lululemon was also a case study in crafting a devoted following. They felt betrayed. The logical solution was to serve a head on a platter. Wilson will remain on the board, but he’s been replaced by Laurent Potdevin, recent president of Toms Shoes. It’s suspected that Potdevin’s tenure with that socially conscious company will help put Lululemon back on track.

THE PR VERDICT: “B” (Good Show) to Lululemon, for taking a drastic measure to calm some insulted customers.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Chivalry is not dead. At the heart of the Lululemon fiasco was a man who insulted his female constituency by blaming his product’s failure on their bodies. How to win them back? Show them that the company stands by its customers. Why, they’d sooner make their founder resign than let consumers feel bad! Desperate times call for drastic measures – none of which would have been necessary had Wilson not kept in mind the most basic principle of business: The customer is always right.

Lululemon Founder’s Gaffe Gets Worse With “Apology”

 Lululemon Founders Gaffe Gets Worse With Apology

THE PR VERDICT: “F” (Full Fiasco) for Chip Wilson and Lululemon Athletica.

Chip Wilson, Lululemon founder, apologizes for comments,” was the gist of headlines last Friday, when the top-grossing athletic apparel company posted a video on YouTube. In it, Wilson addressed comments he’d made during an interview that resulted in much hue and cry. But was this video an actual apology?

An acknowledgment was certainly warranted. Wilson’s interview with Bloomberg touched on a costly product recall due to fabric sheerness. Wilson’s explanation? “Quite frankly, some bodies don’t work for [Lululemon pants],” he said.

Cue an onslaught of bloodcurdling cries for Wilson to apologize for size-ist insensitivity. In this age of social media, a video is generally the way companies choose to reach the masses. In the video, Wilson does say he’s sorry…to his staff. “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,” he says. “I take responsibility for all that has occurred and the impact that has had on you.” He asks those who have made Lululemon what it is today to “stay in the conversation that is above the fray and prove that the culture you have built cannot be chipped away.” Chipped away by Chip’s absent apology, perhaps?

THE PR VERDICT: “F” (Full Fiasco) for Chip Wilson and Lululemon Athletica, for compounding this fracture.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Apologies work when they are clear and direct. Mere acknowledgement of having fouled up, or apologizing to those who sell your yoga pants for now having difficulty selling said yoga pants to angry women, is not an apology. If making a video for the public don’t address it to staff or insiders , instead acknowledge why people are angry and what role you have played in that. If that fails, prepare to make a follow up video, this time apologizing for the poor apology.

The PRV Report Card: This Week’s Winners & Losers

vargas The PRV Report Card: This Week’s Winners & LosersPR WINNER OF THE WEEK: “A” (PR PERFECT) to Elizabeth Vargas, co-anchor of ABC’s 20/20 TV news magazine, for a graceful disclosure of human frailty: her decision to enter rehab for alcohol abuse and dependency. Vargas, out of sight for several weeks, might have preferred to quietly undergo treatment and slip back into her life without been missed. Whatever the motivation, she hit all the right notes in going public, calling out the prevalence of addiction in society, expressing gratitude for support of loved ones and her employer, and expressing a desire, as a public figure, to impart courage to others facing similar challenges. And of course, she got the news out herself – always a sober move.

 The PRV Report Card: This Week’s Winners & LosersPR LOSER OF THE WEEK: “F” (FULL FIASCO) to Chip Wilson, founder of Lululemon, for striking a rather awkward pose in a press conference about the popular yoga pants. After suffering a costly setback with a product recall resulting in the dethroning of Lululemon CEO Christine Day, one wouldn’t think matters could get much worse until Lululemon’s founder blamed product quality issues on…customers being too fat. “Frankly, some women’s bodies just don’t actually work [for the pants],” Wilson told Bloomberg. “It’s more really about the rubbing through the thighs, how much pressure there is over time.” Clearly, one yoga pose Wilson has mastered is putting his foot in his mouth.

 The PRV Report Card: This Week’s Winners & LosersTHE PRV “THERE’S NO ‘THERE’ THERE” AWARD to Blockbuster, which said it will shut its remaining 300 stores and close its mail-order DVD business. The news probably comes as a surprise to many folks who thought the company went out of business a long time ago. If nothing else, Blockbuster will be fondly remembered by millions of families as an integral part of a 1990s weekly ritual: wandering the aisles in search of the latest new releases, only to find that every copy of the movie you wanted to see was already gone.