Thinking / Silence is Golden: Lessons from Lululemon's New CEO Announcement

Silence is Golden: Lessons from Lululemon's New CEO Announcement

Lululemon. Fun to say, isn’t it? It’s also a brand that’s lately been fascinating to watch.

Earlier this year, the luxury yoga apparel maker endured a back-bending PR fiasco when founder Chip Wilson blamed product failure on customer body size. “Some women’s bodies actually just don’t work for (yoga pants),” he said. Oops.

To save the company from unraveling any further, Lululemon Athetica quickly appointed a new CEO – Laurent Potdevin, a visionary leader with a track record for sensitivity. Potdevin is a former Louis Vuitton manager, Burton CEO and TOMS president.

Beyond the appointment of a person to the CEO role who clearly fits the Lululemon brand, the way they used video to support his introduction is a textbook lesson in re-setting a brand after a misstep.

The first Lululemon video frames the dialogue, sending a “we get it” and “we’re going to fix it” message – all without ever uttering a single word. It doesn’t get more yoga than that.

“The wisdom goes beyond just the thoughtfulness of the response,” said Amber Zent, a vice president at Marcus Thomas LLC in Cleveland. “The video technique is brilliant because Lululemon’s customers are digital brand loyalists.

They’re big eCommerce shoppers and these thoughtfully considered videos are shareable. Nearly every outlet reporting on the leadership change has embedded one or both of the videos, broadcasting Lulu’s key messages unfettered.”

The next video begins to paint a picture of Potdevin as a person. In this video, he speaks, but he never speaks to the missteps that brought him to Lululemon; his focus is looking forward and this is brilliant from an investor relations perspective.

“It’s almost as if he’s saying, ‘Don’t worry, I’m here and I’m excited to get started and fix things, but don’t expect miracles right out of the gate,’” Zent added. (A good method for managing expectations with a group of customers that have felt let down and embarrassed by a brand they obsess over.)

This kind of yoga-like strategic restraint is tough for most companies to muster, but it’s critical. A foot-in-mouth episode such as Mr. Wilson exhibited will only be made worse by a protracted retracing, an emotional, weeping apology (can you say Paula Deen?) and plans to “do better” that some companies release as a mea culpa.

If you put your foot in your mouth, remove it. And do like Mr. Potdevin – replace it with silence and let the changes and your products speak for themselves.