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Lululemon Yoga Pants Recall

03/21/2013

by lululemon on Flikr

Lululemon, the billion dollar a year purveyor of athletic apparel designed primarily for women has gotten a lot of (ahem) bum press on the recall of yoga pants deemed too sheer for many. The puns abound while the story line feels like something straight out of the Onion.

Yoga pants are beloved by women who because they make them look good and by for pretty much the same reason. There’s even a website “girlsinyogapants” whose tagline is “Why look at girls when you can look at girls in yoga pants?” Fair question. A search on Google for yoga pants reveals 36,900,000 results, while adding ‘recall’ to the search returns 35,200,000 results.

All this leads to why this quality issue has become such a big deal.

The attention is even greater if one of the very things that prompted customers to flock to the brand — quality, in Lululemon’s case — is what’s suddenly taken a hit. Analysts report that the yoga pants recall is the fourth quality issue Lululemon has faced in the last year, and not the first involving see-through fabric – and the first involving our beloved yoga pants.

This recall is a big deal because Lululemon is a cult brand. Like Starbucks, Apple, IKEA, Harley Davidson. A cult brand, unlike others, has customers who can be described as near-fanatical, true believers in the brand and may feel a sense of ownership or vested interest in the brand’s popularity and success. Cult brands have achieved a unique connection with customers, and are able to create a consumer culture that people want to be a part of.

Cult brands are different from fads. A fad is a short-lived “craze” where a particular product suddenly gains a lot of attention among a large population, marked by a temporary and excessive enthusiasm and then just as quickly fizzles out of style. Where fads are unsustainable and last only a short period of time, cult brands typically begin small and gradually build a steady following.

And, in this case, the cult brand known as Lululemon makes yoga pants which are adored by millions of women and men! So it’s a big deal.

Quality problems happen. Every brand, even cult brands, encounter the results of unfortunate decision-making. Lululemon will survive this blip but God help us if there’s a yoga pants shortage this year. It could make consumers unbearably testy.

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