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Forbes: Lululemon Greatness Quest, Ayn Rand Ideology Deeply Disrespectful, Dangerous

in Business of Yoga, YD News

photo via changebarack.blogspot.com

Not to beat around the lulu pants, but this perspective on the Ayn Rand/Tea Party/Lulu ideology pushing is rather fascinating and worth your time as practicing yogis and/or consumers. While some lulu customers have taken it personally, having “Who is John Galt?” a phrase from what is being called the Tea Party bible, handed to them with their stretchy pants purchase, we now have the outer-yoga, bad business perspective from columnist, and (former) lulu customer Todd Essig at Forbes.com.

Essig posits that the message on the bags is not only bad practice as a company, having not been quite blatantly bold and crusading to date, but also extremely disrespectful and kinda dumb.

“The company has shown a genuine disrespect towards customers by remaining irony-free and proudly defiant in their effort to promulgate an ideology many find repugnant, dangerous in its popularity, inconsistent with the company’s mission to date, and just plain dumb and wrong.”

It’s America (and Canada for that matter) you say, land of capitalism and freedom of speech, why can’t they co-exist? We can disagree with what a company, or its ideology peddling captain Chip has to say, right? But Essig believes it runs deeper than that, and is about disrespect and subtle manipulation.

“…disrespect is not disagreement. And Lululemon crossed the line. Feeling disrespected should not be a price any customer gets asked to pay for a piece of clothing, no matter how useful and stylish.

Lululemon is also asking customers to signal a preference for ideology over reason, for politics over science. But to present ideology as excellence is just insulting. It diminishes everyone who does strive.”

If you think none of this applies to you and you’re free to agree or disagree with the message on your tote bag, Essig brings up scary words like subtle psychological manipulation and cognitive dissonance. It’s like this: if you didn’t agree with the message per se, but really want your cute yoga pants, it opens the door to opinion shift, having already made your purchase and the tote already in hand, in order to reduce conflict. Unless you really feel like marching around defending the ideology you’re promoting that you previously didn’t actually agree with.

Overall, it’s your choice, and that’s awesome. We find this a fascinating lesson in consciousness, which can be applied to either side. Just as Che Guevara is an icon of a certain revolutionary belief system, and rightwing folks wouldn’t be happy having his face plastered on tees at Wal-Mart, as Essig points out, so is the Ayn Rand quote, not just a quote, but a message.

Ultimately we maintain it is about respect. To yourself and to your truth. Besides, we think your butt looks totally amazing in those flannel pajama bottoms promoting cute cartoon tea cups and sushi. Occupy those babies. Mediocre, our ass.



12 comments… add one
  • Great dissection of this issue and summary of the Forbes piece. This is so interesting. I did a post on my blog on branding and new media about this yesterday. I’m not a yogi but my wife is and we had an interesting career intersection over the weekend discuss this gaffe. Your Che/Walmart comparison is spot on, too.

    I’m not one for linking to my blog randomly from others but here’s my take on why this was damaging to Lululemon’s brand as well – http://www.nickwestergaard.com/2011/11/lululemon-ayn-rand-avoiding-brand-damage/

    Thanks for the continuing coverage on this!

    • Vision_Quest2

      Thanks, Nick …

      If Chip were American, he might have thought twice …

      The company is sexist, too; sometimes with tragic results – faint echoes of American Apparel’s Canadian founder Dov Charney in some of the store’s stunts-like the no underwear challenge/contest. And in the subliminal theme of the rape fantasy per Atlas Shrugged – I do not make light of the Bethesda tragedy when I say this

      But I wonder if that pervades much of what that company does.

  • Dorkbot

    I don’t think that the company is run by hardcore Objectivists or Tea partiers anymore than I think that they are run by mystic Yogis or Monks. I’ll just post this link without comment.

    I do wonder is if the company can balance yogic community values with free market capitalism, while handling the tension between building a culture of individual excellence and the reality of needing to build healthy teams inside a of a growing business.

    • Richard K

      What exactly are “yogic community values”?

      Owners of yoga studios are entrepreneurs, i.e., they figure out how to provide a service that teachers and students find valuable or they go out of business. Yoga teachers: ditto. Providers of yoga teacher training: ditto. Organizers of yoga retreats: ditto. Organizers of yoga conferences: ditto. Publishers of yoga media (like this website): ditto. Vendors of yoga products (clothing, mats, props, nutriceuticals, food, etc.): ditto. Vendors of non-yoga products: ditto. Apple Computer, provider of computing devices preferred by the “yogic community”: ditto. All other vendors of computing devices: ditto. Every provider of Internet services used by the “yogic community”, such as the ISP that hosts this website: ditto. And so on ad infinitum.

      And 100% (not 99% or less) of these businesses — whether individuals or companies with more than one employee — are propelled by their founders’ vision, desire to make a living from their businesses, and need to compete successfully or go out of business.

      Bottom line: the “yogic community values” are the same as the values of the non-yogic community.

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