Today, I got a Lululemon gift card from a good friend. She knows that I’m an avid runner and practice yoga, so seeing as how Lululemon makes “technical clothing for yoga, dancing, running, and most other sweaty pursuits,” it seems like an ideal gift. But at the risk of sounding ungrateful, it’s not. The brand really turns me off.
Now before I say why, let me preface review by saying that I know a lot of people who love their lulu.
They claim that no pants fit better, no tank tops are more breathable, and that no workout clothes are more stylish. Admittedly, I’d probably notice a difference and look cuter if I traded in my $20 Danskin leggings for a pair of $98 Lululemon Astro Pants, but I can’t bring myself to buy into the holier-than-thou, preachy Lululemon brand. Case in point, the Lululemon “manifesto”.
When you enter a Lululemon store or website, you’re immediately bombarded with their message. Phrases from the manifesto such a “Write down your short and long-term goals four times a year… Goal setting triggers your subconscious computer, “Dance, sing, floss and travel,” or “Successful people replace the words ‘wish,’ ‘should’ and ‘try’ with ‘I will,'” are scattered across all their brand touch points— their website, store windows, shopping bags, etc. They’re unavoidable and annoying. Maybe it’s just me, but I want workout clothes, not an unsolicited diatribe on how to live my life.
Which brings me to my larger point. The idea of a “lifestyle” brand has become a goal for many brands. These brands want to become an icon for a way of life, to be the next Apple or Ace Hotel. To accomplish this, I often say that brands need to have a point of view—to stand for something—in order to connect with consumers. Here is where I think Lululemon has gone too far. They’ve crossed the line between having an opinion to being downright bossy, and as result, come across as a brand that is trying too hard to be a “lifestyle” brand. Instead of feeling authentic and inspiring, the brand feels contrived and patronizing. It’s a thin line, but it’s there—and for me it means the difference between love and hate.