Monday, April 1, 2013

How to Avoid Highlighting Brand Weaknesses

Recently Lululemon was in the news about a quality control issue with its yoga pants. [Note 1]. This reminded me of the investigation by the New York Times in 2007 regarding Lululemon's Vitasea line of apparel made from seaweed fabric.

Lululemon claimed that the seaweed fabric released minerals and vitamins into the skin. The New York Times found that fabric contained no seaweed. [Note 2]

Although advertising an ingredient that is missing is awkward, the concept of “healthy” clothing is even more awkward when all of the other clothing offered could be considered “unhealthy”.  

Lululemon posited that the seaweed material would be good for wearer's skin since the vitamins and minerals would be absorbed. In media coverage, Lululemon said the VitaSea clothing reduces stress and provides anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, hydrating and detoxifying benefits. Since our skin is our largest organ and the seaweed fabric could therefore be good for our overall health. That sounds reasonable and positive.

The Canadian government, however, requested that any health benefits be removed since the science was incomplete. Lululemon then agreed to voluntarily remove seaweed related health claims globally.

Even if the health claims were defensible, what about the 99.999% of fabric that is sourced and
processed with bad stuff? Cotton, for example, uses more insecticides and other chemicals than any other agricultural product. The brilliant dyes used by apparel manufactures leave waters undrinkable in China and other countries. 

When making new brand claims, be careful that your claims do not inadvertently call attention to brand weaknesses. Otherwise you may be accused of inconsistency and your competitors will capitalize on it. 

1. Read my post using Lululemon as a case study on how to generally improve product quality. Read more >>
2. Read New York Times coverage of Lululemon VitaSea clothing line. Read more >>