Lululemon puts an Ayn Rand stamp on yoga ~ Brand Mix

Monday, November 21, 2011

Lululemon puts an Ayn Rand stamp on yoga

Lululemon has ridden the wave of yoga's popularity with great success, selling high end yoga clothes and promoting healthy living. So deciding to associate with a philosophy that's the antithesis of what yoga is all about seems a little odd, to say the least. 

As reported on NPR, the company's new shopping bags feature the question: "Who is John Galt?". And who is John Galt? He's the protagonist of Ayn Rand's novel Atlas Shrugged where she laid out her Objectivist philosophy, including the idea that selfishness is a virtue,
a very un-yoga-like position.

Why this seeming act of self-destruction? Lululemon's own post on the subject explains that Chip Wilson, the company's founder, read Atlas Shrugged when he was 18 and was really inspired by it. So this could be a simple story about another ego-charged CEO running amok. But it's a bit more complicated than that.

The company was, in fact, founded with the mission to "elevate the world from mediocrity to greatness," an idea straight out of the Rand book. And its culture reflects many of her ideals. If you look at Lululemon's brand manifesto, you can see that it's a sampling of ideas and philosophies, some yoga-compatible ("The pursuit of happiness is the source of all unhappiness") and some more Rand-like ("Successful people replace the words 'wish,' 'should' and 'try' with 'I WILL.'"). 

As long as you don't delve too deeply, the company's mix and match of ideas kind of holds together and the company has clearly thrived despite its ideological impurity. The problem with the John Galt bags is that they shine a bright light at just one of the sources of inspiration and a very polarizing one at that. Now everyone who buys from the store will be carrying out a political statement as well as some expensive clothes.

Let's see what the impact will actually be. Maybe nothing. Whole Foods didn't suffer any lasting damage when its CEO did something similar. But the bags have caused quite a stir in some quarters of the yoga community with many promising never to buy anything from the store ever again.

13 comments:

markdisomma said...

Always interesting isn't it when people include elements in their stories and communications that may have influenced or inspired them but which actually are unaligned with what they appear to stand for as a brand.

jason walker said...

Working in marketing I'd just like to say that the new advertising is brilliant and will take the company to new heights.

I'd like to...but I can't!

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Kristy Gulsvig said...

I noticed this bag in the store window a couple of weeks ago and immediately went home to tell my husband - it just seemed so strikingly incongruent with their demographic that I started to wonder if there was another John Galt I didn't know about...

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