March 19, 2013
Late yesterday yogis everywhere collectively gasped as Lululemon Athletica announced a recall of their famous black Luon yoga pants. It seems product that hit the shelves starting on March 1st has been showing a bit more of their customers than they’d like.
Lululemon, known for being a customer-centric brand, released a lengthy FAQ about the oh-so-sheer yoga gear on their site. This tome walks us through not just the details of the recall, but also the timeline, the company’s decision-making process, and next steps. It is, on the whole an incredibly informative and transparent piece of communication. But could it be better?
What follows is a message analysis we call LOFT, breaking down their communication into its key parts: Lexicon (the words they use), Order (the way they tell the story), Frame (the lens they communicate through), and Tone (the emotion they evoke through their message).
Lexicon: 4 out of 5. Lululemon does a good job of using words that work. Product was removed because it “falls short of our very high standards” and they “are committed to providing the highest quality of products”. They tell us they will not resume production and shipment of the product until the problem is “addressed and corrected.” They also refer to customers as “guests” throughout, invoking a feeling of hospitality.
Order: 2 out of 5. Here we lose a lot of momentum. They start strong with a clear description of the issue and which items are affected, but then they start building their internal story (when they knew about the issue, what they did first, what caused the problem, etc.) before addressing the real concern: what the heck do I do with my see-through pants? They walk through irrelevant information—such as the component materials in Luon fabric—before relevant information—like how to return affected merchandise. Much skimming and scrolling is required before consumers’ questions are answered. As a recent Lululemon shopper myself, I had to read the entire FAQ before I was confident I did not, in fact, own any see-through yoga gear.
Frame: 5 out of 5. This framing hits the mark because it addresses the majority of concerned customers. The FAQ headline says it all:
This creative framing (spin, anyone?) avoids calling this what it is: a recall. So why is this the right frame? Given that the pants in question were only on the shelves for about two weeks, very few customers will actually be affected by this manufacturing snafu. But because fully 17% of the women’s bottoms sold by Lululemon have been pulled from the stores and online, many more people searching for these yoga staples will be affected in the weeks and months to come.
Tone: 3 out of 5. For the most part, their tone is dead-on. Serious, concerned, and dedicated to fixing the problem. What they gain in straightforwardness, however, they lose in warmth and empathy. After all, finding out you had unknowingly worn see-through yoga pants would be a pretty emotional discovery. An actually apology worked into the FAQ would have gone a long way.
While Lululemon’s quick response to the recall was well worded, they confused the story by telling it in the wrong order, and missed an opportunity to strike an empathetic tone. And although their FAQ was incredibly comprehensive, the sheer length (no pun intended) watered down their message.
But all that said, framing a product recall as a pant shortage was smart. Now Lululemon fans everywhere just want to know when they can get their hands on these exclusive and limited black yoga pants.