Recently, Lululemon began distributing shopping bags with “Who is John Galt?” printed on the sides, following up with a blog post explaining the company’s decision. Unsurprisingly, this has put Lululemon at the center of controversy as some identify with the message and others paint it in a less favourable light, as a libertarian message endorsed by a company that sells a lifestyle based on conscientiousness and harmony.
I’m not here to discuss Ayn Rand’s politics. Instead, what interests me in all this is whether Lululemon is really all that off base in using such a loaded and controversial literary symbol.
What Were They Thinking?
In its blog post, Lululemon explained itself by saying that it’s John Galt’s pursuit of greatness over mediocrity that is behind its latest marketing inspiration.
Fair enough. No little kid responds to, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” with, “I want to be mediocre!” And hey, the notion that we can all be whatever we want to be and rise up above circumstance with the right mindset is soothing, kind of like a comfy pair of yoga pants and a cup of hot herbal tea, no?
What’s contentious here is the philosophy of how such greatness is achieved. According to Rand, it’s by acting in self-interest and having a government that stays well out of your way. It’s political.
Using politics in your marketing is ballsy, and those behind the campaign had to have known this would earn the company some enemies.
Or has it?
Who Wears Lululemon?
Something tells me that the people passing Lululemon’s blog post around on Twitter and Facebook and talking about how disgusting this all is aren’t regular Lululemon customers. Lululemon lost the love of the leftist and hippie yoga crowds long ago with its pricing, upscale locales, sweatshop labour allegations, and ubiquitous presence on the bodies of well-to-do so-called “yuppies” and “yummy mummies” in line for an extra-hot skinny latté at Starbucks.
And it is those bodies that Lululemon is marketing to.
Chances are, if you’re the type to have a hate-on for Ayn Rand, you’re not—and never have been—Lululemon’s target market.
The reason so many people are upset at Lululemon’s “Who is John Galt?” campaign isn’t because their much-loved athletic wear provider is a turncoat. It’s because it further reinforces what they already know Lululemon to be: A corporate retailer that has found its niche in high-end, fashionable athletic attire and that aims to profit off of the latest trend in all things yoga, pilates, and dance.
Those Who Try To Please Everyone Please No One
Fact is, Ayn Rand, or at least Lululemon’s interpretation of John Galt, likely resonates with those who are able and willing to spend $100 on a pair of stretch pants. There’s nothing disingenuous about Lululemon’s marketing here. People are strongly divided on the issue, to be sure, but those on the side of Lululemon are exactly the ones Lululemon sought to appeal to.
When it comes to everyone else, well…
No love lost, right?
Having not looked at Lululemon’s market research and having not consulted them on their choice of words, I can of course only guess at the company’s motives and provide distant assumptions about the campaign’s effectiveness. However, if you’d like to see how you can use the written word to connect with your best people, contact us to arrange for a free consultation.