Controversial message uncovered in Lululemon bags
Published Wednesday, April 16, 2008 7:01PM EDT
A printed message hidden inside a Lululemon Athletica shopping bag is a lot more risqu� than the inspirational messages printed on the outside, as one Toronto mother inadvertently discovered.
Norma Columbus and her 17-year-old daughter Heather found the message after they washed the reusable bag from the yoga-wear retailer. One side began to peel off and Heather continued to scrape away, curious about what the message said.
Underneath a glossy layer of inspirational quotes such as "friends are more important than money" is a second note with a strong message about creativity and how regular aerobic exercise results in a similar "high" as drugs or sex.
"Some brief or quick-fix incidences when our minds are clear to be creative are....when drunk or stoned...just after an orgasm," it says.
The message concludes to say that regular aerobic activity provides a longer, more sustainable high.
"The athlete's high is the most long-lasting as it can last up to six hours," the note continues to say.
"There is little difference between addicts and fanatic athletes. Both are continually searching for a way to remain in a creative state."
Norma Columbus said she was shocked to see the yoga-wear retailer's original message underneath a printed cover.
"It's just a shock to see something like that on there," she said. "I guess this must be some kind of a joke?"
A company spokesperson said the message isn't a joke although it wasn't meant to be viewed by the public.
Lululemon took 'responsible' step
In an e-mailed response to CTV, the company said:
"lululemon athletica is a company known for speaking our mind and inspiring creativity and freedom of thought in everything we do. We are also a company that listens closely to our guests' feedback and acts in environmentally-responsible ways. When we learned that a phrase printed on the side of our small shoppers was troublesome to some of our guests, we took the responsible step of stitching a covering over this language on the remaining bags, rather than destroying them. We subsequently heard that the language was still viewable to curious guests and last week we removed what few remaining bags we had in our stores. We'll continue to strive to inspire people to open their minds to new ideas and experiences because it's what drives us as a company."
Some shoppers caught on to the hidden message and started chatting about it on Facebook, a popular social networking website.
However, it was Lululemon's message about life and death that caught their eye.
"You only have 30,000 days to live and then you are dead," the note said.
"So creepy, OMG!" said one Facebook blogger.
In an email interview with CTV.ca, one blogger name Chayla said she will think twice before shopping at the store again.
The teen said she uses the bag to carry her books at school. She said one day she noticed one of the corners of the bag peeling off and another message printed behind it.
Just like Heather Columbus, Chayla was curious about the message but dismayed when she was finally able to read it all.
"It really freaked me out," she said. "I feel that if they felt it was a right thing to say or put on there, then why did they cover it up?
"I think their strategy really, really sucks," she continued.
This isn't the first time Lululemon's marketing strategy has raised eyebrows.
Back in 2002, to mark the opening of their second store in Vancouver, Lululemon offered a free outfit to anyone who would stand naked on the street for 30 seconds.
More than 40 people showed up to receive one of 30 "naked passes" to get inside the store.
Ken Wong, a marketing professor at Queen's School of Business, said that marketing ploy didn't jive with their clientele and neither does the hidden message.
"(The Vancouver stunt) was completely inconsistent with what I want my teenage daughter doing and it's not consistent with what yoga is about," he said in a telephone interview with CTV.ca.
Wong said the retail chain has been incredibly successful in recent years because it has stayed true to the yoga culture by hiring knowledgeable staff and holding yoga classes on the weekend.
"They are walking the talk," he said.
He said it's a good thing they covered up the message about drugs and creativity because it would have missed the mark with their target market.
"Frankly, it's a stupid message," Wong said. "It was just a dumb thing to do, it's that blatant. Yoga is not about being stoned, it's about the opposite of that.
"Commercially, the wisest thing to do would have been to destroy them," he continued. "But with their commitment to the environment, they had to cover it up. They just should have done a better job at it."
With a report from CTV Toronto's MairiAnna Bachynsky