Feb 122014

How the Threat of Personal Failure Feeds Into lululemon’s Success

Promoting problematic ideals of what it takes to be a model citizen may be key to lululemon athletica’s remarkable success, according to a paper just published in the Canadian Review of Sociology.

In This is not your practice life:’ lululemon and the neo-liberal governance of self, Christine Lavrence and Kristin Lozanski, of King’s University College in London, Ontario, examine lululemon’s website and in-store branding tactics.

They argue that the success of lululemon’s branding strategy is rooted in neoliberalism, a political ideology that has gained momentum in the last 30 years.

Neoliberalism puts the responsibility on individuals to mitigate and manage the risks and uncertainties in their lives.

The study examines lululemon’s ‘manifesto’, a consistent feature of the company’s successful but relatively low-budget branding strategy. Printed on the store’s reusable bags, the manifesto gives consumers advice on how to live well. “‘Stress is related to 99% of all illness,” it claims, and “Nature wants us to be mediocre because we have a greater chance to survive and reproduce. Mediocrity is as close to the bottom as it is to the top, and will give you a lousy life”.

Lavrence and Lozanski argue that such branding moralizes success and failure. If a person isn’t perfectly healthy, for example, this must be because of poor choices the person has freely made.

Access the Lavrence and Lozanski study

Media: Lululemon uses questionable philosophy to sell pants: study (Emily Jackson, Metro, February 11, 2014)

See the latest issue of the Canadian Review of Sociology