All too often, people believe that a brand is something tangible, such as a logo.  When in fact a brand is really an amalgamation of everything associated with an entity – its messages, visuals, behaviors and corresponding internal and external communications.

Your brand represents everything your company stands for and does.  And you need to stay true to it at every turn.  In light of recent news surrounding the Lululemon brand, it’s time to have an honest talk about brand integrity.

Lululemon sells yoga pants that cost upwards of $100. Over a relatively short period of time, the Lululemon brand has attracted a cult-like following.

 Stay true to your brand and you will have customers for life.

Lululemon is the gold standard when it comes to yoga and athletic line clothing.  It went from a functional clothing line to fashionable functional clothing line. Like UGGS and Apple, Lululemon became a must-have brand.  The brand stood out and represented attributes such as health, fashion, energy, quality, exclusivity.  Consumers and Wall Street were incredibly happy.  New product lines emerged on a regular basis and importantly was a darling on Wall Street as their profits beat analysts’ expectations regularly.

Then, for some reason, they decide to violate the trust their Ambassadors put in them.  (Read Customers or Ambassadors for more) Turns out that their yoga pants are too sheer, you can easily see through them.  Lululemon knew the problem existed before the items went to the stores and into the hands of customers  – but why let it get this far?

I am not privy to any dialogue between Lululemon and their vendor, but I can say with assurance the manufacturer told them there is an issue and asked how they should proceed.  Management should have halted production and started over again.  They viewed this as a short term type of issue and tried to calculate how many units will be returned. They mistakenly viewed this as something other than a brand integrity issue.  If managment looked at this the right way, when they knew about this, they would have taken the proper steps to halt production and mitigate the problem – altering their customers of a delay and communicating with investors before it all began to unravel.

Now they have 2 BIG problems instead of 1.  Wall Street and their customers.  Wall Street is focused on earnings and can see costs and missed revenue, coupled with management integrity issues.  But the longer-term damage is they violated trust with their customers.  Lululemon is a great example of a company that had Ambassadors instead of customers – women purchasing Lululemon told everyone how great the product line is, better workouts, comfortable, best stuff on earth.  Can you get any better than that?  A legion of woman telling other women that this is the best clothing line – amazing!

No one is perfect and none of us expect perfection, however when there is an issue deal with it and make it right.  Your customers may not be pleased at the time, but will always remember how you sought to remedy the situation.