One of the better ways to understand how campaigns work is to get both the agency and brand together to talk it out. Generally, this is facilitated by a journalist or someone on one of the 8 billion marketing event stages that are usually available. Alas, we’re all still pretty much stuck at home and conferences are online for the foreseeable future.
Last week, however, Portland agency Red & Co. brought one of its more high-profile clients, Lululemon, in for an hourlong chat with the brand’s CMO, Duke Stump, who is in the marketer’s awesome name hall of fame. The wide-ranging conversation, about how the brand grew, was led by agency founder Mira Kaddoura and strategist Karin Knutson.
The gist of the candor-filled session was the story of how Lululemon turned it around during and after a tumultuous time in 2013. The founder had left the brand, there were tons of negative articles, product recalls and the perception, as Knutson put it, that “[Lululemon] had been saddled with [being] elitist and just for skinny rich women who could afford it.”
Stump, who spent more than 15 years at Nike and was CMO for Seventh Generation from 2006 to 2008 and the first CMO of Lime in 2019, didn’t hold back, noting the initial 90 days of his tenure, learning about the company.
“During that time, there needed to be clarity on why this brand mattered,” he said. “It was getting confusing and, with that, came a little desperation, competition and mania crept in. Three or four months into it, it was pretty clear that we had some work to do.”
Of course, since this is a Red & Co. production, it got a little salesy, with some platitudes thrown in—especially the bits when Knutson asked about why the brand chose the agency to help build its global brand strategy and creative platform and discussing the agency’s process.
In future episodes, we’d like to see this less as an agency marketing exercise. Fortunately, in this case, it was a small price to pay to hear an honest story about how a struggling brand leaned on an agency to get it on the right track.