Lululemon Spoofs New Yoga Teacher Barbie, Customers Don’t Get Joke

The doll is real. The Lululemon ad campaign is not (and customers aren't laughing, either).

And so, it happened. Barbie became a yoga teacher.

Word of the new Mattel-issued doll has been making its way around the internet over the past week. The Barbie, found at Target stores, is part of the brand’s “I Can Be…” collection, which also includes Barbies pursuing careers as architects, lifeguards, tennis pros and movie stars. Yoga Teacher Barbie comes with a pink yoga mat and tiny dog (for accessorizing, duh).

Lululemon decided to spoof the new doll by posting a joke ad campaign featuring a plastic, Lulu-clad Barbie doll with the message: “Yoga makes me feel alive. Let’s get bendy”; the ad has since been removed. (You can see it here.)

Then came a video from Lulu’s VP of women’s design Deanne Schweitzer, which can no longer be viewed as it’s been set to “private” on YouTube. While I can’t confirm this with my own eyes and ears, of course, bloggers report that her tongue-in-cheek message said the company is so excited to “elevate the doll industry from mediocrity to greatness one pair of XXXS groove pants at a time.”

When they posted the video, the company’s social media flacks also scrawled the following message to its Facebook community:

We’re so excited to announce the launch of our new Perfect Balance collection, inspired by our Silicone Valley yoga ambassador, Tiffani!

Her 1 year goals include mastering tree pose in high heels and travelling [sic] across the country in the convertible of her dreams

And then the backlash started. Some customers were flat-out confused; they thought the company was actually starting to make clothes for dolls. Others, who seemed to get the joke, weren’t laughing either, questioning why Lulu would waste time and resources with joke campaigns rather than invest in better-quality products (especially since previous stunt marketing ploys were enormous busts). Still others interpreted the campaign as some kind of slam against Lulu customers, comparing them to a plastic, anatomically incorrect doll. These comments poured in on Lululemon’s Facebook over the weekend.

Lulu reps then posted this response to clear the air:

If you read this blog with any regularity, you know I’m not one to rush to Lululemon’s defense on anything. But in this case? C’mon, guys. It was a joke. What happened to your sense of humor?

When I read through some of the comments, it took me a while to figure out why anybody was upset about all this in the first place. Based on the ad itself, it didn’t seem to me that the company was making any sort of comparison between Barbie dolls and its customers. I think they were just trying to get in on the internet buzz over the doll itself—show that they’re relevant, hip, cool. Sure, they probably wasted resources and man hours creating something that wasn’t really worth anyone’s time, and I’m sure the VP of women’s design had better things to do than make a YouTube video about a fake ad campaign, but that’s a fight for the Lululemon board of directors to take on if they feel so inclined. But customers feeling offended by the diversion? Please.

I will say this: I think attempting to remove things from the internet, no matter how bad the PR may seem at the time, is rarely a good idea. It’s like watching a politician backtrack after saying something stupid: the train-wreck cleanup ends up being more interesting than the gaffe in the first place, and it’s all anybody will talk about. Besides, anyone who’s ever logged on to Google knows nothing can ever actually be removed from the internet, anyway.

That’s why God created bloggers. And screen shots.