There’s been a lot of attention given to Nasdaq LULU these days due to their newly Ayn Rand branded bags. The idea here is that Rand’s right wing ideologies are in direct contradiction to what yoga is all about.

I would like to suggest that NONE of LULU’s branding has anything to do with yoga. Branding is branding and that’s it. It’s a spectacle. Guy Debord warned us about this. “All that once was directly lived has become mere representation.”

I like to think that brands are only as powerful as we make them. We give the LULU brand power when we allow the brand to represent what yoga is. We give our power away to brand images when we infuse them with all of our hopes and fears about our own existence. Who we wish we could be, who we don’t want to be, how we want others to think of us. This is different than simply trying project a social image. That is a natural human social behaviour. What I’m talking about is letting brands co-opt our voices, our narratives, and enthralling us with their myths which, unlike the myths of yore, are not trying to teach us to BE HUMANS. They are trying to teach us to CONSUME.

Maybe that wouldn’t be so bad, except I find that brands are eroding a diversity of narratives and conquering our imaginations with highly attractive mono-stories. Stories that do not teach us to be cunning, courageous or compassionate, but rather, stories that infantilize us and teach us to seek instant gratification, to gratify our individual selves. And unlike great human narratives, brands only bring us together by keeping us separate.

The spectacle divides the world into two parts, one of which is held up as a self-representation to the world, and is superior to the world. The spectacle is simply the common language that bridges this division. Spectators are linked only by a one-way relationship to the very center that maintains their isolation from one another. The spectacle thus unites what is separate, but it unites it only in its separateness. – Guy Debord.

So I’m not terribly concerned with what LULU’s latest branding tactic is in and of itself. They could quote Hitler or Ghandi on their bags for all I care. I don’t think the branding has anything to do with what LULU is all about in that these narratives are not the reality. Even the narratives their business execs like to tell themselves about Ayn Rand or whatever, none of that is real. I’m not saying these narratives don’t affect management or consumers. They do, and branding is very important to LULU’s business success. I’m just saying, they’re not real. I am suggesting that they are hiding/distracting us from reality. A reality that keeps us alienated from others, from our own selves.

I want to stop discussion getting trapped at the level of the brand and start talking about the companies themselves. If I want to know about LULU, this is what I would do. I’d go the stock exchanges their shares are listed on to see how the shares are doing. Then I’d read the latest annual report, especially the management discussion section. Then I’d read the management circular to see how much the tops execs are being compensated and to see how they have been performing in relation to their competitors.

It’s not as exciting as looking at branding. Ad campaigns and taglines and images and values and stories are just so engaging. They’re made to stir our emotions and devotions afterall. But. The brand is NOT real. We can’t forget that. We need to analyze the brand, yes, but also what it hides.

edit: it’s all yoga baby blog comments on LULU’s CEO of the year profile.