Full disclosure: I’m a MAD fan of outdoor clothier Patagonia. And I love their new campaign, The Responsible Economy. This is the next chapter in Patagonia's three year old green-tinged marketing push encouraging folks to think twice before they buy.
"What is a responsible economy? It's one that cultivates healthy communities, creates meaningful work, and takes from the earth only what it can replenish" says Patagonia founder Yvon Choinard. Heady stuff for a clothing company. But also, very appropriate for Patagonia, a Ventura, CA based outfitter whose gear is bought by hikers, rock-climbers, & surfers. "We see a growing global dissatisfaction with the way the present economy relies on relentless consumption in order to function, while delivering less social benefit than it promises."
Here's the cool bit. Since they've started telling people not to buy their products, Patagonia have increased their sales almost one-third in the first year and then another 6 percent increase - in short kicking sales up to $158 million worth of new apparel. Coincidence? I don't think so.
It's Not About Product. It's About Protagonists.
Patagonia figured out what was important to their consumers - and it wasn't having the latest and greatest jacket from Patagonia. It was helping people tell a great story about their Patagonia product. Enter Worn Wear, Patagonia's website dedicated to “an exploration of quality – in the things we own and the lives we live." Here's why I think it works. Think about the consumer. The folks who wear Patagonia are outdoor bad-asses. They need clothes that can keep up with their surfing/rockclimbing/vanlifing/rockclimbing. Patagonia make some of the toughest gear I've ever used - my jacket has outlived the zippers on the sleeves, which I'm currently having repaired. Worn Wear - & Patagonia's Responsible Economy answers a need the target has that goes deeper than just a fleece jumper or a pair of hiking boots - it proves that the gear can keep up with the adventurer. The average Patagonia customer is pretty crunchy (read: the granola munching outdoor type - I can say this because I am one!). So when Patagonia actively invests in the environment - they gain credibility with the folks buying their gear. If you want to see it (& get some serious wanderlust), check out their groovy short film highlighting the Worn Wear movement featuring an off-the-grid surf camp in Baja, Mexico; a family’s maple syrup harvest in Contoocook, New Hampshire; an organic farm in Ojai, California; and into the lives of a champion skier, a National Geographic photographer, and legendary alpinist and Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard. In short, Patagonia has made recycling clothing acceptable - even sexy.
Providing a Brand Experience Beyond Purchase
Patagonia nails this one. They don't stop short at selling a jacket. They give people a reason to keep Patagonia at the back of their mind - whether they're shopping for new jacket, recycling an old one, or looking for a way to repair a well-loved piece of gear. Patagonia's official CSR program, Common Threads, is an initiative to reduce their environmental footprint. Patagonia’s vision is to help consumers ‘reduce’ by making useful gear that last a long time. They ask that their customers don’t buy what they don’t need, that they repair what they can, reuse what they have, recycle everything else, & reimagine a sustainable world.
But it's not just lip service. Not only did they understand what matters to people, but they also cleverly used this time of year (and Black Friday) in particular to hold ‘A Party to Celebrate What You Already Own’, where they are holding short film screenings (see the trailer here), a Patagonia repair clinic for old Patagonia gear, serving limited edition 'California Route' beer 'canned for adventure' (crafted in partnership with Patagonia & New Belgium Brewing), & live music. They've also initiated a partnership with eBay to create a community and marketplace for Patagonia's used jackets, fleeces, and other gear to encourage 'reuse' of Patagonia gear - simultaneously proving the quality and durability of Patagonia's gear. In short - Patagonia puts it's money where it's mouth is.
Marketing a Movement
Going back to Choinard's thesis - that a responsible economy is one that cultivates healthy communities, creates meaningful work, and takes from the earth only what it can replenish - Patagonia doesn't have all the answers. But, as he says - "we invite you to join us as we seek out the stories, solutions, examples and new leaders of the responsible economy." At the end of the day, Patagonia is marketing a movement - creating a compelling reason to love their brand & creating loads of brand advocates in the process.
At the end of the day - is it all just marketing BS or does it actually mean something? You tell me. But in the meantime, I'm digging out my old Patagonia (4 years old and in spectacular shape save for the fact that the fabric has outworn the zippers) and getting it repaired.
That's all for now.