Branding Tips from Patagonia
Patagonia is one of the world’s leading environmentally-friendly clothing brands, specialising in apparel and accessories for outdoor pursuits such as rock climbing, surfing, snowboarding and more. Aside from their commercial successes, activism is a big part of their brand, and Patagonia prides itself on using their voice and community to help combat the climate crisis.
Patagonia was founded in 1973 by Yvon Chouinard, a keen mountaineer, who began to produce his own climbing pitons (metal spikes) to avoid causing unnecessary harm to the environment. When Chouinard discovered the classic British rugby shirt during a trip to Scotland, he realised how well the materials and design were suited to his favourite sport… laying the foundation for the clothing empire we know today.
Have a clear mission
Patagonia has a very clear mission statement: to produce the best possible products without causing unnecessary harm. They also use their resources and influence to help implement solutions for the environmental crisis by supporting grassroots organisations through grants. Furthermore, the business has pledged 1% of their sales towards the preservation and protection of natural environments through the 1% for the Planet scheme.
Focus on Brand Storytelling
The retailer is very transparent about their core values and the causes they support, with their entire brand consistently reflecting this message in the brand stories it tells. They continue to pull back the curtain on the fashion industry, as well as themselves. They often expose problems within their own production line and call for improvement. These issues are often spoken about openly in their Patagonia Films video series and activism blogs – strongly echoing a clear voice for change. Following the same philosophy as their products, Patagonia produces thoughtful and educational content with an aim to be consumed mindfully.
Find Your Tribe
Putting faces to their brand ethics, Patagonia has built a large network of brand ambassadors that live and breathe the company values. These Global Sport Activists® include pro surfers, rock climbers and trail runners, which, in turn, inspire the like-minded outdoor enthusiasts that make up Patagonia’s customer base. The company further engages with their audience through the Worn Wear clothes recycling scheme, which allows shoppers to trade in their old gear for credit towards new purchases. Since 1994, Patagonia has also held regular “Tools Conferences”, gathering thought leaders to share their expertise with advocates from grassroots environmental groups. These events have been credited with helping to train future generations of activists.
Power in Consistency
As we already touched upon, Patagonia is incredibly consistent with their branding. From the colour tones they use to the causes they support and the content they put out, everything reflects their values. This, teamed with transparency, has helped them to build a loyal following and grow trust into the brand.
Practice what you Preach
Patagonia has made some bold moves with their marketing and advertising campaigns, not afraid to hold themselves accountable for their own shortcomings. In 2011, they blew the whistle on human rights abuse they discovered within their secondary manufacturing chain. Instead of hiding behind excuses, they set about developing a new standard for migrant workers. In the same year, they ran a bold ad campaign ahead of Black Friday that discouraged consumers to buy new products they don’t need, while highlighting their own sustainability pledges.
Patagonia is a prime example of well-executed branding and marketing that is consistent and authentic. Each cog in the well-oiled machine reflects the brands’ values and mission, and each part is interconnected with the others. The company knows its audience, and keeps communications simple but impactful. In times when customers expect transparency and responsibility from a brand, they step up to the plate – with a clear effort being made to highlight important causes, give back, educate and engage with their audience.
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