Word-of-Mouth and Referral Marketing Blog

How Patagonia Became A $1B Retail Powerhouse… With A Heart

As of 2018, Patagonia is worth $1 billion!

This is a surprise given that the brand promotes anti-consumerism, environmental causes and fair trade, traits which may negatively impact a company’s sales. But its success proves that companies can profit by doing good and being good.

How did the brand become a famous retail powerhouse worth a billion dollars?

1. “Don’t Buy This Jacket” – created an anti-consumerist campaign

 

What’s the type of campaign that can grab consumers’ attention?

Patagonia found the answer in its Don’t Buy This Jacket ad, aired on Black Friday. The full-page ad on the New York Times told people not to buy its product. It then honestly explained why its products failed the environment.

The ad says, “The environmental cost of everything we make is astonishing. Consider the R2 Jacket shown, one of our bestsellers. To make it required 135 liters of water, enough to meet the daily needs (three glasses a day) of 45 people. Its journey from its origin as 60% recycled polyester to our Reno warehouse generated nearly 20 pounds of carbon dioxide, 24 times the weight of the finished product.”

“The real message of ‘Don’t Buy This Jacket’ – and it continues to be the real message of Patagonia in terms of consumption – is don’t buy this jacket if you don’t need it,” says Alex Weller, Patagonia’s European Marketing Director in an interview. “And if you do need a jacket, make sure you buy something that is thoughtfully produced, is built to be repaired, has a clear purpose. So it’s not about encouraging people to not own things; it’s about changing people’s relationship with stuff, and being not just thoughtful consumers but thoughtful and careful owners of stuff.”

The ad might seem hypocritical because Patagonia is a business. However, it has always believed that doing good is good for its business. Its customers genuinely care about the environment, so the ad is appealing for its consumers.

2. Fair Trade approach – cares about its workers

 

Why does being Fair Trade Certified matter?

In its documentary about Fair Trade, Patagonia brings to light the hardships faced by factory workers. It exposes their poor working conditions, low pay and difficult lives. This situation is entirely common in sweatshop factories across the world, but Patagonia provides a proper solution.

Patagonia partnered with Fair Trade USA to highlight that it cares about the living conditions of its factory workers. For starters, a Fair Trade Certified Company provides wages and safe working conditions. Although Patagonia takes it a step further, with its Fair Trade worker committees who decide how some of its profits will be used.

So far, the program has generated over $430,000 to more than 7,000 workers. One group started a child care center, others elected to take a cash bonus, and another purchased raincoats for the monsoon season.

Patagonia’s dedication to Fair Trade started in 2014, with 14 Fair Trade Certified styles of clothes. By 2017, it expanded its participation into more than 300  styles in order to prove that Fair Trade is good for businesses.

By participating in Fair Trade initiatives, Patagonia is able to treat workers right and prove to businesses that its approach works.

3. Worn Wear – encourages consumers to repair what they wear

Another reason why consumers love to buy from Patagonia?

Their products last for a long time.

..but what if it wears and tears?

The brand’s Worn Wear events across the country help customers repair their products. You can pick a used garment and repair it yourself, then keep it afterwards. Alternatively, you can bring the company your Patagonia products that need repair, and they’ll fix it for you.  In fact, the brand operates the largest garment repair facility in North America, and its done 40,000 individual repairs this year alone.

This is one way of ensuring customers that your warranty works.

The brand also partnered with iFixit and published more than 40 free repair guides for Patagonia products on its website. This way, environmentally conscious consumers can repair their products themselves.

This campaign perfectly aligns with Patagonia’s environmentally-friendly message. It wants consumers to reuse, reduce, recycle and repair to reduce its negative impact on the environment.

4. Storytelling That Turns Consumers Into Activists

Patagonia’s Youtube profile is filled with videos that inspire consumers to become activists.

In its video titled, “Free the Snake: Restoring America’s Greatest Salmon River” the brand highlights why the four dams in Snake River Salmon harm the lives of thousands of wild salmon. It then discusses why its time to remove the dams, restore the river, and reconnect wild fish to the watersheds.

Another video titled, “Why Patagonia Fights for Public Lands,” narrates why Yvon Chouinard, Patagonia’s founder, is standing up for the preservation of public lands. It also tells viewers how they can help the cause.

What makes these videos standout is their purpose-driven attempt at storytelling. Each Patagonia video inspires consumers to be a part of its environmental and social causes, because it wants to make an impact.

“Product is always at the foundation for us and we have a very obsessive commitment to making the best product,” says Joy Howard, Patagonia’s Vice President in Marketing in an interview. “People come into the brand through the product but it takes them a long time to learn about what the company stands for. Once they do, they’re hooked on the brand forever. So as a marketing team, the task is very simple, and that’s to make it easy for people to discover what the company is all about, and make sure it’s not hidden and tough to access. Because once they do know, they’re in. They’re with us.”

Through creating videos focused on its social causes, Patagonia is able to convey stories that matter.

Here’s a recap of what we’ve learned from Patagonia’s success:

  • Show genuine care for the social and environmental causes which you promote
  • Use storytelling to inspire consumers
  • Consider Fair trade certification
  • Care about workers

Monique Danao

Monique Danao is a writer and content creator with an expertise in marketing and SEO. When she's not writing, you'll find her enjoying funky food, listening to music and marketing startups.