• Anne Heaney, Director

Patagonia is Committed to an Unconventional Approach to Retail Success

Patagonia has staked its entire reputation on being a brand that lives its purpose – from its products and company culture all the way to its support of more than 1,000 grassroots environmental organisations around the world.

Since 1985, the outdoor wear brand has donated 1% of sales to the preservation and restoration of natural environments, awarding more than of $89m to causes. Then in 2002 Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard established the non-profit corporation ‘1% for the Planet’, an alliance of businesses that donate 1% of their total annual sales to grassroots environmental groups.

The company’s three-strand mission statement – to build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm and use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis – permeates every aspect of the marketing strategy.

Patagonia is an unconventional brand not only in the way it rejects the trappings of mass consumerism, but also in the way it thinks of fashion. European marketing director Alex Weller believes the word fashion carries with it connotations of buying a product for its aesthetics or to keep up with the latest trends, a consumption dynamic Patagonia “actively resists”.

Unafraid to take a stand against mass consumerism, Patagonia famously rejected the global discounting event Black Friday in 2016 by donating 100% of sales on the day to environmental organisations.

“The idea of Black Friday is that you reduce your price aggressively and you make it possible for lots of people to buy lots more stuff in a very short space of time. The idea of encouraging purchase purely based on a reduced price point goes completely against the philosophy and values of a company like Patagonia,” Weller says.

Weller believes a sheer lack of will is preventing other businesses pursuing more values- and mission-driven strategies that use their businesses as a platform for good.

“You can’t reverse into a mission and values through marketing. The organisations that are struggling with this are probably the ones that are thinking about marketing first. The role of marketing is to authentically elevate that mission and purpose and engage people in it, but the purpose needs to be the business.”

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