Think Twice Before Buying Patagonia

“We ask our customers to think twice before you buy a jacket from us. Do you really need it, or are you just bored?” – Yvon Chouinard

It may seem odd that a consumer goods company is preaching anti-consumption behaviour, but for Patagonia it is a principle that hits to the core of their business.

In a 2013 interview at the Greenbiz Forum in San Francisco, Patagonia’s founder Yvon Chouinard , had said that growth and the current way of thinking are big threats to achieving sustainability. The problem is that companies are always looking to grow and expand – to sell more. That has lead to society becoming full of consumers, instead of citizens. Our society operates in a Jevon’s Paradox, meaning companies have produced energy efficient products that provide cost savings, yet consumers view this as an opportunity to purchase more than before.

We live in an “Apple world” where it is easier to purchase a brand new product and create more waste instead of attempting to fix something. Chouinard argues that some companies intentionally design products that are easily broken and hard to fix because they just want people to buy more of their products.

In contrast, Patagonia is looking to slow growth with an anti-consumption advertising campaign and created The Common Threads Initiative. Patagonia is a company that has been operating sustainably since the 1980’s and calculates the potential environmental impact of all of their actions. They’re telling customers to ask themselves if they truly need another product before they buy and to become citizens of the world once again.

My Thoughts

I really think Patagonia hit a home run with this. I know it goes against everything a marketer is taught, but what really matters is that Patagonia is staying true to their corporate values. Although this is very risky and may have a negative impact on their sales in the short term, it shows consumers how much integrity the company has and how it genuinely cares about the environment. I also agree with what Mr. Chouinard was saying when he talked about Apple products and how too many products these days are designed to break, become obsolete or just be thrown away. This is why Patagonia’s approach is like a breath of fresh air.

I think this strengthens the brand and will make consumers hold the company in a higher regard. The anti-consumption campaign has created some shared value in a way. Rather than throwing money at a charity or conduct some other CSR initiative, Patagonia looked at the impact of their own operations. In my eyes anti-consumption is a win-win; Consumers will be coerced to buy less and save more money, while Patagonia maintains it’s environmental focus and has a strengthened brand image.

I found this very interesting because it made me think back to an example in my Sustainable Marketing class about an Innocent Smoothies “Chain of Good” campaign seen here.  Essentially, they are committing 10% of all sales to an unnamed charity that provides impoverished nations with means to succeed. This means they want people to consume more because that will lead to more charitable donations. How sustainable is that? In my opinion it is more of a marketing tactic aimed to increase sales, rather than a genuine initiative. After reading about what Patagonia was doing with the Innocent Smoothies example in the back of my mind, I really believe that Patagonia is doing a great job and deserves to be commended.

Job well done, Patagonia.

-AK

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3 thoughts on “Think Twice Before Buying Patagonia

  1. Hi Andrew, great post. At first when I saw the image, I thought this was an anti-Patagonia ad by an NGO of some sort, boycotting the brand. However, when I began reading your post, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that it was Patagonia themselves who were encouraging customers to really make sure they need the new product before buying it. This is especially a breath of fresh air for the competitive outdoor gear industry. This initiative reminded me of the video we watched in class, “The Story of Stuff” with Annie Leonard. She had said that truly sustainable and impactful ideas are those that change the way the game is played – to give back to the community through CSR initiatives is one thing, but to change consumer behaviour towards a more green attitude is much more difficult, yet much more effective. I believe that consumerism is so abundant nowadays that if more companies took on the same approach at Patagonia, the average person’s carbon footprint would decrease.

  2. Noah Castelo says:

    Hi Andrew, this reminds me of a great paper by an awesome Sauder marketing Prof Kate White – she looks at exactly this strategy, when a company is encouraging consumers to buy less of their products. She finds that when consumers perceive a company to be advocating something clearly detrimental to their true goals (making a profit), consumers evaluate that company more negatively. So perhaps this could backfire on Patagonia… here’s a link to the paper’s abstract – you can find the full version on the UBC library website:

    http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1057740808001332

  3. Jessica Greschner says:

    Patagonia should be commended as a brand committed to sustainability. The western world cannot continue consuming at current rates if we intend to limit our environmental impact.

    The problem I see with Patagonia’s commitment to limit consumption it is a huge challenge to change the behaviours of the consumer. Consumers always want new things, the latest color, the latest technology, and most importantly full functionality.

    I have brainstormed some ideas that Patagonia could implement to make it easier for consumers to in fact buy less:
    •Try to limit changes made to product improvement- That is to say, try to keep colors and general styles consistent over time so that consumers feel less pressure to get the latest styles.
    •Refurbish products – Consumers could send their jackets (or other products) into Patagonia to get their products cleaned and repaired.
    •Standardize product parts that can be easily interchanged- similar zippers for example which are installed in similar manners would therefore simplify repairing processes. And therefore provide an incentive to get a product repaired instead of buying new.

    Really enjoyed this blog post!

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