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Patagonia: A company that practices what it preaches

March 8, 2009
Photo by Florian Schulz (via Patagonia Web site) Photo by Florian Schulz (via Patagonia Web site)

Patagonia is a company I admire for a number of reasons. In fact, I admire them so much, I plan to look at them from time to time from the perspective of the different marketing methods they use to target their customers.

However, until a couple of years ago, the company wasn’t really on my radar.

So, how did they both hook me and make me a staunch supporter in such a short period of time? In short, their position on environmental responsibility.

And how did I find out about their position? Through their 1% For the Planet Campaign, which has actually been in existence since 1985.

Since 1985, Patagonia has pledged 1% of sales to the preservation and restoration of the natural environment. We’ve awarded over 31 million dollars in cash and in-kind donations to domestic and international grassroots enviro groups making a difference in their local communities.”

— Patagonia Web site

(It is key to note is that the 1% comes from sales, not profits, an important distinction to make.)

The 1% For the Planet Campaign is only one aspect of Patagonia’s commitment to the environment. They also have

Image from Patagonia Web site

Image from Patagonia Web site

a Common Threads Garment Recycling program, which I am a big proponent of. Instead of your old clothes ending up in a landfill, they can be recycled into new Patagonia products, which in turns requires less polyester (and thus oil) than a product from scratch. Many of the products I’ve purchased from Patagonia include recycled fibers. It is all a part of Patagonia’s commitment to take full responsibility for every product they make.

So, why did this appeal to me? Essentially, it was the company’s accountability to themselves that made me a loyal consumer. That and the fact that they really make a great long-lasting product.

Now, how did they convey this message to me?

It came in a typical catalog, one of a dozen or so that arrive in the mail each week.

However, this catalog was different, it was full of enormous pictures of wild lands Patagonia was helping to keep wild, testimonials from members of Patagonia’s loyal work force and their experiences on excursions around the world to help promote environmental sustainability, articles on different climbs from world-famous climbers (who were also Patagonia loyalists and consumers), and a variety of other short snippets which included various alpinists telling of their own personal experience with Patagonia on a real-life excursion.

Photo by Florian Schulz (via Patagonia Web site)

Photo by Florian Schulz (via Patagonia Web site)

It was much more than a clothing catalog; it was more of a surprise (free) magazine with lots of articles and beautiful pictures of places I would love to go, all in a package that also happened to sell clothing.

Catalogs aren’t really known for drawing in new consumers anymore in this digital era of technology. But Patagonia’s did. What makes their catalog so successful? The fact that they are willing to devote so much space to not just selling, but sharing, educating, raising awareness, and in turn inviting the reader to go to the Web site for more on everything they had seen in the catalog.

However, and most importantly, after beoming interested in learning more about the Patagonia message of environmental responsibility they talked about in their catalog, the evidence of their commitment could be found on their Web site.

It wasn’t just a line to hook people in, it was truly part of WHY Patagonia was in business. That was something I could both appreciate and admire. And without that critical link, I probably wouldn’t have a piece of Patagonia clothing in my closet.

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