In today’s world, businesses are all but expected to take a position on political and social issues, in fact, it’s becoming a core part of brand positioning. Whether it’s Starbucks and closing for diversity training, Nike and Colin Kaepernick, or Google and banning advertising from particular industries, companies seem to be gravitating towards the political realm. While for the most part this is only a recent development, there is one company that has laid their foundation on their political views. That company is outdoor manufacturer, Patagonia.
While many agree that Patagonia makes an outstanding product, their brand has gained quite a bit of notoriety for their support of various causes. Some of these causes include; the environment, social justice, and sustainability. In fact, there’s a page on their site dedicated to their activism entitled “The Activist Company”. With all of this in mind, let’s take a look at this area of the Patagonia brand and what perhaps makes it unique.
When I first think of Patagonia and their brand promise, one word comes to mind; “family”. Whenever I get an email from the company, go to their website, or on occasion visit their store, I never feel like I’m being pushed to make a purchase. In fact, their sense of social responsibility comes to the surface before products even come into the mix. In fact, Andrew Kordek from trendline seems to agree with me with his statement; “When you subscribe to their email, the first impression is experienced through their welcome email which immediately grabs your attention by setting expectations around the types of content you will be receiving, and their mission statement is clearly highlighted right at the top. Two modules around Environmental & Social Responsibility and food provide the reader with a non-salesy look into the company and who you are truly dealing with(2017)”. It seems like the brand promise here is to become friends first and perhaps the sales will come later.
In investigating the brand perception of Patagonia, I decided to start with their employee reviews at Glassdoor. I mean, how better to get a look at the company and their brand but through the eyes of their employees, right? So, In looking at these reviews I noted that they had a 4 out of 5 star rating among current and former employees. Below are listed the most common pros and cons of working for the company;
|Work-life balance||Low pay|
|Benefits||Small cost of living adjustments|
|Work environment||Management follow through|
|Training||Work life balance depends on position|
Moving into the area of external reviews as they apply to the company as a whole, generally they are positive and praise the company for their stance on a number of issues. Additionally, the company is complimented on their courage to take positions that care often unpopular or controversial.
The brand values of Patagonia as a company are clearly on display through their short but powerful mission statement; “Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis(n.d.)” This statement is quite clear that patagonia as a company places a high premium on operating a sustainable company that helps the environment through their work.
When you read anything that comes from Patagonia as a company, it’s clear to see that the company strives to be friendly, casual, honest, and to the point. It seems that they don’t mince words when it comes to where they stand on issues or their commitment to them.
When I was researching some of the marketing strategies that Patagonia employs, I came across an interesting statement in an article in Investopedia. In the article, the author, Poonkulali Thangavelu posits; “Even as Patagonia has led an effort to expand the useful life of its products, an effort that is at odds with the planned obsolescence approach of many manufacturers today, it has seen its sales rise. It seems the company’s environmentally friendly efforts have resonated with the sort of consumer it targets. More of these people are buying Patagonia products as they see the company’s long-lasting wares as a way to express their values(2018)”.
Essentially, Patagonia as a company uses their stance on environmental issues as a catalyst to drive revenues. Again, like mentioned before…become friends first, the sales may come later. While many may find this strategy risky, it seems to work for them as it speaks directly to their target market.
|Marmot||The North Face||Carve Designs|
According to CubeYou, the target market for Patagonia is;
Strengths and Weaknesses
|Strong loyalty||Could alienate those who don’t agree with their views|
|Longevity||Focused on too many causes and not on core business|
Patagonia has been a force to be reckoned with in the outdoor gear market for well over 40 years. While their brand is unorthodox in many ways, they seem to be holding on just fine and even thriving for the most part. Through their solid commitment to sustainability, environmental and social issues, and putting out a superior product, the company has gained a loyal following that will pretty much guarantee business health for the long term.
Patagonia-Owler(2018). Retrieved from https://www.owler.com/company/patagonia
Patagonia Reviews. (2018). Retrieved from https://www.glassdoor.com/Reviews/Patagonia-Reviews-E5474.htm
Patagonia’s Mission Statement. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.patagonia.com/company-info.html
Thangavelu, P. (2018, September 10). The Success of Patagonia’s Marketing Strategy. Retrieved from https://www.investopedia.com/articles/personal-finance/070715/success-patagonias-marketing-strategy.asp
Trendline Interactive. (2017). Trending Inbox: The Patagonia Brand Promise Delivered To The Inbox. Retrieved from https://trendlineinteractive.com/trending-inbox-patagonia-brand-promise-delivered-inbox/