Never in the history of my recollection has there ever been an advertising campaign where a company deliberately told target customers not to buy the very product they are advertising for. Patagonia did just that.
In their Cyber Monday campaign from a few years ago, Patagonia posted “Don’t Buy This Jacket” ads on their website and in magazines as part of their Common Threads Initiative. Why am I telling you about this now? Well, it came back to my mind when I participated in the initiative last week by buying a Patagonia vest of Craig’s List.
The Common Threads Initiative is a pledge Patagonia is taking to reduce, repair, reuse, and recycle Patagonia gear, therefore “re imagining a world where they only take what nature can replace.” Thus far, they have repaired over 26,000 pieces of gear, reused over 41,000 pieces (sold through Common Threads eBay storefront), and recycled over 56 tons of worn out Patagonia clothes. They want customers look on eBay first, then if you want a high quality new jacket, go ahead and buy one.
I didn’t realize my love of thrift stores and deals was helping the environment, but good for me right? I’ve bought countless items from Goodwill, Salvation Army, eBay, and Craig’s List just trying to find interesting stuff save a buck. 2 of my 3 pieces of Patagonia were bought used (saved over $100 in doing so).
This isn’t about me though, it’s about businesses having initiatives and goals that don’t necessarily show up on the income statement. Nowadays consumers want to feel good and proud that what they are purchasing is helping others. It’s a status symbol. Look at Toms. People wear those ugly shoes (IMO), because it makes them feel good about a costly purchase, and tells the world that they have aided in providing shoes to poor kids in Africa.
When a business can effectively portray that what they are selling does help the environment or those in need, it usually ends up pumping the income statement as well. Here’s how Patagonia’s founder, Yvon Chouinard, put it in Inc. Magazine, “I know it sounds crazy, but every time I have made a decision that is best for the planet, I made money. Our customers know that—and they want to be part of that environmental commitment.”
Either they want to be part of the commitment, or people just love doing thing that they are told not to. Right, parents?
Either way, well done, Yvon.
That is what I Think I Think.