Patagonia Climbs into the World of IMC
When it comes to advertising, apparel manufacturer and retailer Patagonia takes a different approach. The headlines of its popular advertisements feature in big, bold letters “Don’t Buy This Jacket.” Underneath is a photo of a Patagonia jacket made from recycled materials. The copy of the ad describes how much water, carbon dioxide, and waste is expended in manufacturing and transporting the jacket. Patagonia acknowledges that even its eco-conscious products are environmentally damaging.
Patagonia is not trying to put itself out of business with these types of ads. Rather, it is reinforcing its mission of environmental protection and sustainability. Patagonia uses this type of promotion to cause consumers to think about whether they really need a brand-new product. If the answer is yes, then Patagonia encourages them to purchase products that will last them a long time. This is where its own products come in.Background
The idea behind Patagonia, headquartered in Ventura, California, started from one man’s passion for rock climbing. Outdoor enthusiast Yvon Chouinard loved rock climbing but lacked reusable climbing gear. He began developing his own reusable rock climbing pitons and selling them from out of his car. In 1965 he co-founded Chouinard Equipment. Eventually, the company began selling more eco-friendly chocks to replace pitons. These chocks were designed to eliminate rock damage when climbing. This was the company’s first major foray into environmental consciousness.
Chouinard and his wife had begun to sell durable climbing clothing as a way to supplement their hardware business, but by 1972 the clothing had become its own line. They called their clothing line Patagonia to reflect the mysticism of far off lands and adventurous places. Customers appreciated the bright colors and durability of Patagonia clothing. The company decided to align its brand with environmental responsibility and switched to more expensive organic cotton in 1996.
Today, Patagonia sells its gear through its own branded stores, online, and through retailers such as Dick’s Sporting Goods and REI. Patagonia has 75 branded stores, profits exceeding $600 million, and 1,200 employees. Patagonia has become known for its environmental consciousness, employee-friendly workplace, and high-quality, long-lasting clothing.
As with all well-known firms, Patagonia’s success would not be possible without a carefully integrated promotion mix that educates consumers about what the brand and its products represent. Word-of-mouth communication is highly encouraged, and Patagonia encourages viral marketing through the use of social media including Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, mobile marketing, and its own corporate blog. A strong mix of advertising, public relations, personal selling, and sales promotions is used to keep its brand relevant, both for retailers that sell their products and for customers that buy from them directly.iStockphoto.com/Electra-K-VasileiadouPatagonia’s “Do Not Buy” Advertising
Patagonia freely admits that advertising is not a high priority in its mission to change the world. The company does not employ an outside ad agency, instead choosing to develop promotions in-house. Much of the advertising that Patagonia does involves advocacy advertising rather than product advertising. For instance, its short film “DamNation” was geared toward demonstrating how removing dams in the United States is important to restoring our rivers. Although this type of promotion promotes a cause rather than a company brand, the advertising’s affiliation with the company helps to promote the firm indirectly and give it a reputation for sustainability.
All of Patagonia’s advertising reflects the company’s mission statement: “Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.” Encouraging consumers to purchase their products if they do not need them conflicts with Patagonia’s mission. As a result, it does the opposite and releases advertisements advising consumers to avoid purchasing what they do not need, even if that means forgoing Patagonia products. Additionally, Patagonia’s “Buy Less” campaign encourages consumers to sell their used Patagonia gear on eBay or through Patagonia’s website. Patagonia is declaring a war against consumerism.
It might seem that Patagonia’s advertising discourages sales. However, its advertising platform of a war against consumerism serves to demonstrate the appeal of its products. Patagonia offers products that last for a lifetime, and by encouraging consumers to purchase less, they are simultaneously encouraging them to make sure that what they do purchase lasts for a long time. Because customers can trust that Patagonia will sell them a high-quality product, they are more likely to become long-term customers of the firm.Patagonia’s Public Relations Image
Much of the publicity surrounding Patagonia involves its numerous sustainability initiatives in which it participates. For instance, in 1985 Patagonia started giving 1 percent of its total sales to environmental organizations. The organization 1% for the Planet is an alliance of businesses that donate part of its proceeds to environmental organizations to support sustainability and the preservation of the environment. Since it started, Patagonia has made $58 million in grants and in-kind donations.
Patagonia’s Common Threads Initiative seeks to get employees and customers involved in the process of environmental responsibility. The company partnered with eBay to allow employees and consumers to sell their used products through eBay’s “Common Threads” partner site. Those wishing to sell their products must take the pledge to reduce, reuse, and recycle. The Common Threads Initiative reinforces Patagonia’s mission statement and is also an effective public relations tool to get employees and consumers involved in working with the organization.
Patagonia also reaches out to the public through its digital sites. Its blog thecleanestline.com serves as a weblog for customers, employees, and friends of Patagonia to share environmental activism activities and stories of the outdoors. Its Worn Wear program encourages customers to celebrate their stories of their experiences with treasured, well-worn apparel. Patagonia’s initiatives and customer relationships have led it to be covered in numerous news and feature articles, from Fast Company magazine to The Wall Street Journal.Personal Selling and Sales Promotions at Patagonia
Patagonia relies heavily on the sales function for its wholesale business. It employs a wholesale management team to build relationships and promote its brand among specialty retailers. As Patagonia expands globally, it is reorganizing and expanding its sales force to meet the needs of stores in different countries. In Europe Patagonia added sales positions and reorganized its sales force into four regions. Sales members are given iPhones and iPads to enhance communication as they travel.
Patagonia also uses personal selling in its retail stores. Retail sales associates are trained to greet customers courteously, assist them in shopping for products, and provide them with accurate information to customer inquiries. They must also honor the company’s “ironclad guarantee” for product returns. Sales training for Patagonia employees involves a combination of in-person training and online video.
Additionally, Patagonia offers a number of incentives or inducements to attract customers to its online and physical stores. Because Patagonia products can be expensive, the company mitigates the risk of purchase with liberal return and replacement policies. If the person decides she or he is not happy with the product, the customer may return it to the company to be repaired, replaced, or refunded. Products with wear and tear will be repaired at a reasonable charge. For online purchases Patagonia offers free deliveries for purchases over $75.
Above all, Patagonia wants to ensure that its sales promotions are completely transparent to customers. For this reason, it warns consumers about the authenticity of online coupons offering discounts for Patagonia products. Instead of offering online coupons, Patagonia has a link that will take the customer directly to its discounted product offerings. This eliminates the possibilities of coupon fraud and maintains a transparent, trusting relationship between company and customer.
Patagonia has developed an effective integrated marketing communications mix using advertising, public relations, personal selling, and sales promotion. Its promotion mix serves to establish and maintain long-term relationships with both customers and specialty stores. It also informs stakeholders about the company’s avid support for environmental consciousness. Rather than promoting specific products, Patagonia prefers to promote environmental causes and combat the idea of consumerism. Although it might take some unconventional approaches to promotion, Patagonia has developed campaigns that resonate with customers and inspire long-term loyalty.Questions for Discussion
Describe how Patagonia uses different elements of the promotion mix.
Why do you think Patagonia tends to use advocacy advertising instead of product advertising?
How do Patagonia’s marketing promotion activities serve to reinforce its