Patagonia, a clothing company that sometimes discourages customers from buying its garments, reports profits have tripled since 2008. “Negative advertising” doesn’t always produce positive results. But for the right company, who knows their customers well, it can be a stroke of brilliance.
Unless you lived in the desert, in the era where clothing grew on people, and the Clouds of Glory scrubbed them clean, your garments will eventually fray and you will be need to replace them.
Since clothes shopping is normally a pleasure for most people, and also profitable for the designers and manufacturers, why would any clothier discourage such purchases?
Yet Patagonia, an outdoor clothing company, has crafted a slogan: “Put it on, leave it on.” Patagonia has been running ads since 2011 in advance of Black Friday – the day after Thanksgiving, and one of the biggest shopping days on the calendar – famously telling people: “Don’t buy this jacket.” The company even sold an “Expedition Sewing Kit” for $30 that included the needles, thread and materials needed to mend your old Patagonia garments.
It may sound self-defeating, but the numbers don’t lie. According to BusinessWeek, in 2012 — the first year of their campaign, which included about nine months of Patagonia’s “buy less” marketing drive — Patagonia’s sales increased by about $158 million and the company opened 14 new stores!
There is a method to their madness, writes Ashley Lutz, the retail editor of Business Insider, who buttonholed several industry experts for their take on why Patagonia’s strategy is padding its pockets.
Sapna Maheshwari at Buzzfeed suggested that Patagonia has distinguished itself by adopting a “socially and environmentally conscious practices” business model, which rejects overt consumerism, bucking the trend of fast fashion retailers. They design and sell items that are both useful, and made to last, and ask their customers not to buy anything from them that they don’t need or can’t really use. The Wall Street Journal concurs: “A generation of consumers has grown up wearing what is often referred to as ‘fast fashion’ — trendy, inexpensive versions of runway looks that shoppers wear for one season, or one occasion, and often toss. Now, many of these shoppers are graduating to a philosophy of quality not quantity.”
Lutz also quoted Fast Company’s Jeff Rosenblum, who adds that the “don’t buy” ads are great for Patagonia’s brand image: “Patagonia’s audience trusts the brand, admires its values, and aspires to live by the same principles, Very few brands can compete on quality and price alone.”
When asked to expound on his corporate philosophy, Yvon Chouinard, Patagonia’s founder told Inc. Magazine: “I know it sounds crazy, but every time I have made a decision that is best for the planet, I have made money. Our customers know that — and they want to be part of that environmental commitment.”
My 3 takeaways from Patagonia’s “Don’t Buy This Jacket” are:
- Know your customers and speak their language.
Patagonia clearly identified environmentalists and conservationists as their target audience and masterfully crafted a campaign that speaks to them. If your message is tailored properly for your crowd, then your message will stick with them.
- Keep your eye on the target.
Once you have cultivated a receptive audience, don’t veer off target. Successful advertising is not built around being all things to all people. It’s built on sending a consistent message to the supporters you have carefully cultivated.
- Communicate consistently.
Once you have developed a message that resonates with your audience, don’t sit back on your laurels. Ongoing advertising feeds and drives the message home and keeps people talking, on the social media, and elsewhere, about your company, or brand.
It takes time to develop winning branding. Consistency, and delivering your message over a variety of marketing platforms, including, print, online and social media, will prove itself over time. The expression that: “Something stood the test of time” is not a cliché. It’s a prescription for success in marketing and advertising, and a prerequisite for higher sales and profits.
This Week’s Bottom Line Action Step: Identify your audience, devise a compelling message and communicate it consistently.