Counterintuitive, Green and Genuine Marketing: Patagonia’s “Common Threads Initiative”

The headline for this blog post is certainly a mouth full, but a recent corporate initiative and marketing campaign by the outdoor retailer, Patagonia, and its “Common Threads Initiative” certainly fits the description.

The goal of Patagonia’s “Common Threads Initiative” is to lighten our environmental footprint and get consumers to consume less. Patagonia is doing this by getting people to purchase gently used Patagonia clothing through eBay.

By taking a pledge to consume less, Patagonia and its customers are promising to:

Reduce: Don’t buy what you don’t need.

Repair: They’ll fix what’s broken.

Reuse: Sell or pass it on to someone who needs it.

Recycle: Keep your stuff out of landfills, and finally.

Reimagine a world where we take only what nature can replace.

Some of you will say that this is “green washing.” If you’ve never heard the term, green washing is a form of marketing spin to promote the perception that an organization's aims and policies are environmentally friendly. But in the case of Patagonia, a company who drives so many different initiatives to promote and protect the environment, this program is far from a green washing effort. Why, because Patagonia is asking their customers to purchase recycled Patagonia clothing, not new products, and this is completely counterintuitive to Patagonia’s goals as an organization to drive sales for their bottom line.

Sure, the “Common Threads Initiative” is part of a larger marketing initiative to gain customer mind share, but if they can get consumers to think just a moment about how purchasing new product impacts their personal carbon footprint, I’d say they’re doing a tremendous job.

If you haven’t seen the advertising campaign, that launched on Black Friday in The New York Times, with the headline, “Don’t Buy This Jacket,” it challenges individuals to sign up for the initiative and think about what they’re buying and the effect on the environment.

There are certainly many organizations promoting ‘sustainability’ and ‘environmental’ concerns, but there are far fewer companies actively encouraging you NOT to purchase their product and taking money away from their bottom line.

Patagonia truly practices what they preach and behaves consistently with their brand messages to improve the environment. That makes me a brand champion for Patagonia.

Let us help your innovation-driven brand get the credit it deserves.

Contact Greg Straface at [email protected]


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