Patagonia’s Authentic self: The Building of Trust and Reputation

m234ali    October 13, 2015

Organization Name: Patagonia

Industry: Retail

Web References: What Social Media Marketers can learn from Patagonia, Patagonia’s anti-Black Friday Campaign urges Customers to Repair Worn Clothing, Patagonia: Lessons from a Pioneer in Responsible Business

Founded by Yvon Chouinard in 1972, Patagonia, Inc. is a California-based clothing company that sells high-end outdoor gear and clothing.  It all started when Chouinard discovered he had yet to find quality gear for his mountain climbing adventures.  He decided to begin making it himself.  The company has since evolved into a global, multi-national organization that has uniquely preserved it’s quality, environmental and ethical ideals, all while growing sales exponentially.  It’s also a company that talks exclusively about it’s direct approach in incorporating transparency throughout it’s supply chain activities — in fact, its become an organization known for direct communication with it’s customers and clientele.

Thinking back to last week’s post about the kind of social media conversations Ceridian has with employees to foster a two-way street of openness and communication within the organization, online retail and messaging means Organizations are increasingly expected to ‘speak’ with their customers.  One way to understand this dialogue is to view it as the degree or feeling of ‘authenticity’ an Organization can transfer across to it’s loyal and potential customers alike.  It’s safe to say Patagonia has mastered the shift from ‘corporate talk’ to a dialogue with it’s consumers about the things that matter to them and can matter to everyone.


The discussion of the strides in authenticity of 21st century organizations is thanks in large part to increased transparency. And transparency depends on trust and reputation. Take for example Patagonia’s Footprint Chronicles, a tool that allows for it’s customers to track different locations of the company’s textile mills and factories all over the world. The interactive map simply as tool for the online shopper brings a sense of satisfaction — with detailed information about the product and a story that goes with it.

Another strategy that Patagonia has used to speak to their customers is through a brand re-centralization: placing emphasis on the customers story around a product rather than the product itself.  Patagonia’s Worn Wear dominates social media outlets like Instagram and Facebook with pictures of actual customers with real stories.

Patagonia-Worn-Wear  This reverse heroism, where the customer tends to rise above and beyond the brand, resonates deeply in the consumer conscience.  Patagonia has not only recognized and utilized this concept, but has shown consistency in brand messaging across social media platforms.

Patagonia’s anti-Black Friday Campaign

What is usually cited as Patagonia’s monumental, head-turning campaign occurred two years ago on Black Friday.  Where companies generally take advantage of the eccentric consumerism that occurs (and the blur between wants and needs reaches an all time high)  Patagonia thought outside the box and brought something new to the table:

Instead of promoting deals and sales, the retailer encouraged people not to purchase any products but rather to repair their existing belongings instead. Using hashtags like #BetterThanNew and #AntiBlackFriday, Patagonia campaigned to bring responsible living to the forefront of the biggest shopping day in America.  It aligned itself perfectly with the company’s trademark value proposition of going against the herd and doing what’s right despite financial risks.  The campaign was illustrative of Patagonia’s strive towards authenticity and genuine reputation.

Today, Patagonia has struck numerous partnerships with global companies aspiring to increase transparency within their organizations by promoting community and environmentalism.   The Fair Trade initiative with Ben & Jerry’s is one of them.

The Fair Trade certification is now available on 33 of it's products.

The Fair Trade certification is now available on 33 of it’s products.

Patagonian Lessons

There are many obvious lessons that arise from Patagonia’s exemplary interaction with it’s customer base that have positively promoted it’s financial expansion and global environmental objectives, but two important points stand out.

First, we see that Patagonia’s honest and straight forward approach in it’s advertising strategy has garnered a long-standing trust with people worldwide.  The lesson is that the consumer’s hard earned dollar, in the end, will be put towards needs that are paid attention to — or where the Consumer believes you are paying attention to them.  Be honest with your customers about what their needs are and ultimately, you will develop a following that will respect your products and the way they are used (and not abused).

Secondly, we learn that Patagonia, a company aware that the world is larger and more important than itself, owes a lot of it’s success to paying attention to stakeholders (employees, customers, communities, nature) to promote business health.  Chouinard along with his nephew Vincent Stanley discuss recommendations for a strong business in their book The Responsible Company: What We’ve Learned from Patagonia’s First 40 Years that talks about entrepreneurial-ship through working slowly towards your goals, analyzing results, then pushing forward for co-operation with those stakeholders.  It’s social media strategy has encapsulated this ideology with story-telling.

Submitted By: Moneeza Ali, University of Waterloo
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