Content Marketing: Patagonia and the People

dkaizer    March 20, 2017

Patagonia is a hugely succesful company that grew out of humble beginnings. It all started when 14 year old Yvon Chouinard developed a love for the sport of climbing, as a member of the Southern California Falconry Club.

As Chouinard became more involved in the sport, he soon realized that the only pitons available for climbing were made of soft iron and were placed in the rock once and left there. He found that this was not ideal. Chouinard then met John Salathé, a Swiss climber who made his own hard iron pitons. Chouinard thought that if John Salathé could do it, so could he! In 1957 Chouinard bought a coal-fired forge, an anvil, tongs and hammers and taught himself how to blacksmith. Chouinard made chrome-molybdenum steel pitons and before he knew it, he was in business. He could forge two pitons an hour, and sold them for $1.50 each.

Over the years, this company grew to officially become Patagonia in 1973; a company that’s roots remain in alpinism but have expanded to include clothes for climbing, skiing, snowboarding, surfing, fly fishing, paddling and trail running. Patagonia focuses on these silent sports, where “the reward comes in the form of hard-won grace and moments of connection between us and nature.”

The company’s mission statement is: “Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.” Patagonia’s mission statement comes from the realization that their “love of wild and beautiful places demands participation in the fight to save them, and to help reverse the steep decline in the overall environmental health of our planet.”

 The company recognizes that production of their gear contributes to pollution and so they commit themselves to being as sustainable and eco friendly as they possibly can. Patagonia uses recycled polyester and organic cotton in their clothing production. They also donate their time and services, as well as 1% of sales to various grassroots groups all over the world, to help reverse the effects humans have on the environment.  At Patagonia, they believe:

“Staying true to our core values during thirty-plus years in business has helped us create a company we’re proud to run and work for. And our focus on making the best products possible has brought us success in the marketplace.”

Patagonia has also seen continued success in the marketplace due to their social media presence and their use of content marketing.

Content Marketing can be defined as:

“A strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.”

Patagonia has labelled itself as ‘The Activist Company‘ and they claim that “the protection and preservation of the environment isn’t what we do after hours. It’s the reason we’re in business and every day’s work.” The brand’s customer base are also individuals who believe in environmental stewardship; reiterating on the fact that their “love of wild and beautiful places demands participation in the fight to save them.” 

Individuals who believe in enjoying an active lifestyle and who appreciate the natural world are Patagonia’s target audience in their content marketing strategy. The company participates in, and contributes to a number of different grassroots environmental initiatives and they use this as the content for their social media marketing strategy. The brand is active on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube, and they also have a company blog. It is through these social media platforms that the brand showcases their commitment to environmental initiatives.

One example of this is Patagonia’s anti Black Friday campaign titled “Don’t Buy This Jacket”. The idea behind the campaign was to make people aware of their consumerism. Patagonia is aware that each piece of their clothing takes something from the environment in which they work hard to save. The brand wanted consumers to think their purchases through to lighten their environmental footprint. So how did this campaign drive profitable customer action when it advised consumers not to buy their product? It turns out that consumers enjoyed the fact that Patagonia’s product wasn’t being pushed on them. They appreciated the honesty of the brand and they wanted to feel like a part of it. Just nine months after this campaign, the brand’s sales were up by almost one third, to $543 million.

Another example of Patagonia’s use of content marketing is their use of short films and blog posts to show their environmental activism. Most recently, (March 7, 2017) Patagonia launched the ‘interactive film experience’ Defend Bears Ears. Since 2013, Patagonia has been committed to protecting the Bears Ears region of Southeastern Utah and brand founder, Yvon Chouinard elaborates on this initiative in a company blog post titled Keep Public Lands in Public Hands. Since being launched just two weeks ago, one clip of the Defend Bears Ears film has been viewed 112,852 times on Instagram by some of their 2.5 million followers. Patagonia’s newly launched interactive film, and founder Yvon Chouinard’s blog post not only creates digital marketing content but it once again emphasizes their commitment to corporate environmental and social responsibility. This in turn further emphasizes their commitment to their consumers and their target audience of environmental activists. This content will then generate user actions that contribute to brand reputation and ultimately drive sales.

Lessons for Others

In conclusion, a reminder of the definition of content marketing is: a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action. 

Brands that identify who their target audience is, and create content relevant to that audience on social media are more likely to reap the benefits of:

  • A loyal customer base
  • Cost Savings (in comparison to traditional marketing strategies)
  • Increased sales


Patagonia demonstrates a clear understanding of their target audience (individuals leading an active lifestyle that want to contribute to environmental initiatives) and they ensure that their digital content aligns with the interests of said audience. As a result, the brand has seen their sales increase significantly.

Brands who want to ensure continued success in the digital age must identify who their target audience is. This may be done through monitoring analytics (see social media metrics). Once a target audience has been identified, brands can then create content that is relevant to that audience and the audience will do the work for them. User actions on social media (or engagement) will contribute to the reputation of a brand and therefore drive sales.

Organization: Patagonia Inc.
Industry: Retail
Name of Organization Contact: Rose Marcario, President and CEO

Authored by: dkaizer

If you have concerns as to the accuracy of anything posted on this site, please send your concerns to Peter Carr, Program Director, Social Media for Business Performance.


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