Loving clothing as loving mountains and rivers
When you choose a garment, what do you really choose? The most fashionable style? The most popular color, or the most reasonable price? There is a "rebellious" brand that does not care about any of the elements that consumers highly value. It transforms plastic waste and discarded fishing nets into new clothes, and has become the top-selling brand in the U.S.’s largest outdoor retail store REI.
For many consumers, Patagonia is not only the first choice when it comes to outdoor products, it is also a vane leading the environmental campaign. Let’s use the 4 Facets of Brand Positioning to see how Patagonia, "the coolest company in the world” rated by Fortune Magazine, gradually reach the business peak.
Truth: A true outdoorsy environmentalist
"I knew how to climb before I knew how to walk." said by Patagonia’s founder Chouinard, who is deeply into love with Nature. Out of his passion for climbing, he learnt how to make pitons and sold them for $1.5 each. However, during rock climbing, Chouinard found that these non-recycled pitons leave permanent scars on flat rock. The guilty American resolutely gave up the business which brought him 400,000 dollars every year. Since then, Chouinard dived into outdoor sports, his business grew from selling outdoor gears into making outdoor clothing. Since 1973, Patagonia has covered multiple outdoor sports fields including rock climbing, surfing, off-roading, skiing, fishing and more.
Chouinard always values the functionality of clothing since he is an outdoor enthusiast, to whom the functionality of clothing is crucial. The brand has developed numerous of great high-tech fabric for outdoor clothing including the iconic "three-layer structure of outdoor clothing", the soft and non-pilling double-sided fabric Synchilla, and of course, Capilen, the light and insulated fabric that has changed the history of heavy mountaineering clothing. From 1996, Patagonia began to use organic cotton to make boardshorts.
Apprehending the importance of equipment and clothing to outdoor enthusiasts, each product from Patagonia needs to pass strict quality tests before entering the market, including 6 laboratory tests and extreme environment test such as snow, rock walls, plateaus.
Outdoor sports enthusiasts spend a lot of time exploring in Nature and they often care about environmental issues the most. Chouinard is no exception, "Compared to a businessman, I prefer people to call me a rock climber, surfer, skier and blacksmith." Since the first day of its establishment, Patagonia has always put environmental protection on the first place.
Patagonia also announced that it will donate 1% of its sales to environmental organizations for environmental protection projects around the world, and pay itself the "Earth Tax."
Vision: Saving the Earth with business
Nowadays, millions of companies mention the concepts of sustainable development, low-carbon emission, environmental protection, and fair trade all the time, but only few of them can really keep the promises to their consumers. Some even think that doing business and environmental protection runs in the opposite direction.
For Patagonia, who defines their mission as " We're in business to save our home planet", the problem can be solved well: to protect environment is the purpose of the brand, and business is only an approach to achieve the purpose. Their brand concept can be the most beautiful one in the business world.
When the U.S. President Donald Trump decided to cut down the area of the National Memorial in 2017, Patagonia posted "The president stole your land" on their official website, calling on everyone to stand up against the President's decision.
This is not the only move Patagonia has made to protect the environment. The brand also stands up against consumerism. On Black Friday 2011, Patagonia spent a huge amount of money to post "Don't buy this jacket" advertisement on New York Time, to call on everyone to think twice before making any purchase. This has not only drawn the attention from more consumers but also brought out people's environmental awareness and achieved the company’s goal of saving the planet with business.
In addition to doing the best they can to protect the environment in their own field, Patagonia also strives to support renewable organic agriculture and cooperates with Chilean and Argentine governments to establish new nature reserves. "If there is a company who must stand up to fight the climate change and save the planet, then Patagonia would be the one. We take action first." Chouinard, who has been worried about our environment since his 20s, is now 82 years old. He is still worried about the disappearance of glaciers and the pollution of the ocean.
Universe: Love-charged Worn Wear Wagon
In the era of fast-fashion, clothes often become outdated after three months. Even so, people will still be thinking about the unpaid item in their carts, wanting them to show up in their wardrobe someday.
Facing the huge waste in the apparel industry, Patagonia has launched the "Worn Wear" campaign since 2015. This project includes three major services: live-long time free repairs, resale and recycling. In order to serve clients in more regions in the US, San Francisco artist Jay customized a mobile repair vehicle "Worn Wear wagon" for Patagonia. This small truck decorated in Patagonia style drove all the way from the west coast of to the east coast. While offering repair and rescale services, it also collects heart-warming stories behind the garments.
"There are more and more mud and blood, but this jacket has never withered. I have been wearing it for the past thirty years. My heart broke when I accidentally burned it. I retrieved it from the mailbox yesterday. It’s difficult to express how important your work is to me. Especially in this era of throwing away at the end." an old man who lives in Mexico and loves surfing wrote a thank-you letter to express his gratitude to Patagonia for repairing the piece of fleece jacket which accompany him since 1992.
Although this car cannot drive across the Atlantic Ocean to China, the spirit “Worn Wear” has already come to fruition here. It even has a Zen name, “修行”. This name appeals to spiritual abundance and inner cultivation, rather than materially meaningless renewal. “Worn Wear” at the Beijing Sanlitun store has helped thousands of customers recrafted their clothes.
The "Worn Wear" campaign called on everyone to repair instead of purchasing, and it reminds everyone, maybe your father’s mountaineering clothes can better resist the wind and cold compared with the same ones of celebrities.
Character: Coolness from the bottom of the heart
For keen environmentalist Patagonia, fashion is not its main consideration. What the brand really cares about is the quality and practicality of the products. The passionate attitude towards environmental protection showcases the brands’ cool character, making influences on quite a few big names in the fashion industry.
Early in the last century, the streetwear star brand Supreme has created a version of its logo to a similar style of Patagonia, to pay tribute to its remarkable contribution in environmental protection. In 2000, the Japanese superstar Kimura Takuya wore a green fleece jacket in the Japanese TV series “Beautiful Life”, created a big buzz for Patagonia, and fleece has also become an iconic item of the brand.
Environmental protection might be a never-ending issue, but Patagonia is willing to take off an iron nail on the rock, willing to take responsibility to stop glaciers from disappearing, willing to save every turtle that is trapped in a worn-out fishing net, and it is also willing to recycle plastic bottles and turn them into Kimura Takuya’s fleece jacket. The brand spirit of Patagonia is similar to the old man in Hemingway’s book: tenacious, indomitable and never yield. It is a deep love of nature and a cool attitude from the bottom of the heart.
Being a brand like Patagonia requires all the employees to share the belief in the corporate value, it also requires the brand to prioritize the corporate value over profitability when making any decision. It has never been easy to be “the brand of its words” nowadays, however, the brand that loves mountains and rivers as much or more as it loves its business, has made it.