Feel-good inspiration: Patagonia


Conscious clothing company

Patagonia defines itself as “a designer of outdoor clothing and gear for silent sports”, it also, and more importantly, positions itself as an activist company. Yvon Chouinard, founder and owner of Patagonia, describes the company as an experiment in responsible enterprise which shuns the idea that doing business and saving the planet have to be mutually exclusive. The focus of Patagonia’s activism is around a mindful business model and conservation.

Patagonia started a subset of the business called Worn Wear, where customers could bring in items they had brought and worn that needed fixing and they would fix them at an affordable cost. They also have a whole page on their website with video tutorials on how to fix various items yourself. This may seem counter intuitive as it means people will repair and not buy clothes, however, they want you to be an owner and not a consumer. An owner deeply cares, has a passion for an item and will be loyal. Their garment repair facility in North America fixes over 44,000 items a year. Last year they couldn’t keep up with demand so they have put small workshops in stores. They also have two Worn Wear vehicles, which tour around Europe to fix items - there are tour dates on their website, which makes it all seem rather rock and roll.

Patagonia recognise that if they treat their staff with the same consciousness that they do to fulfil their environmental commitments, they will have a stronger work force and admiration from customers for their approach. They offer on-site childcare at their head office, along with a Brain Food Speaker series, whereby staff are encouraged to leave their desks and hear speeches from experts on a variety of ethical and interesting topics. They also host a farmers market at their Head Office weekly, which is free for local producers to attend and they actively encourage a volunteer day. They even have a two month internship where staff can volunteer at an environmental nonprofit, on full pay from the business.

Patagonia supports protests and activism that is in line with their values. They have often partnered with other businesses and organisations to stand against various projects, such as stopping dangerous liquids and gases being transported through a port between New York and New Jersey, conservation in Chile and stopping an oil pipeline in California. Internationally they get involved with a huge number of activities, in their 2016 environmental and social initiatives document they listed over 250 organisations they support globally.

When it comes to showing off their clothes the company often use real people in their advertising and marketing campaigns. They recognise that the best way to appeal to their prospective customers is to use people they can identify with. Their adverts also make sure the most appealing part of their adverts is nature, often a person will take up about 10% of the image and a sweeping shot of a beach, mountain or valley takes centre stage. Patagonia aren’t scared to make their adverts more about their ethos than their products.

As a feel-good brand you may not be able to send employees off for a two month charitable internship. Patagonia won’t have been able to do all of these things from day one. It is about working out who you are, why you do it, understanding how you can be feel-good in a tangible way. Could your staff take part in a volunteer day? Could you encourage a creative or ethical community across organisations? Are their social/political policies you could align yourselves with? These things will shape how you feel as a brand, how you work as a brand and how you are seen as a brand. 

Feel-good brands understand their identity and core values implicitly and everything feeds from that. Feel-good brands connect with people in a way that other brands struggle to do, because feel-good brands create authentic campaigns that connect on an emotional level; they fit to a person’s chosen lifestyle or core values.

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