What’s Underneath Patagonia?


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We all know Patagonia as the high-end outerwear company that provides the perfect amount of warmth on these crisp fall days.  What we don’t see is what goes on behind the company’s doors.  Patagonia was founded in California in 1972 by Yvon Chouinard, who never intended for his product to be so fashion forward.  Maybe fashion forward is the wrong term to use here- it’s not like someone would wear a Patagonia to a formal ball in NYC, but you catch my drift.

In terms of corporate social responsibility, Patagonia is light years ahead of the rest of the competition.   While Nike dealt with fallout from its poor manufacturing processes in the late 1990’s, Patagonia was already using 100% organic cotton in its products and creating a fleece created with recycled polyester that comes from plastic water bottles.  To take things a step further, Patagonia pays a voluntary “earth-tax”, which means that it donates 10% of all profits or 1% of sales (whichever is higher) to environmental efforts ranging from protecting certain areas from things like mining and deforestation.  Chouinard stands behind the notion that his company’s clothing is designed to be durable and long lasting.

If you check out Patagonia’s FAQ web page, you can see that most of the questions pertain to overseas factories.  Unlike Nike, Patagonia is quite candid in its responses about manufacturing facilities.  Instead of hiding information or flat out lying, Patagonia is very open about Chinese factories and workplace conditions.  My first instinct is to applaud Patagonia for its environmental efforts, but the Nike case has taught me to take everything with a grain of salt.  That is to say that it would be entirely possible for Patagonia to cover unethical practices with multitudes of “committees” and “task forces” like Nike did.  I honestly do not believe that Patagonia follows Nike’s path, but it will be really interesting to investigate this further for Paper 2.  Perhaps I am biased because of my personal attachment to the brand, but I do not believe that a company willing to donate a considerable portion of profits to environmental efforts would be as stingy in manufacturing as Nike was.

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6 thoughts on “What’s Underneath Patagonia?

  1. Interesting post, Valerie. I, like 80% of the rest of my fellow Bucknelians, own a peice of Patagonia. Their products are not only popular on campus but are also very durable, fashionable, and versatile. It is cool to learn that they are an environmentally freindly company but I do like that you will be playing devil’s advocate in your paper in order to get the full story. Good luck with your paper and let me know if you find any of the unethical practices you think might be hidden.

  2. Last year, Patagonia ran a campaign that basically told people not to purchase their products unless they truly needed it. On their website was a photo of one of their fleeces with bold letters over it saying “DON’T BUY THIS.” This attention-getting mechanism was a way for Patagonia to convince people to buy less items, but of better quality so that people would not need to replace them as fast. As great as this idea/campaign is, I don’t think we live in a society that will be easily convinced to buy less.

  3. Jenna that is a pretty crazy add campaign. I mean yeah sure that is great to think about and all but as a customer I do not think my first reaction would be “Oh, that’s so great that patagonia is trying to make people conserve.” I would more likely think that this is dumb and possibly be put off from buying any products. Patagonia should maybe rethink this marketing technique.

  4. Jenna, that marketing technique sounds so creative, and surely became an often talked about ad campaign, which is good publicity for Patagonia. I wonder if they truly wanted users to buy less (which would negatively affect profit), or if they were, like you said, creating an attention-getting mechanism?

  5. While driving on a highway through Philadelphia, I once saw a billboard that said “I hate steven singer!”…and nothing else.

    Obviously I was curious, so I googled it. I found out it was an ad campaign used by the jeweler Steven Singer. The ad obviously worked, and judging from the many yahoo questions “who is steven singer?” many other people must’ve googled it as well. The reverse psychology marketing campaigns work really well. This example reminded me of Patagonia’s, although it’s possible Patagonia was sincere about their ads, in order to help the environment.

  6. Thanks for all your input guys! It will definitely be really interesting to analyze Patagonia’s marketing strategies and intentions in my paper 🙂

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