Narrative Spotlight: Patagonia

Welcome to the first in our Narrative Spotlight blog series, dedicated to recognizing organizations that we believe have hit the narrative mark! So, what does it mean to hit the mark? This is all based on how well a company’s current messaging matches with the principles of Strategic Narrative Marketing. This approach gets organizations to stop talking about themselves and instead address industry trends and challenges head-on to create a unique, industry-nurturing and inclusive narrative. While there is always room for improvement, we wanted to give a shout out to companies who are on the right track and have put a stake in the ground. First up – outdoor and adventure outfitter Patagonia.

You might often see the Patagonia logo – an outline of the mountain Monte Fitz Roy located in the Southern Patagonian Ice Field – on the clothing, packs, accessories or gear of an adventure seeker. The brand evokes dreams of climbing the world’s most challenging mountains, shredding the freshest powder or rafting white water. While Patagonia is often first recognized for its tangible products, it is lately becoming known for its stance and impact on protecting public lands, Fair Trade and an all-around commitment to the environment that its products help customers enjoy.

The image at the top of this blog is a screengrab of one of the rotating banners featured on Patagonia’s homepage. In reference to the recent reduction of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante Monuments in Utah, the retort is blunt, controversial, and while there might be two sides to the coin, the company has made its stance known.  If you click on “Learn More” and they provide information on the recent measure and provide ways to take action. Scroll down farther and Patagonia then answers why it is so dedicated to protecting public lands (see screengrab >>), including the impact they have on the economy, the enjoyment of outdoor activity and the widespread, general support of protecting these lands. While briefly mentioning its help in creating several national monuments, no where does Patagonia promote or link back to any of its products, or more deeply talk about itself. In this way, Patagonia is letting us know that it is more than just an outfitter, but is playing an active part in current events relating to our environment.

Back to the main Patagonia page, you can find its mission statement and more information about its reason for being. Patagonia’s mission statement reads as such: “Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.” This mission statement  addresses the company’s commitment to the larger cause of environmental issues, and sets the stage for a narrative that is “global” and unique to the brand.  Notice how it expands on this statement and dives more into its purpose, claiming: “For us at Patagonia, a 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. We donate our time, services and at least 1% of our sales to hundreds of grassroots environmental groups all over the world who work to help reverse the tide.” While still a little inward-focused, Patagonia brings up an issue impacting the larger good and how it is dedicated to addressing this without mentioning or promoting their products. Of course there are two sides to this argument, and while their mission statement might turn some potential customers off, they are putting a stake in the ground and differentiating themselves in the market.

Navigate around Patagonia’s site more and it’s easy to see exactly how it is dedicated to environmental and social responsibility, as well as its commitment to Fair Trade and providing workers around the world safe working environments with livable wages. Take a look at their Twitter feed. You have to dig to find Tweets promoting its products, and are instead greeted with more information on conservation efforts, worker’s rights and more.

Peel back the fabric and Patagonia is much more than just a provider of all the clothing, gear and accessories you need for your next adventure – the organization is part of the revolution to change the way outsourced workers are treated and a crusader in the fight to protect public lands and the environment. Patagonia’s  messaging does a good job of making you feel that your purchase is contributing to a larger cause, not just the pocket of a CEO.