Radical Purpose: Patagonia's Secret Messages

Joost
Written by in Bucket list
- 3 min read

Last month, Patagonia customers began finding the message "Vote the assholes out" sown into labels on their clothes. Pictures of these went viral on social media. Many wondered if this latest protest against climate change deniers was real.

article photo

Soon after, Patagonia confirmed they were: "The tags are real, because we have been standing up to climate deniers for almost as long as we've been making those shorts."

Vote the assholes out

The statement "Vote the assholes out" is not really new for Patagonia. Founder Yvon Chouinard used this catchphrase before against those who deny climate change, or are ignorant of the science.

When it comes to politics, Patagonia has been even more outspoken recently—calling out politicians opposed to their views on environmental issues, and expressed in their new mission statement as: "We're in business to save our home planet." We experienced this first hand four years ago, at Patagonia's headquarters in Ventura, California.

In our book we wrote: "Our visit coincides with election time (2016 presidential elections, Donald Trump vs. Hillary Clinton), and the Patagonia people are getting involved. 'Vote Our Planet' is their campaign motto, set up by employees but embraced by all. The goal is to motivate Americans and nudge them in the right direction. Patagonia has made $1 million available to support candidates that advocate clean water, clean air and sustainable energy.’’

After our visit, the company closed for the day.

“We want to encourage employees and customers to vote”, Chipper (Patagonia's receptionist-cum-gatekeeper) explains. Not much later we hear his voice boom over the intercom: ‘Ladies and gentlemen, good morning. I wish all a wonderful day. Tomorrow is important, and I am asking you for a small favour: Don’t forget to vote! Every single one will count.’

Shortly after our visit, Patagonia again walks the talk by donating its 2016 Black Friday sales — a record $10 million — to environmental groups. Every cent. In doing so, they support hundreds of non-profits. This kind of action makes Patagonia more than a brand. It’s a social advocate for the change it wants to see, to make a difference and influence consumer choices and responsibilities."

Walking the talk

And they haven't been quiet since. They have reinforced their position as one of the most vocal brands about the unwillingness of some (especially politicians) to take climate change seriously.

In 2017, Patagonia sued the Trump administration in an effort to protect American national parks claiming: "The President Stole Your Land", and donated its tax-cut cash directly to grass-roots environmental groups.

Last year the company stopped selling its iconic outdoor vest to financial firms, religious groups and companies they view as supporting ecologically damaging activities (like oil drilling and mining).

It changed its corporate sales policies, declaring that only companies with a charity element (or committed to supporting community causes or the environment) are welcome as new corporate clients.

Division

This latest, and maybe most extreme political stand by Patagonia has gone too far for some. They claim Patagonia's political messaging is reason enough to rid their closet of everything Patagonian.

To be clear. We, and many others, love their newest stunt of environmental activism.

What do you think? Was it a ‘bridge too far’ this time?

Please let us know in the comments below.

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Replies (10)

Curtis Michelson

Curtis Michelson

Not a bridge too far at all, it's actually completely in line and aligned marketing, branding, and good business. Similar to how great product design says 'no' more often than it says 'yes' (killing features early), I think great business design does the same. It makes hard choices and fearless decisions that optimize for 'alignment to purpose' over efficiencies, short-term growth, etc. Because smart companies like Patagonia know those fearless decisions engage and protect a loyal workforce (talent) and a loyal consumer fan base (revenue) and the two streams feed each other. It's really damn smart. (NOTE: it would be foolish for another company to copy this wholesale, because it would be out of alignment for say Microsoft to slap such messages like easter eggs in its software)

| | 8 | Flag
Brensen

Brensen

Walking the talk or waiting for others to do so: Gandhi showed the way.
To have the courage of my convictions (whatever they are) is what it means to be developing into a full human. *Convictions (real ones) cost.
*It's normal for real ones to develop & change.
*And real convictions are simply & joyously acted upon when they're heart (not mind) felt. Like love.

| | 4 | Flag
Christian Sarkar

Christian Sarkar

It's Brand Activism. Phil Kotler and I wrote a book on the topic in 2018: http://www.activistbrands.com/the-book/

| | 4 | Flag
John

John

Not too far. Fully appropriate given their positioning.

| | 2 | Flag
Sarah

Sarah

We need more companies like Patagonia. We need a system change.

| | 2 | Flag
Jorn_Verweij

Jorn_Verweij

If the clothes are designed to last, then the message might as well reflect that and be a bit more "timeless".

| | 0 | Flag
Steve Marshall

Steve Marshall

Building on 'John's comment:

Not too far. Fully appropriate given their positioning as human beings.

| | 0 | Flag
Andreas Mohr

Andreas Mohr

| | 3 | Flag
Dawn Nizzi

Dawn Nizzi

Not too far at all. The "too far" is how long deniers have held up meaningful change. Thanks Corporate Rebels!

| | 2 | Flag
PbRYMEsWunIDhL

PbRYMEsWunIDhL

MyrbTWtmHQ

| | 0 | Flag
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