Sunday, September 23, 2012

Patagonia: King Of "Brands Maintaining Values"

Why Patagonia?

original website for picture

Patagonia, Inc., creator and vendor of outdoor clothing and gear, has one of the absolute best market positioning strategies of this day and age. It can be wonderfully summed up by a quote from their mission statement, which reads:

Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis" (Patagonia Company Info).

This company may seem an obvious choice for most when it comes to strong brand positioning. However, there is a reason for its success in the marketplace (and why I chose it to be my brand to “rant and rave” about).

What You May Not Know About The Company

Yvon Chouinard, the founder of Patagonia, “claims not to be a businessman and he spends more than half of his time roaming the globe engaging in a multitude of outdoor activities, his business philosophy and orientation is actually quite sharp" (Williamette). How does this matter when it comes to market segmentation and positioning?

His appeal to the "outdoorsy" type of people is strong. Chouinard not only develops their products, but he is out continuously looking for new product ideas by venturing out into the outdoor world himself. The company is always looking for outlets to keep their products as sustainable as possible while creating new products for the average outdoor lover. They have paved the way for businesses that want to be environmentally friendly, which is very appealing to consumers that believe in the “green initiative.”

Consumers of Patagonia recognize the company’s desire to make a difference with their products. In a research study done on Patagonia’s Marketing Strategy, the author writes, “Patagonia uses recycled polyester in the manufacturing of all the clothing lines, instead of using pesticides-intensive cottons.  Because of this dedication to the environment and to manufacturing processes that do not harm the environment, Patagonia’s total sales in 2009 were $340 million”, which was found on the Patagonia website (Jason Stevens, Many consumers are also aware of the founder of Patagonia’s love for the outdoors and how it overpowers his desire to focus solely on the sales of the company; the consumers get a mix of both an environmental and customer-oriented company.

Who Is The Target Market?

Patagonia’s target market consists of a wide variety of people: males, females, and children, at any age. The company reaches a wide range of markets- specifically to outdoor lovers. This may sound broad, however, the company meets the needs of its vast majority of consumers. This is one of the reasons why its market presence is so large; the brand is well-known enough to appeal to any consumers seeking products that will last them a while, and consumers will also shop to say they are being environmentally friendly.

In addition to targeting their market of avid outdoorsmen, they appeal to a non-consumerism sector. Olivia Sprinkel, blogger on SalterBaxer Blog, explains: "Patagonia’s stance challenges the standard model of consumerism, especially if we are going to follow through when we make the pledge to Reduce: ‘I pledge to buy only what I need'" (SalterBaxer). While I will discuss Patagonia's stance on reducing consumerism later, it is important to keep in mind that they also capture the attention of the market that wants to remain sustainable by buying less.

Exemplifying The Words "Do What You Love"

When I think of Patagonia, I am reminded of Professor Palin’s advice that he gave to our branding class: “do what you love.” Patagonia, although extremely successful, does not focus on profits as a means for the company’s existence. Instead, they reflect “a strong market orientation with voice of the customer built in”, as explained in Winning at New Products. Although this particular chapter discusses the new product process, it is a perfect example of why Patagonia has become so well known in their sector. Goal #5, "A Strong Market Orientation with Voice of the Consumer Built In", states:

“If superb new product success rates are the goal, then a market orientation – executing the key marketing activities in a quality fashion – must be built into the new product process as a matter of routine, rather than by exception" (Cooper).

Patagonia, when innovating new products, follows this rule flawlessly. They routinely create new products that will benefit their customers, not focusing on sales. Saying that they put their customers first could sum up their market success.

If you still aren’t convinced that Patagonia isn’t as concerned with sales as it is with their customers, I would recommend reading Fast Company’s article about Patagonia asking their customers to buy less. According to the Ben Schiller, “The Californian apparel company last month launched an initiative encouraging their customers to reduce, repair, reuse, and recycle their clothing and equipment. Their ad even features the line: "Reduce what you buy," in bold caps, much like something out of an anti-capitalism rally" (Fast Company).

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Patagonia: How They Challenge Their Competition

Calling out other companies with “environmental initiatives”, such as Dell, P&G, and Chevy, the article lays out all the facts that make Patagonia the environmentalist king. Rick Ridgeway, Patagonia’s environmental VP, explains in the article that this initiative is “less about improving sales and customer retention, than a sincere response to the planetary crisis" (Fast Company).

My reason for picking Patagonia as a brand with strong, relevant positioning in the marketplace is because not only do they place customers first and strive to live up to their environmental reputation, but they also challenge their competitors. No one can match up to Patagonia because the company has created its own marketing position by vowing to remain true to their core values of creating customer satisfaction while being sustainable. You could even refer to them as a company that had a “blue ocean strategy”, because no company has ever asked their customers to buy less at the risk of losing sales (with meaning). They are continuously reinforcing what they believe in to their consumers, and in effect, they keep coming back for more.

Ridgeway insists this is not a marketing ploy, and that their executives are not concerned with wealth. Their customers are concerned with buying quality products that will last them long enough to make their money well spent, as well as being environmental. Patagonia more than meets the needs of their customers by branding the company separately than every other outdoor apparel store.

original website for picture

Original Patagonia Positioning Statement

As the brand manager of Patagonia, my positioning statement would be as follows:

For people who love the outdoors and the earth, Patagonia shares your passions. Our products are made from quality, recycled materials that mirror our sustainability initiative while accompanying adventurers as they embark into the outside world. Only with Patagonia products can our customers enjoy knowing they are sustainable and doing what they love at the same time.



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