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Values-based marketing: Patagonia gets it

by Sam Ladner on December 12, 2011 · 0 comments

in Blog, anthropology, brand, ethnography, home, market research, qualitative research

Christmas shopping season is in full swing, but one retail company stands out for its message: don’t buy our stuff. That’s right, Patagonia is telling its customers that they should NOT buy more of its products. From their blog:

What kind of crazy reverse psychology is this? Is Patagonia trying to fool its customers into buying something? Are they lying? What are they doing?

IMHO, this is the bravest, most honest campaign I’ve seen in…well forever. The company has said repeatedly that it values the environment above its profitability. It wouldn’t exist as a outdoor recreation company, were it not for the amazing natural beauty of the world.

So they decided to put their money where their mouth is. They recognize the true cost of consumerism:

“Think twice before you buy anything….take the Common Threads initiative pledge, and join us in the fifth ‘R’ to reimagine a world where we only take what we can replace.”

Patagonia is appealing to their own, broader vision with this campaign. Instead of stooping to get the easy buck, they stay true to their value of environment over people. Some marketers might say this is a dumb way to sell outdoor clothing. But this approach appeals to the values of the very people who do buy these kinds of clothes.

This is evocative of the model we use with our clients, called the Value Orientation Model, which guides good, values-based marketing. The value orientation model shows us the 5 central values humans use to organize their lives and understand the world:

Value Orientation Model

When your brand’s values are clear, decisions like this are easy. Put the value at the centre of your message, and the campaign writes itself. The hard part is keeping true to that value system. Patagonia has done this, and in so doing, is ensuring the loyalty of its most valued customers.

Value-based marketing isn’t cynical reverse psychology. It isn’t even marketing. It’s about finding a moral centre of where you want to be. This can only be done with deep social insight.

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Categories: Blog · anthropology · brand · ethnography · home · market research · qualitative research

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