Today when I opened my personal email inbox, it was inundated with companies competing for my attention this Cyber Monday, begging for me to click their links, trying to seduce me with sharp discounts and free shipping. But amidst all of this chaos, one subject line stood out:
“Don’t buy this jacket”
So read the email from the outdoor clothing company, Patagonia. After deleting dozens of emails, I couldn’t help but click into this one, feeling with certainty that some brilliant marketer had duped me once again by piquing my interest and tickling my curiosity with a clever subject line designed to pull a bait and switch. What I found was both surprising and fascinating.
Today will likely be the biggest online retail day ever, and Patagonia is actually encouraging its customers NOT to buy its products and to think twice before buying any product. To use the company’s own words:
Cyber Monday, and the culture of consumption it reflects, puts the economy of natural systems that support all life firmly in the red. We’re now using the resources of one-and-a-half planets on our one and only planet…
Because Patagonia wants to be in business for a good long time – and leave a world inhabitable for our kids – we want to do the opposite of every other business today. We ask you to buy less and to reflect before you spend a dime on this jacket or anything else.
This email goes well beyond a feel-good message about everyone doing their part, often employed by big companies to advertise their brands. The company proceeds to illustrate the large environmental toll it takes to create its products:
The environmental cost of everything we make is astonishing. Consider the R2® Jacket shown, one of our best sellers. To make it required 135 liters of water, enough to meet the daily needs (three glasses a day) of 45 people. Its journey from its origin as 60% recycled polyester to our Reno warehouse generated nearly 20 pounds of carbon dioxide, 24 times the weight of the finished product.
This information makes you wonder about the environmental toll of products produced by less environmentally conscience companies that don’t readily reveal this sort of information.
Patagonia has a long history of environmentalism, having donating a percentage of its profits to environmental causes* and dedicating a portion of its website to environmental education. This email, however, coupled with Patagonia’s recent partnership with Ebay to create a used marketplace for the company’s clothing and gear, brings corporate environmentalism to a whole new level. As other companies try to hide the environmental cost of their products, Patagonia is asking consumers to think about it with every purchase decision they make.
While some may argue that encouraging customers to think twice before buying products is corporate suicide, there is also a strong argument to be made that these actions will help the company. This marketing highlights the durability of Patagonia products, creates buzz marketing (consider this blog post), and will undoubtedly attract environmentally conscience consumers to the brand.
What do you think? Does this message make you rethink your holiday shopping behavior? Is this extreme example of sustainability a smart business move or will it hurt the company? Comment on this post and let us know.
-Contributed by Sam Weis, communications director.
*Full Disclosure: Clean Wisconsin just received funding from Patagonia through its environmental grants program. This funding will be used to support our work fighting environmentally destructive mining in Wisconsin and is unrelated to the contents of this post.