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Patagonia content marketing: 6 strategies to learn from

TAST Team

December 12, 2023

Unless you’ve been living under a rock (and we don’t mean one you’re climbing), you’ve probably heard of Patagonia. One of the world’s most recognizable outdoor brands, Patagonia has plenty of fans. And that’s not down to chance. They’ve gotten to where they are today by leveraging bold and innovative content marketing strategies that promote their mission to connect them with like-minded consumers. 

In this article, you’ll learn about 6 ways Patagonia has successfully scaled its brand and won new fans. Hopefully by the end, you’ll be left with a few ideas that you can use for your own brand’s marketing efforts.

6 successful content marketing strategies used by Patagonia

Patagonia is one of the world’s biggest outdoor brands – and for good reason. They’ve earned their turns as a game-changer in the outdoor sports industry and used clever marketing and authentic messaging to let people know about their efforts. If you’re looking to boost your brand and get your name out there, too, get inspired by 6 of the most successful Patagonia content marketing strategies.

1/ Not just a brand, but a movement

Patagonia is more than a brand that sells clothes and gear for outdoor enthusiasts – it’s a movement. Onethat makes good on its commitment to the planet and its people. Patagonia appeals to conscientious outdoor sports fans by educating its audience on how to have a positive impact on the world and by sharing how they’re doing the same. They walk the walk, providing information on steps we can all take to make a difference and facilitating action from both consumers, corporations, and governments. 

Patagonia regularly shares activism stories on its website and creates online campaigns around the world’s most pressing environmental issues – like ending bottom trawling. The brand also uses its platform to connect committed individuals to environmental action groups, helping them get involved.  

But Patagonia goes even further. It’s been making Fair Trade clothing since 2014, pays its supply chain workers Fair Trade Certified wages and is currently working to find a permanent solution that sees everyone involved in making its clothes earning a living wage.

2/ Shareable, expert content

One of Patagonia’s biggest marketing strengths is the creation of shareable content that works seamlessly across multiple platforms, including Tumblr. The brand taps into its customers’ love for outdoor sports by producing inspirational content that they truly care about. Those customers then share it on their social media feeds, organically boosting the brand’s credibility and reach. Relevant, authentic content across platforms is a simple strategy that any outdoor brand can use to attract new customers.

A screenshot of Patagonia’s Tumblr page with an image of a climber standing on a snowy mountain at dawn
But different content is more likely to get shared in different markets. If you’re planning to reach international customers, make sure your message is tailored to each one. We can help you grow with specialized sport translations that speaks to your dream audience, wherever they are in the world. Need copywriting services to jumpstart your marketing? We’ve got you covered with that, too.

3/ Bold campaigns with clear messaging 

Patagonia has come out with several trailblazing, game-changing campaigns in the outdoor sports industry. But their best campaigns center on the actions they’re taking to change the world and the clothing industry. Here’s an example of innovative content that’s helped Patgonia become synonymous with sustainability.

Patagonia’s ‘Worn Wear’ campaign

According to Patagonia’s website, 85% of the world’s clothing ends up incinerated or in landfills. This is a staggering figure. But by buying less, repairing more and trading in old gear, Patagonia believes that we can reduce our overall consumption and have a gentler impact on the planet.

In 2013, Patagonia launched its trade-in and repair initiative, Worn Wear. When you’re done with your gear, you can send it to Patagonia, and they’ll repair it and pass it on to someone else who needs it. If the item’s in good enough condition to be reused, you’ll get credit to use in-store or online. Gear that’s at the end of its life will be recycled, keeping it out of landfills. Patagonia also encourages customers to repair their own clothes instead of chucking them out.

To support the Worn Wear initiative, Patagonia produced a half-hour documentary called Worn Wear Stories to help get the word out about this important step. Yet another example of how Patagonia’s marketing is always backed by action and positive change. They also launched an entirely new website encouraging customers to take part. It features the brand’s colors and logo, so it looks and feels like Patagonia, but it has a slightly different purpose from the main online shop. 

At the end of the Worn Wear promotional campaign in 2015, Patagonia was hitting an 88% market sell-through rate. And, perhaps more importantly, it also gained many more fans by sharing stories of how its customers repaired and reused their gear. 

See the video about how Worn Wear works here.

Responsible logo use

Patagonia initially restricted corporate logos on its clothing to companies and brands whose values aligned with theirs (i.e., no more banks or oil companies). The thing is, though, people regularly change jobs. Corporate logos on clothes put people off passing them down or wearing them on the weekend. As a result, the clothing goes unused or gets tossed in the trash, where it ends up languishing in landfills.

After realizing that any non-removable corporate logo on a garment could significantly reduce its lifespan, Patagonia temporarily stopped approving additional logos until it could find a way to keep the clothes out of landfills. Their solution? They now encourage corporations to add logos where they can easily be removed, like on zipper pulls, and they’re working to incorporate embroidered logo removal into their Worn Wear repair program so the clothes can change jobs as easily as people do.

Patagonia explains this philosophy on their website to show their commitment to being a responsible retailer. The positive publicity that Patagonia has gained from this initiative strengthened the brand’s links to sustainability, boosting its popularity with eco-conscious consumers. This taps into their wider marketing strategy – highlighting all the good they’re doing for the planet so others who want to do the same can easily find them.

Patagonia founder gives away the company

Passionate rock climber and Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard famously gave away his company to help fight the climate crisis. Instead of selling it or making it public, he transferred the company to a specially -designed trust and non-profit organization to ensure that its profits are used to tackle climate change and protect the world’s undeveloped land.

While Yvon Chouinard’s intentions were pure, the story reverberated throughout the outdoor sports world and beyond, earning Patagonia a huge amount of organic (and unexpected) publicity. Global news outlets reported on the story, showcasing Patagonia as a game-changer in the industry.

How can you, as a brand, emulate this? Simply take actions that speak to your values, and the world may take notice, even if you don’t advertise it. Those who agree with your mission and ethos will seek you out on their own.

You can also engage with your fans on social media with video content. Did you know that TikTok has over 1 billion global monthly visitors? Plus, video captures the beauty and intensity of the outdoor industry better than text can, so you’ll be more likely to inspire and engage action sports fans.

4/ Conversations vs sales 

Patagonia does things differently by shunning the hard sell. Instead, the brand nurtures relationships by educating its customers about their products. Take this product description. There’s no mention of how amazing this garment is. The copy talks instead about the dyeing process, informing customers about the decreased impact it has on the environment.

A product page from Patagonia showing a blue fleece being worn by two different models alongside a product description

Interestingly, if you browse Patagonia’s social media channels, you’ll struggle to find sales pitches. Instead, you’ll be treated to stories about the work the brand is doing and what its customers are getting up to. This enables Patagonia to cement itself as a trustworthy brand that actually cares – not a brand whose sole mission is to sell stuff. They use their platform as a successful company to center the environmental work they do. Not the other way around.

5/ ‘Don’t Buy This Jacket’ ad

In 2011, Patagonia bucked the Black Friday trend by running an ad in The New York Times telling people, ‘Don’t Buy This Jacket’. The aim of the ad was to address the issue of overconsumption head-on, challenging customers to think twice before buying more gear right in the middle of the biggest shopping season.

The campaign aligned with Patagonia’s greater purpose – to reduce consumption and offer solutions to the environmental crisis. Patagonia is all about producing long-lasting, beautiful clothes that outdoor sports enthusiasts actually need. While controversial, the ad ultimately got people talking about the impact the clothing industry has on the environment. And getting people talking is exactly what great marketing does.

6/ Collaborations with outdoor influencers

Like all good action sports brands, Patagonia uses outdoor influencers – or ‘Global Sports Activists’ as they call them – to get their stories out into the world. While the activists and influencers may wear Patagonia gear, the content they create isn’t about the clothes. It’s about spreading awareness of important social, environmental and cultural issues.

Using real people from the outdoor sports world also offers Patagonia the chance to inspire customers in an authentic way. Genuinely great stories encourage people to find out more, turning outdoor sports enthusiasts into loyal fans. Here are some examples:

An Instagram post from Patagonia showing Norwegian fly fisher Emilie Björkman fishing for Baltic salmon on the wild rivers of northern Sweden
An Instagram post from Patagonia showing trans climber Lor Sabourin in the middle of a climb
An Instagram post from Patagonia showing runner Kiko Sweeney running on a sandy beach with her family

When Patagonia and The Action Sports Translator became a dream team

By now, you can probably see why Patagonia’s content strategy – featuring both thoughtful and thought-provoking campaigns and genuine, organic buzz – has been such a huge success. We like to think we helped with that, too. We were privileged to provide translation services for Patagonia’s 50th Anniversary campaign, translating video, print and online content into German, French, Italian and Spanish. We used transcreation to convey the messages in a way that stayed true to Patagonia’s values and also rang true across different languages and cultures.

And now we’re ready to do the same for you. If you operate in international waters, getting the right message across (like Patagonia does so effectively) can help you get ahead of the competition and get the public talking about you and your values. Unsure where to start? Then save yourself time, money and stress and team up with us to take your brand across borders.

Shoot us a message for more details and we’ll be in touch.

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