Don’t Read This Post: How Patagonia Is Saving the Planet with Sustainable Copy

With its love for the great outdoors, Patagonia has shaken up the apparel industry with attention-grabbing advertising campaigns encouraging consumers not to buy its products. Here’s what marketers can learn.

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One look at Patagonia’s website is all it takes to sense the brand’s love for the great outdoors. Every story the apparel retailer tells links back to the environment and the brand’s mission to protect the planet and encourage outdoor activity.  

Patagonia epitomizes what it means to be purpose-driven. Though many brands today promote a commitment to sustainability and transparency, Patagonia has embodied these values since it was founded in 1973. The environmentally conscious brand has earned a reputation for its upscale clothing and eco-friendly initiatives—as well as its disruptive ad campaigns

But at times, Patagonia’s strategy may seem more like an anti-marketing effort. The company arms itself with sustainable copy that has helped its revenues spike amid what some consider a challenging time for traditional apparel retailers. This begs the question: What genius marketing strategy does Patagonia have up its fleece-lined sleeve, and what can we learn from it? 

Patagonia attracts its audience with sustainable copy

Patagonia tells the story that, when made well and cared for, clothes can withstand even the harshest of climates and conditions. In doing so, the brand does something others shy away from: it celebrates what’s old and what’s used. Patagonia’s short—yet memorable—copy is the perfect example of both branding and storytelling, with lines like, “Let your gear give again,” and “Buy Less, Repair More.” Through this, it’s no longer about the ad itself, but instead a two-way communication for Patagonia to share its values with its audience. 

Beyond influencing other companies to create their own sustainable copy campaigns, Patagonia’s message resonates with more environmentally conscious consumers—and Gen Z shoppers who engage with cause-driven copy marketing. This demographic has shown that they’re willing to spend more money on quality products they know will last, while also decreasing their environmental impact. 

Copy like “Keep your gear in play,” connects each product to Patagonia’s mission, engaging its audience in a deeper, more meaningful way. While its products are durable and therefore don’t need to be replaced often, the company still encourages consumers to get the most out of their gear. Rather than featuring a straightforward photo and description of their product, Patagonia uses its copy as an opportunity to tell a bigger environmental impact story. 

Learn why the best return on your marketing dollar comes from copywriting.

Find what your audience wants—and give it to them time and time again

Have you ever heard of a company asking its consumers not to buy its products? Probably not. But in 2011, Patagonia ran a full-page ad in The New York Times encouraging readers not to buy its products, explaining the various costs involved throughout the manufacturing process. 

By swapping a traditional advertisement with a cautionary “Don’t buy this jacket,” Patagonia inadvertently encouraged the sales of its bestselling R2 jacket. This strategy demanded more from the audience and repeatedly demonstrates that you can still make a profit when you prioritize the greater good. In doing so, the ad created a platform to change consumers’ relationship with clothing, bringing conscious consumption through sustainable copy to the forefront—and, well, it worked. 

Patagonia’s copy tells us as consumers that we can feel better buying a Patagonia fleece, because a second life will be waiting. Patagonia sells gently loved and repaired gear alongside new products, an initiative they’ve named “Worn Wear.” The unique shop “celebrates the stories we wear, keeps your gear in action longer through repair and reuse, and recycles your garments when they’re beyond repair.” Patagonia’s sustainable copy entices the consumer who’s worried about all the things the brand aims to lessen or eliminate—including our impact on our land, water, and air around the globe. 

Patagonia knows that by crafting copy that encourages an outdoorsy lifestyle, like “Mind over Mountain,” its focus on sustainability will resonate most effectively. Their message is clear: reduce their environmental impact and encourage customers to do the same. By demanding more, Patagonia repeatedly enables its customers to become active players in the clothing ecosystem instead of passive consumers. The brand has determined what its consumers want—and found a way to give it to them. 

MarketSmiths Case Study

Tupelo Park City is one of the best restaurants in Utah—but its owners were looking to expand. Rather than focusing on traditional post-ski fare, RIME Raw Bar was instead to be a New England seafood bar in the mountains. But with a tight deadline, and no website to speak of, the entrepreneurs needed expert support fast. Enter MarketSmiths. Working with RIME, we created a unique brand story—seamlessly blending the salty sea and snow-slathered mountains. Devising witty headlines, we brought the new restaurant to life, ensuring RIME was a success in its debut season.

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It’s great to share what you do—but better to share what you value 

But perhaps the most compelling thing about Patagonia’s copy is that it gives consumers more than a shopping experience—it provides insights on initiatives devoted to reducing our carbon impact on the Earth. With copy like, “We’re in the business to save our home planet,” consumers can shop with the confidence that the brand aims to make a positive change. 

The retailer’s homepage automatically entices the environmentally conscious by providing them with short videos and direct links to get involved and take action in the issues threatening our environment. Copy like “Run to The Source” and “Was It Worth It?” allows consumers to look for a product that enables them to enjoy the environment they care about, with opportunities to make a difference themselves. 

Patagonia’s marketing strategy is completely different from other popular apparel retailers—and that’s what makes it work. The high-quality products, inspirational storytelling, and passion for the environment come through in the sustainable copy that attracts consumers with similar values and beliefs—without leaving a footprint.

Looking for sustainable copy that gets people thinking? Get in touch with the team of writers at MarketSmiths today.  

Christina Rasmussen

Christina Rasmussen

A native Bostonian, Christina has written for newspapers up and down the north shore of Boston before joining MarketSmiths. When she’s not writing or honing her craft, you can find her dabbling in the foodie scene and learning all there is to know about the royals.

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