Outdoor gear brand Patagonia is doubling down on political activism with the launch this month of Patagonia Action Works, a digital platform (now out of beta) that allows customers as well as 720 grant organizations to support causes, a company spokesperson told Retail Dive.
The brand's sales are hardly suffering from its activism. Patagonia, The North Face and Columbia are among top performers in selling outerwear online, and Patagonia attained the highest loyalty among them, with 66% of outerwear buyers' spending going to that brand, according to research from NPD Group emailed to Retail Dive. The North Face captured 8% of total online outerwear buyers, followed by Columbia with 6% share and Patagonia at 3%, according to NPD.
CEO Rose Marcario, with the support of founder Yvon Chouinard, has amplified the brand's activism through provocative advertising campaigns like "Don't Buy This Jacket," by encouraging consumers to repair and reuse clothing and by donating 100% of its Black Friday sales to environmental organizations. The brand went a step further in December, replacing its e-commerce homepage with a banner reading "The President Stole Your Land," after the Trump Administration reduced the size of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments.
Despite hesitation by many companies to weigh in on politics, a great majority (66%) of customers actually want them to take a stand on big issues, according to a Sprout Social study emailed to Retail Dive last month. Most react well to brands taking political stances, especially if their personal beliefs align. Nearly a third (28%) of customers will publicly praise a brand which expresses similar political beliefs to their own and 44% will purchase more from it.
Communications firm Global Strategy Group has similarly found that consumers want companies to take a stand in even controversial topics; its research uncovered 80% of respondents who believe corporations should take action on important issues in society, up from 72% the year before.
That works both ways, of course: 20% will publicly criticize a brand if they disagree with the stance they've taken and 53% will purchase less from it, according to Sprout Social. But, judging from the brand's outspoken image, Patagonia is willing to sacrifice some customers if it means taking a stance for the environment, which is just part of the company's mission, a spokesperson said.
"If you've been paying attention, you'll know that things aren't going very well for the planet," Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard says in the video. "It's pretty easy to get depressed about it. I've always known that the cure for depression is action."