In one of the most innovative advertising campaigns ever, outdoor clothing company Patagonia is asking us not to buy their products. This is not a recall or a come-on, but an acknowledgment by the company that we are all consuming more than the earth can comfortably provide, and that things need to change. The message: “Donít buy what you donít need. Think twice before you buy anything.” is truly radical in a country beset by holiday shopping frenzy, where 225 million Americans spent $11.4 billion last Friday alone, the day Patagonia’s full-page ad ran in The New York Times. The ad urges customers, “Don’t Buy This Jacket,” explaining “Black Friday, and the culture of consumption it reflects, puts the economy of natural systems that support all life firmly in the red.”
Patagonia understands that its long-term sustainability depends on a healthy environment, and the campaign urges buyers to think before they buy. This video on their website expands the message to praise experience over material goods, pointing out “We use one and a half planets, but have only one” and saying the time has come to “live within our means. do more with less, and pursue not what we vaguely want, but what we deeply need.”
The message runs counter to the culture of planned obsolesce and “more is more” that has dominated U.S. culture for decades, but perhaps its time has come.
The company’s Common Threads initiative asks website visitors to take a pledge to “buy only what I need (and will last), repair what breaks, reuse (share) what I no longer need and recycle everything else.”† In return, the company agrees “to build useful things that last, to repair what breaks and recycle what comes to the end of its useful life.”
A New Trend? Probably Not. But A Good Start.
Can we now expect ads from Exxon asking us to get out of the car and walk more, or McDonald’s urging us not to eat unless we’re really hungry? Probably not. Certainly Patagonia’s brand health depends on the health of our environment (who wants to go mountain climbing on a slag heap?) but nevertheless, in this time of consumption frenzy, it is refreshing to see one company taking the long view for people, planet and profit.