Retailer Says, ‘Don’t Buy Our Stuff’

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.




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Vicki P.
Victoria P.3 years ago

Thanks for thoughtful and interesting article!

Brigid C.
Brigid C.3 years ago

awesome. I voted yes because I have hope!

Faith Purdy
Faith Purdy3 years ago

awesome campaign! very inspiring!

Annmari Lundin
Annmari Lundin3 years ago

They are not the first. The Government owned and operated liquer stores in Sweden, Systembolaget, had a campaign in the 70's promoting NOT buying booze. It was called "Spola Kröken" and is slang for Skip the Booze. It was very successful and the sales dropped. But that is the aim on Systembolaget. They are not allowed to advertise their products and are also obligated to keep their sales down. These days it doesn't work as well as in the 70's. People drink more and the options with Wine in a Box has increased alcoholism mostly among women.

Richard B.
Richard B.3 years ago

The idea being to reduce total consumed but to garner greater sales and proportion af marke - at least with environmentally conscious consumers.

Laudable aim, perhaps even an effective marketing strategy? To be determined.

Of course, the advertising campaigns of Alcoholic Beverages promoting reduced alcohol consumption come to mind. However in the latter case, the aims are more likely to put off legislatory regulation, and decrease the deaths of their 'better' consumers.

Marlene C.
Marlene C.3 years ago

Great idea. Hope it does some good. I've been slowly trying to practice restraint, it's a battle but tt's working. How many black turtlenecks does one person need ?

Hillary K.
Hillary K.3 years ago

Great ad but it is still that, an AD. But in saying that, maybe & hopefully it will make people think, and thinking leads to I stand here with my fingers crossed hoping it works. Good ad Patagonia!

Mark Stevenson
Mark S.3 years ago

I don't buy "stuff" anymore. I have enough.

Darla G.
Darla G.3 years ago

I have already started THINKING before I automatically buy something. My thought process is "yes, I can afford it; yes, I want it but do I NEED it" and most of the time the answer is NO so I don't buy it.

Nancy L.
Nancy L.3 years ago