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Patagonia: The power of brand transparency (Part 1)

April 22, 2011 Comments

Yesterday I had the real pleasure of visiting Patagonia HQ in Ventura, California. It’s a brand that I, and many others, have admired for so long because of the powerful alignment between their core values and how they run their business and make their products. To better understand how they achieve this, I asked Rick Ridgeway, the VP for Environmental initiatives to walk us through their process.

SM: Hi, I’m Simon Mainwaring and I’m here at Patagonia HQ in Ventura, California.  I have the great privilege of being here with Rick Ridgeway, who is the VP for Environmental Initiatives. I wanted to talk to him about a program that I find so exciting because it reinvents the relationship between brands and customers.  It’s called the Footprint Chronicles.  Rick, thanks for your time.  Tell us, what is the Footprint Chronicles?

RR:  Well firstly, Footprint Chronicles had its origins in our need to figure out how better to communicate our sustainability efforts to our customers. We didn’t just want to make an annual standard CSR report. It just didn’t feel like us. So we were trying to figure out what we could do, when we had this idea to go into our supply chain and make videos that a customer could see when they come into our website and find out what the real origins were of their jacket or T-shirt, going all the way back to the farm where the cotton was grown and ending up at the warehouse where the product finally ends up. They can see slideshows, videos and interviews of the people behind the product. But more importantly, these slides, videos and interviews discuss what is good about the product and what sucks. It’s the good and the bad. It’s total transparency. That’s what the Footprint Chronicles is.

SM:  So walk us through the process.

RR:  Sure. Take this jacket for example. If you go onto the website and see this jacket you are interested in buying, click on the jacket. From there, you’ll be able to follow the origin of the product all the way from the beginning in California, where our design department and our headquarters design the product.  You can hear the designers tell you about their choices, like in the fabric. For this jacket, they wanted to have a fabric that was made out of recycled polyester to reduce the footprint of the jacket. They also wanted a fabric that, when completely worn out, can be brought back to us for us to recycle. You can hear this story.

From there, you go around the world to Japan, where you’re going to meet the factory where the polyester is made. You’ll see how it is made from recycled water bottles which, again, reduce the footprint of the product. Once the polyester is made, it is woven into a fabric, which is shipped to a factory here in China, where it is constructed into the garment, which then goes on a ship and crosses the ocean over to here into our warehouse, where it is then dispersed across to the United States and ends up in your closet.

SM:  So it’s a well traveled garment even before you get to wear it.

RR:  Right, so we’ll tell you how cool it is that this is all made from water bottles. We’ll be able to tell you that when it’s all worn out you can bring it back for us to recycle. We’ll tell you how it sucks to make this thing in China and ship it clear across the ocean. That’s not so cool.  What can we do better? So with every story you get to hear both the good and the bad.

SM:  Why have you committed to such transparency, and what value have you seen that add to your brand in terms of the response of the customers?

RR:  The answer to that question goes back to what our core values are. At Patagonia, it’s to make the best product we can. It all starts with that. That’s our pledge to you. But we’re going to make that jacket with no unnecessary harm to the environment. We choose this wording because it implies that manufacturing is harmful, which we tell you in the Footprint Chronicles. Then, when all that is done, we are going to use our success as a company, which is predicated on your loyalty, to reduce our footprint as much as we can and take our success and give it back to the environment.

We find solutions to what we consider to be the environmental crises.  That’s why we’re in business, and because that is our larger goal, we wanted to be as transparent as we could about everything we’re doing that’s both good and bad, because we are in business to make these clothes with no unnecessary harm. By being transparent with you, we can invite you into the conversation. On the Footprint Chronicles, there is a place to let us know what you think, or if you have any better ideas on how to make our products.

SM:  So if people want to understand more and explore the Footprint Chronicles, where should they go?

RR: Patagonia.com  Right on the homepage you’ll see Footprint Chronicles.

SM:  Patagonia has always been a leader in terms of the value they put into a product, but even more so in terms of the values they bring to a brand and the marketplace. Thank you so much for your time Rick. Much respect for what you’re doing here.

Do you find such transparency and accountability from a brand affects your purchasing decision and loyalty? Should a brand be obligated to provide this?

 

Water Changes Everything: now it’s your turn

April 20, 2011 Comments

This morning charity: water launched their newest video, a 3-minute animation showing how Water Changes Everything. It’s both a demonstration of powerful storytelling around the critical issue of clean water for millions of people, and an inspiring example of how we can use social media to rally support for a cause  by building a community around shared concerns.

So please share this video as widely as possible to help support the work of charity: water to improve the lives of others.

In case you’d like to know, Googler Jonathon Jarvis supplied the animation, and Kristen Bell (the voice of Gossip Girl and star of ‘Veronica Mars’) served as narrator. Share away and please support charity: water in their great work by visiting their site here and following them on twitter @charitywater

 

Apple: How brands, customers & society benefit when a company shows what it stands for

April 17, 2011 Comments

This week Apple employees joined the ‘It Gets Better’ campaign in support of gay, lesbian and transgender rights. The campaign got started last year after college student Tyler Clementi jumped to his death from the George Washington Bridge after his roommate used a Webcam to film and broadcast Clementi’s sexual encounter with another man.

In response to these tragic deaths, Dan Savage began the “It Gets Better Project,” a YouTube video collection of testimonials from celebrities, politicians, and regular people telling their own stories or offering support to those who are currently suffering in silence or being bullied.

It is a truly powerful phenomenon when a brand of makes a stand for what it believes in. This is even more true with Apple that has such a loyal fan base built on their deep understanding of its customers needs. It enables those customers to better understand who the brand is, what its core values are and to renew their support for the brands on the basis of the values they share.

Campaigns such as these are no doubt polarizing, and Apple runs the risk of perhaps losing some supporters. But those customers that share the same values will become far more deeply invested in a brand that shows it has courage behind its convictions by sharing its point of view with the marketplace.

As with most things Apple, this is a powerful demonstration in leadership. Yes, there is a distinction between the brand and the employees that appear in this video, but the support of the brand behind the campaigns message is undeniably powerful.

In the social business marketplace brands that hope to build loyal and growing communities do so most effectively when they demonstrate their core values and allow a community to build and engage around it. This approach humanizes the brand and automatically allows it to enter a conversation taking place across social media platforms that both the brand and its customer community care about.

Apple is not alone in its support of the Trevor Project. Other brands such as Google, Levi Strauss & Co., AT&T and Wells Fargo are also involved. Not to mention President Obama and Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton. Together they serve as a powerful demonstration of a We First attitude in which brands, employees and consumers partner to bring about positive changes to the thinking and behavior that shapes our world each day.

Sadly Clementi was only one of many teens who took their lives recently after being bullied for their sexual orientation. To lend your support to the Trevor Project, visit their website here and follow their progress on twitter @TrevorProject.

Do you believe its important for brands to stand up for social issues? Do you agree that it makes their supporters more loyal?

 

 

Broadcastr: Social media as unlimited soundscape

April 14, 2011 1 Comments

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HXsZYCokL7k At SXSW this year I had the opportunity to talk to Brian Lindenbaum who, with has brother Scott, has launched some very exciting audio technology that has enormous potential for brands, non-profits and individual alike. Here’s how he explained …

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Zynga: How the virtual world can save the real world

April 12, 2011 5 Comments

I’ve written in the past about the great relief efforts of Zynga to aid the earthquake victims in Haiti. At the time I saw this as a powerful demonstration of what could become a consistent and transformative force for positive …

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Curation Nation: How to turn information overload to your advantage

April 11, 2011 8 Comments

There is an overwhelming amount of information available to us all on the web each day, not to mention what is shared with us by our family, friends, fans and followers.  This necessitates the need to filter through all that …

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Stephen Johnson: Building community using social technology

April 7, 2011 7 Comments

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e5sJQJYknsc As part of We First thinking, I have championed the use of social technology to scale positive chnage. a shift in the way brands and their communities relate. I had the pleasure of speaking to Stephen Johnson at SXSW …

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Why our ability to believe precedes our capacity to achieve

April 5, 2011 2 Comments

Today I wanted to share with you a new book by Tim Sanders called Today We Are Rich.  I first heard about Tim when he wrote his New York Times bestselling book, Love is the Killer App.  Since then, I’ve …

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About Simon Mainwaring

We First training and consulting helps the world’s most innovative brands tell the story of the good work they do in ways that build their reputation, employee productivity, sales and social impact.

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