• Graham Hall

The wonderful Catch 22 at the heart of Patagonia's strategy

By NOT pursuing every last cent in the name of profit, Patagonia is far more profitable. It's a wonderful Catch 22.


Patagonia's strategy of recycling and even reselling their clothes might seem counter-intuitive. In normal circumstances, you'd think a commercial organisation would want to maximise their sale of NEW products - i.e. the ones they make most margin on.


You could even argue that by "Trading in your quality, well-loved Patagonia gear, we’ll give you credit toward purchases" is a way of undermining your own products. Patagonia are positively encouraging people not to buy their products. This isn't how to maximise profits. This isn't how capitalism works.


But of course, by making these sorts of seemingly illogical gestures and developing these kinds of initiative, Patagonia is carving a highly distinctive niche amongst an increasingly loyal and supportive base. A base who feel proud to be wearing the Patagonia label and who will applaud the Patagonia brand in public to their friends and followers.


And, as a result, the Patagonia brand grows, and grows faster and more successfully than if it had simply followed the old free-market formula. What would Patagonia be now if it hadn't adopted and embraced this more radical approach? It would be just like every other outdoor clothing brand and I wouldn't be writing it about it here.

By NOT pursuing every last cent in the name of profit, Patagonia is far more profitable. It's a wonderful Catch 22.

It's hardly rocket science and I claim to be no great visionary for pointing this out. It's bleedin' obvious. What's far more weird to me is that this strategy is still considered radical by the conventions of the marketing fraternity..


You can say a lot of brands now claim to have a 'purpose' and are working towards a higher goal, but bolting on a mission statement to your shareholder prospectus isn't the same thing. It's not the same as choosing not to maximise your profits. Which is what Patagonia has done.


Over the next few years I think we'll see this particular penny drop and more and more business will adopt this more community-based position. A much more socialist approach (small 's' people, don't be frightened) and far more readiness to eschew picking up the pennies on the floor in favour of far bigger profits in the future.


A Wonderful Catch 22 that will realign business away from profits at all cost.


Read more about their recycled gear here.

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