Actions align with values: How to stand out in a crowded marketplace

Actions align with values: How to stand out in a crowded marketplace

One of my favourite topics addressed in this blog, and one I talk about regularly with clients, is how actions align with values.

Values aren’t values unless you do them every day, and one of the best organisations around for actioning their values is Patagonia.

I know I use them as an example a lot. But that’s for a reason. They do a lot of  great stuff worth using as an example and are particularly good at aligning what they do with what they say.

A few years ago Patagonia used shopping sensation Cyber Monday to get people to pledge to their Common Threads initiative with an ad that told customers Don’t buy this jacket. An accompanying email campaign said:

“Don’t buy what you don’t need. Think twice before you buy anything. Go to, take the Common Threads initiative pledge and join us in the fifth ‘R’ to reimagine a world where we take only what nature can replace.”

It’s not a wholly unexpected campaign for a company, part of whose mission is to “do as little harm as possible”. And yes, there were certainly cynics who pointed out that perhaps they were just using an obvious reverse psychology ploy.

Last week was Thanksgiving in the US and the day after is a shopping free-for-all called Black Friday (the scenes of which make our Boxing Day sales seem sane and orderly by comparison).

Perhaps inspired by the success of their Cyber Monday campaign, Patagonia again asked customers to not buy from them on Black Friday. But this time taking it a step further. In partnership with iFixit they encouraged customers to bring in their worn Patagonia gear to be mended (and enjoy some community bonding with other customers, movie showings, food and drink) at 15 locations around the country. A bit like an anti-shopping party!

Now I’m sure the cynics will be at it again, because let’s face it, the general feeling is that no company could have good motives (NOT a feeling I share). However the deliberately conscious approach that Patagonia takes to the way it goes about business has lessons for all. I’m not talking about the whole ‘doing good’ piece. That’s nice and works for them and sure I’d personally like to see more of it.

The piece that is worth looking at and emulating is the way they align what they stand for across what they do. Quite literally, rather than just accepting the way everyone does things, they look at how they trade and look for new ways to do that in keeping with who they are.

The difficult and sometimes uncomfortable marriage of commerce and caring for the environment is thoughtfully addressed in their mission statement. Having integrity and being accountable for what they do is woven through their Footprint Chronicles detailing how and where their products are made. Supporting their values and trying to slowly shift and shape their customers’ mindset through initiatives like Common Threads partnership.

Experience will trump message every time. Too often the desire for hype and hits is put before any kind of alignment with what the organisation stands for. And once you trade that it’s hard to get it back. So looking for ways to make what you care about visible and tangible is the best brand-building work you can do.

See you next week.

Michel is an independent brand analyst dedicated to helping organisations make promises they can keep and keep the promises they make – with a strong, resilient organisation as the result. She also publishes a blog at You can follow Michel on Twitter @michelhogan


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