Would you give away 100% of your sales to what you care about?

How often do you deeply align the way you promote what you do and connect with your customers to what you care about?

I’m not talking about a quick campaign to piggyback off some Hallmark holiday. I’m talking bone-deep-into-the-details alignment so even if I didn’t really know what you cared about I’d be able to figure it out? This is the stuff that great brands result from.

I saw a great example of this in action this week from one of my all-time favourite (and for my money, one of the best) organisations and brand: Patagonia.

Even here in Australia it would be hard not to hear about “Black Friday” madness—the insane tradition of post-Thanksgiving shopping sprees where people fight and kick (often literally) to secure crazily cheap goods.

For a number of years, outdoor apparel retailer and all around “buck the trend” trailblazer Patagonia has made it a habit to bend Black Friday madness to its own very specific ends. Those efforts first came to wider attention with the 2011 “Don’t buy this jacket” ad they ran in the New York Times and continued a few years later when they encouraged people to bring their gear in to be mended and celebrate the idea of “worn wear”.

Continuing the trend this year they committed to giving away 100% of sales (not just profits) on Black Friday to environmental causes. Quite literally putting their money where their mouths are! Patagonia chief executive officer, Rose Marcario, took to the company website to thank everyone who contributed to the record-breaking day:

We’re humbled to report the response was beyond expectations: With your help, Patagonia reached a record-breaking $[US]10 million in sales. We expected to reach $2 million in sales—we beat that expectation five times over. The enormous love our customers showed to the planet on Black Friday enables us to give every penny to hundreds of grassroots environmental organisations working around the world.”

Clearly people buy lots of stuff, but they really like to buy stuff when it serves a bigger purpose; customers called the campaign “a fundraiser for the earth”.

Patagonia is not alone, with more and more organisations realising that wearing what you care about on your sleeve doesn’t just make a good story. It’s good business. But you can’t just treat it as a marketing opportunity.

Back to Patagonia. Its long-time participation in the 1% For the Planet initiative and business practices driven by its environment-focused mission mean something like the recent Black Friday campaign resonates more strongly with people.

Where other’s efforts often smack of opportunism, things driven deeply by the identity open up opportunity and new customers along with it.

Again from the chief executive officer: “Along with many loyal customers, the initiative attracted thousands who have never purchased anything from Patagonia before. We’re encouraged to see the great interest from so many in making buying decisions that align with strong environmental values”.

So what do you care enough about to give 100% of your sales for a day towards? Of course it doesn’t have to be that exact thing. Alignment means deeply thinking through what would be the right way to bring your “it” out into the open. So that not just what you say, but how you do it, makes what you care about visible and tangible.

See you next week.

Michel is an Independent Brand Thinker and Adviser dedicated to helping organisations make promises they can keep and keep the promises they make – with a strong, resilient organisation as the result. You can find Michel at michelhogan.com or you can follow her on Twitter @michelhogan. 

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