Patagonia presentation – 2009 WOMMA Summit in Vegas

This morning at the WOMMA Summit in Las Vegas, The VP of marketing for Patagonia, Rob BonDurant, took the stage to talk about one of the most fascinating, word of mouth worthy, mission-driven, cult-like brands around. And he didn’t disappoint.

You could call the whole talk a highlight, but here are the tidbits that resonated with me:

We would rather inspire than promote. We would rather earn credibility over a purchase. Advertising should be used only as a last resort.
The three charters of Patagonia. It’s what they adhere to and live by.

We don’t create stories. We publish them.
These guys get over 100,000 images and stories from their customers a year. That’s what they use in their catalogs and website. Rob said that he has no problem publishing an image of an athlete wearing a competitors product, because it’s authentic. And that’s very much a part of the Patagonia brand: authenticity.

We are a non-profit thinly disguised as company.
They are so mission-driven that they see themselves this way. Do they want to make profit? Rob says yes – and a lot of it. Because the more money they make, the more they can be a beacon for other companies out there for doing what’s right.

We know we’re finished designing a product when there’s nothing left to take away from it. It’s the same with our communication from the company.
What a great set of words. It completely turns the idea of marketing and advertising on its head.

A tribe is much more important than an individual. Tribes don’t join a movement. They create them.
Rob spoke to the fact that they take customers to full on tribesmen (equating it to taking someone from transaction to relationship). This idea of tribe creates a sense of ownership and a sense of shared ownership.

It’s not about influence. It’s about passion.

Has someone been reading our ChangeThis Manifesto? (10 Lessons learned igniting word of mouth movments)

Clear is the new clever. We had to take products and be clever to sell them. We admit what we haven’t figured out, but our customers are helping us. Our customers are changing the way we do business. It saves us a helluva lot of money.

The only limit we have is imagination. Never budget.

Do you want interest or intent? So much money is still spent on interest. Create intention.
Again, what a great way to look at it. Rob asked if you had a customer who was interested and a customer who has intent to buy, where would you spend your marketing dollars?

Storytelling is key. We’re always asking ourselves: Who are we? How did we get here? Where are we going?
Stories define us. Not only the ones we tell about our company, but especially the ones that others tell about our company.

Patagonia is an experiment.
I love this idea. A 35-year old company that’s still an experiment. That totally gives them license to try new things. To push limits. To never play it safe. To not be afraid of failing.

This talk is going to stick with me for a long time. Great, great stuff. From a remarkable company. Patagoniacs, unite.



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