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Patagonia Goes to Washington

Unless you’ve taken a “no screens” challenge this week or are living under a rock, you’ve likely seen Patagonia’s stark, black banner with white text reading, “The President Stole Your Land,” going around the internet. After the President shrank two national monuments protected by federal law this week, the outdoor goods brand has made it their mission to inform the public by displaying their black banner on their website and social channels, and are going so far as to sue the U.S. Government for unlawfully shrinking the size of the two Utah nature areas in question, Bear Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante. Brands standing up for social issues is nothing new, but this instance is different, even special, because it is Patagonia’s most subversive and disruptive piece of marketing to date. The banner itself has been shared hundreds of thousands of times on Instagram and other social platforms, often by people who don’t even know where the banner originated from. The act of creating and placing this banner strategically has resulted in its widespread visibility and success in the spread of a message that would have otherwise potentially gone unknown by mass swaths of the population. Patagonia’s strategy has been a hit, but it’s important to examine what the strategy was in the first place. The key to the entire endeavor is that Patagonia is genuinely, authentically, meaningfully putting “land before brand.” They are taking the government to court. The company isn’t pulling a stunt in an attempt to appear to fight for the country’s national parks and landmarks, they’re just fighting for them, period. Brand respect (and subsequent brand loyalty) is not the brand’s goal, but a happy side-effect. Brands like Patagonia, REI, and The North Face are using the President’s land decision to challenge the notion that claiming to stand for what your brand says it believes in isn’t enough - that actions resonate with the people more than words. Social responsibility can be an opportunity, not to pander to a brand’s audience, but to prove to that audience a brand’s mettle. And in 2017, amidst the flailing and flying accusations of fallacy and hypocrisy, few things are more important than real integrity.


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