Phew… what a crazy weekend! And not in the “fun crazy” way. In the: “shoppers-walk-over-dying man-to-get-to-sale” kind of crazy. Ie: sickening display of consumer frenzy

However, in one of the boldest advertising moves I’ve seen lately, Patagonia approached the sale day orgy in a completely different way. In a full page ad in the The New York Times on Black Friday (and online for Cyber Monday) they implored: “DONT BUY THIS JACKET”.

Then the unusually long copy “gets real” about the fact they’re an outdoors company who is complicit in damaging the environment.  The same natural resources that their company depends on to make make money.

“The environmental cost of everything we make is astonishing,” the ad reads. “Consider the R2 Jacket shown, one of our best sellers. To make it required 135 liters of water, enough to meet the daily needs (three glasses a day) of 45 people. Its journey from its origin as 60% recycled polyester to our Reno warehouse generated nearly 20 pounds of carbon dioxide, 24 times the weight of the finished product. This jacket left behind, on its way to Reno, two-thirds its weight in waste. The ad concludes: “There is much to be done and plenty for us all to do. Don’t buy what you don’t need. Think twice before you buy anything.”

They steer the reader to patagonia.com/CommonThreads where we find the Common Threads Initiative pledge, which implores us to Reduce, Repair, Reuse and Reimagine a world where we take only what nature can replace. On their end, they promise to make long lasting gear, help us repair our Patagonia products, take back the stuff we no longer need and either find them a new home or recycle them into new products.

Some may get cynical about this reverse psychology campaign, but not I.  This is Green Hot gold. I think Tim Nudd (@nudd) of Adweek nailed it when he said:

…this isn’t greenwashing. It comes off as a genuine attempt to get people to start thinking about sustainable consumption. It acknowledges the hypocrisy of trying to lead such an effort while also hurting the planet—but the messaging offsets that hypocrisy, at least in part, with the boldness of the appeal.”

What I took away from this ad is that Patagonia is leveling with us by saying:   Look…  the way we wastefully consume in the first world is damaging our planet… so lets start making some achievable shifts in thinking and behavior-  it’s the very least we can do, and we as a company, are joining you on this journey.

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