Brands

Best of Branded Content: Patagonia’s
Anti-Consumerism Film

Every week, we want to highlight an example of a brand that’s telling amazing stories. This week, it’s Pantagonia’s Black Friday short film, Worn Wear.

There’s no limit to the ways clothing retailer Patagonia’s 27-minute-long, anti consumerism film Worn Wear bucks the rules of traditional marketing, but let’s start with the first two. It’s a short film. And it’s about not buying stuff.

It’s not even subtext. Patagonia released Worn Wear as a blatant pushback against the frenzy of Black Friday, inviting guests (not shoppers, mind you) into 15 Patagonia stores to view it on the day after Thanksgiving. As if the anti-consumerism message isn’t laid on thick enough in the film (and it is), party goers were also invited to bring in their old Patagonia gear for a repair clinic with guides from iFixit.

“Unlike almost every other retailer on the planet,” wrote Ariel Schwartz for Fast Company’s Co.Exist, “Patagonia is practically begging people not to buy its products on Black Friday.”

Before thinking of a dozen different ways to ask why, here’s a spoiler alert: Worn Wear is an incredibly effective piece of content — in addition to the in-store screenings, it’s been viewed over 163,000 times on YouTube already. It doesn’t seem possible, but for every reason it shouldn’t work, Patagonia’s clever campaign finds a way to produce the opposite results.

First, there’s the length. Consumers of online content are not supposed to be able to sit still for 2.7 minutes, let alone 27. But the cinematography, which includes sweeping footage from Baja beaches to Alpine cliffs, is stunning, and the stories told in the film are truly compelling. Longtime adventurers — including surfers, cyclists, organic farmers and maple syrup makers — tell of their decades-long relationships with their favorite piece of Patagonia gear, many of which are taped and frayed from use. Some were even bought at garage sales or were given away for free to begin with.

“Patagonia is practically begging people not to buy its products on Black Friday.”

“You can’t baby your stuff,” the Alpinist says, narrating his own grueling climb. “But to get rid of it would be like throwing away a journal.”

The message seems insane. Why is Patagonia not only advocating keeping your clothes forever, but also buying them used from someone else? It’s all about relationships. The retaining and passing on seems to steep the clothes with meaning, lending them added value — not a bad move from a retailer that sells $700 winter coats.

It’s not just the people who are compelling, but also the adventures they have in their clothes while not shopping. One young woman shares that she’s hiked 10,000 miles in her Patagonia hat. The syrup family found a toddler-sized pair of bib overalls in a hand-me-down bag and is now outfitting their fourth child in them — as they boil down sap and taste the syrup together, of course.

“The clip also sheds light on each individual’s backgrounds and inspirations with words of wisdom peppered throughout,” wrote Eddie Eng for Complex. “Their stories and passion for what they do is truly uplifting, and if it doesn’t get you up on your feet then you’re just not paying enough attention.”

It’s true. Though Patagonia is actively asking viewers to buy less, they’re also inspiring them to do more. No one in the film is shopping. They’re out all living adventurous, meaningful lives, and their Patagonia gear is purportedly helping them record each adventure, and pass them on to their children.

“Their stories and passion for what they do is truly uplifting, and if it doesn’t get you up on your feet then you’re just not paying enough attention.”

Somehow, despite breaking all of the rules, and despite coming off as completely authentic in their plea to viewers to just go live rather than go shop, the effect is powerful: You want a pair of fuzzy pants that will withstand 33 years of skiing. You want to go buy the last pair of surf shorts you’ll ever need and move to Mexico. You might even want to produce four children in quick succession, just so you can rotate them all through a tiny pair of used bib overalls. You might.

And while Patagonia may genuinely want you to get decades of adventures out of your next undershirt or puffy coat, you’re going to need to buy one to get started. Though they doth protest just enough on the anti-consumerism front, they’ll probably be happy to sell it to you.

What’s the deal with the Content Strategist? It’s something we created at Contently because we believe in a world where marketing is helpful, and businesses grow by telling stories that people love. Take advantage of our tools and talent and come build that world with us.

Image by Steve Rhodes / Flickr.com
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