You’re a marketer of rugged outdoor apparel and you’re introducing “soft shell” jackets (the outermost layer of clothing for winter sports). Do you feature on your front cover a model wearing the item, with a callout promoting it? Not if you’re Patagonia. The cover of its Winter 2001 catalog shows a speck of a skier silhouetted against blindingly white snowy mountains. The only adornment is the name of the company and the catalog edition.
Breaking the rules? Undoubtedly. But for Patagonia, it works.
The front cover isn’t the only place where Patagonia breaks the rules. Nearly 50% of the 92-page catalog is devoted to nonselling editorial and photos of adventurers scaling ice-clad cliffs, schussing down the Alps, and biking throughout the Rockies. Then there’s an entire spread given over to an essay entitled “Biodiversity, Biotechnology, and Biopiracy.” How the heck does any selling get done?
Such editorial, the judges said (and the revenue figures proved), positions Patagonia as more than a marketer of outdoor gear. It shows that Patagonia truly knows of what it sells and shares the adrenaline-charged enthusiasm of its audience. The same goes for its creative. “Patagonia relies on stunning photography and aspirational imagery to sell its brand and relate to the desired lifestyle of its customer,” noted a judge.
Further evidence of Patagonia’s knowledge and authority lies in the copy. Each copy block details the fabric and every feature of the merchandise, down to the number and placement of pockets and zippers. To introduce its Regulator System Soft Shells, Patagonia uses a spread to compare the products to its traditional “hard” shells and explain which choice is better suited for which conditions. And throughout the product pages, boxed “layering tips” suggest which items would best complement the featured merchandise and helpfully provide the page numbers where the complementary items can be found — a subtle way to generate add-on sales and higher order sizes.
Customer service benefits from a similar attention to detail, with the panelists praising the comprehensive sizing charts and measuring instructions in particular. The order form also provides information about the catalog’s use of recycled paper and the company’s support of environment programs. “A terrific job,” said a judge, “plus a lot of environmental information to boot.”
Although that judge was describing the order form, the comment applies to the catalog as a whole. “Not only does Patagonia make great products,” said another panelist, “but they hang out with the best environmentalists, outdoorsmen, and athletes. You get the impression that they know these people well, which translates to the quality of the merchandise.”
259 W. Santa Clara St.
Ventura, CA 93002
Company founded: 1973
Director: Morlee Griswold
Designer: Annette Scheid
Production directors: C.J. Oliverison, Angela Weidmann
Merchandiser: Kevin Churchill
Copywriter: Kim Myers
Photographer: Jane Sievert
Marketing director: Carrie Randolph
Color separator/prepress provider: International Color Service
List broker/consultant: Lenser
Cover paper: 70 lb.
Text paper: 50 lb.
Number of pages: 92
Trim size: 8-3/8″ × 10-7/8″