Patagonia – A Case Study in Reverse Psychology Marketing

By Lippe Taylor / Posted on 30 November 2011

Today’s post comes from Karen Brennan, a senior vice president at Lippe Taylor.

Everyone was all abuzz yesterday when Patagonia came out – on Cyber Monday of all days – with an online campaign asking people NOT to buy Patagonia products. (Yup, you read that correctly).

On the its homepage, the brand displays a photo of a tempting fleece with “DON’T BUY THIS JACKET” in huge letters, instead asking shoppers to take a pledge to cut down on consumption. They’re asking customers to rethink purchases on what’s hailed as the biggest online shopping day of the year.

My first reaction? Whoa…what are they thinking? Then I sat back and realized. I absolutely LOVE this campaign. It’s everything I like to see from a brand. It plays perfectly into their equity (Patagonia is all about durability and environmentalism). It’s visually arresting (who wouldn’t see that ad and stop in their tracks?). It’s unique (how often do we see companies asking consumers not to buy their products – reverse psychology, anyone?). But one of the things I love most about it is that it’s incredibly risky. And who doesn’t like to see brands taking an honest risk?

What will this mean for the brand? Will it make people buy more Patagonia? Or will sales plummet?

Truth is – only time will tell. Honestly, I’m not sure if it will make more people buy the products. And I’m not even sure that Patagonia expect
s that. But I will say that the campaign appeals to a sense of brand loyalty. And I believe that’s what Patagonia was after when they did this.

The funny thing is – I haven’t thought about Patagonia in YEARS. But I had a turquoise fleece jacket that my parents bought for me as a gift right before I left for college. I still remember it. Loved that thing. I wore it forever – it lasted for years. I always felt great in it. If I think hard enough about it I can play back lots of fun memories from my years in the jacket.  And, interestingly enough I am totally craving another one right now.

Would I buy another Patagonia fleece? Definitely. They’re great products and I really like them. But it wasn’t until this campaign that the thought even crossed my mind. Now I can’t stop thinking about my next purchase.

What’s your experience?