To prove the third item, we’ll look at Patagonia, a hero of environmental causes, intriguing campaigns, and inspiring content devoted to the hardy explorer. Here are two examples Patagonia has set for motivating your audience today:
Within my first month working retail at a specialty sports outfitter (shout-out to the OSC!), I got my first glimpse of Patagonia’s generosity. The brand asked us to carry a promotion wherein a certain percentage of every transaction went to water conservation in the sounds across North America. It was a seasonal campaign and only lasted a few months; nonetheless, I can’t remember the last time I rang up so many down jackets in one weekend. The Winter Sun soft shell I bought that year is draped over my chair as I write this.
Patagonia isn’t the only charitable company out there, but its approach is way more pragmatic: individualism. People aren’t naturally driven by a brand that donates as a general practice—tons of them do this now. Instead, we need a direct indication that our involvement will matter. By turning purchases into proceeds for a specific ecological issue, Patagonia makes that promise. Suddenly buyers are collaborators, and the brand isn’t just an ambiguous jar of cash.
The same goes for content, and Patagonia’s on-domain experience isn’t shy of it. Whether you’re writing to a surfer, fisher, runner, climber, skier, or a different community altogether, each one should see a call to action that parallels his or her personal story, and provides a reason for him or her to “complete that story.” Unfortunately, the more communities you try to appeal to in one article, the less likely any one of them is to think their reading it will matter. Rather, the most inspiring content elicits behavior through the same individualism that got people like me to buy a new coat three years ago.
Once upon a Black Friday, Patagonia wrote those four words on the tag of every jacket in its winter line. And in 2013, the Californian outfitter launched a marketing model based on that message.
In a bizarre twist, the brand saw its revenue jump 30 percent from its Black Friday sales the previous year—a trend founder Yvon Chouinard believes came from people who normally buy from other brands.
To be clear, a longer version of this statement would end, ” . . . unless you need it.” That’s the point of the brand’s odd concept: to be smart about how much you buy. It can’t reduce its carbon footprint unless we reduce ours. And because Patagonia is already a proponent of green manufacturing, per its off-domain blog The Cleanest Line, it would be disingenuous not to ask its audience to follow suit. Thus, in exchange for a narrow clientele of bulk buyers, the firm wins a broad customer base of responsible buyers. The latter is a boon for brand identity over the long term.
Responsibility isn’t the main benefit of content marketing, but it is unique in how it converts readers: trust. It’s amazing how much influence a source of information can have on one’s response to it. This is where you creatives can truly be voices for your employers—not just by addressing the individual, but by addressing the issues that affect the choices he or she has yet to make. Ultimately, brands that go out of their way to justify the hard truths of their cause are authentic and self-aware. This yields purchases inspired by a sense of respect and inclusion that makes each purchase worth it when the time is right.
While traditional organizations look to differ from the mainstream—and profit from that difference—you should look to inspire the mainstream, and profit from orchestrating that inspiration. In tandem with the first two steps, consider this approach as you go about writing for a brand looking to make a personable impression on its audience. In the following posts, we’ll discuss audiences further, and why they aren’t always as obvious as they may have appeared in the last few cases.