Patagonia, REI target administration’s rollback of land protections

Values marketing is about doing what you believe is right—risky or not.

Patagonia and REI waded into the political thicket after the Trump
administration rolled back protections for some land connected to Big Ears
National Monument. Patagonia built a new entrance to its website with a
stark design.

The Washington Post

Anyone who visited Patagonia’s website on Monday night in search of a warm
winter fleece or a pair of snow pants was in for a surprise. Replacing the
usual shopping choices were giant white letters on a black background
offering a stark message: “The President Stole Your Land.”

The message continued in smaller letters: “In an illegal move, the
president just reduced the size of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante
National Monuments. This is the largest elimination of protected land in
American history.”

The brand got plenty of media coverage from this digital stunt, but it
wasn’t stopping there. Patagonia also announced plans to pursue legal
action against the Trump administration over the loss of land.

USA Today

Outdoor clothing retailer Patagonia plans to sue the Trump administration
in response to the president’s announcement Monday that he would
reduce the size of two national monuments in Utah.

“Americans have overwhelmingly spoken out against the Trump
Administration’s unprecedented attempt to shut down our national
monuments,” said Patagonia CEO Rose Marcario
in a statement. “We’ve fought to protect these places since we were founded and now we’ll
continue that fight in the courts.”

The Trump administration previously announced it would review the size of
some national monuments and has started to shrink those protected lands.

CNBC reported:

White House released a statement on Monday detailing Trump’s plans to reduce the size of two national
monuments in Utah — undoing such land protections for the first time in 50
years, according to the Associated Press.

Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante sit on millions of acres of land.

Bears Ears, created last December by President Barack Obama, will be
reduced by about 85 percent, to 201,876 acres (315 square miles). Grand
Staircase-Escalante, designated in 1996 by President Bill Clinton, will be
reduced from nearly 1.9 million acres (nearly 3,000 square miles) to
1,003,863 acres (1,569 square miles), the AP reported.

The loss of protected land is in line with the Interior Department’s goals,
and opposing the move is not necessarily a slam-dunk PR win. Many ranchers
in the West oppose what they see as government overreach in keeping
millions of acres unusable.

NPR reported:

Here in Utah, where about two-thirds of the entire state is federally owned
and there are seven large monuments, the act is a household name, and in
some rural areas, a dirty word.

[RELATED: Craft messages that resonate with internal and external audiences and moves them to act.]

However, some brands are ignoring the hazards of today’s political climate
and are taking a bold stand for their beliefs.

The Washington Post

The California-based retailer has long been known for its environmental
activism, but this week’s political stance — and a promise by its founder
to sue the Trump administration — represents a shift, experts say, in how
corporations are speaking up, not just on behalf of their executives and
employees, but also their customers.

Some industry insiders see this new level of corporate activism as a
significant detour from previous business models.

The Washington Post

“This is a sea change in activism like nothing I’ve ever seen,” said Leslie
Gaines-Ross, chief reputation strategist at public relations firm Weber
Shandwick. “CEOs are not just raising flags anymore, they’re actually
taking action and asking their customers to do the same.”

REI had a subtler response than Patagonia’s, adding a segment to its home
page decrying the loss of protected land. Other outdoors-focused brands,
including The North Face, also vowed to take action.

The Washington Post

REI said on its website it would
“continue to advocate for the places we all love” and urged its Twitter
followers to change their profile photos to an icon that says “We [heart]
our public lands.” The North Face, meanwhile, announced it is donating
$100,000 to develop a Bears Ears Education Center and encouraged customers
to contribute to a Kickstarter campaign to create it. As of Tuesday
afternoon, it had raised nearly $124,000 from 1,700 people.

Lessons from Patagonia

PR pros lauded Patagonia’s campaign, recognizing that the moves it made
were less of a stunt and more a natural extension of its core values.

Chris Allieri, founder and principal of Mulberry &
Astor, a communications, PR and public affairs agency,
said: “For Patagonia, this is at the core of their DNA as a company. This
isn’t a PR or marketing campaign for them.”

He also pointed out that it had orchestrated and executed a highly
effective effort, mobilizing multiple assets to prepare for its big media

He wrote:

Patagonia is the clear leader […] They want to do the right thing, not sell
more jackets. Other companies that want to follow to suit should emulate
Patagonia in its ability to walk the walk. They have been tweeting,
Instagramming, getting their customers involved, giving resources and cash
and lobbying themselves as a company for many, many months.

Buckley Slender-White, a senior vice president with Sutherland Gold Group,
pointed to Patagonia’s history of wilderness guardianship.

“Patagonia has spent decades building credibility on environmental issues,”
he wrote, “and it’s a key part of their story: Not only do their products
help you explore the great outdoors, but in buying them, you’re supporting

Patagonia prepared its bold statement with an eye on social media

Elisa Richardson of New York-based Eddie said, “They also activated—whether
organically or not I’m unsure—social media influencers who all took to
Instagram story to screenshot and share Patagonia’s beautiful, minimally
designed yet incendiary homepage.”

Some said Patagonia’s swift, strong action bolsters its brand persona.

Ximena N. Larkin, founder of C1 Revolution, wrote:

Patagonia’s quick response to the rollback of protected land in Big Ears
National Park translates into authenticity. They’re not looking around to
see what everyone else does. They’re moving forward, regardless of who is
standing with them.

What do you think of Patagonia’s move, PR Daily readers?

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