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The Patagonia Way to Customer Loyalty

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Patagonia is a revered brand not only for its products, but also for its purpose-driven environmental ways. The brand has cultivated a deeply loyal following. Craig Wilson spent eight years at Patagonia in various upper-level marketing roles and shares his perspective on the Patagonia loyalty model in the just-published book, The Compass and the Nail.

While the author outlines a fancy (but utterly confusing) diagram on how to forge customer loyalty the Patagonia way, the best advice he shares is this:

Share your beliefs. Demonstrate how they integrate into your product, design, and presentation. Communicate what inspires your particular esthetic. Those that believe what you believe will become part of your tribe.

Patagonia’s beliefs are rooted in the love for the outdoors. For over 30 years, Patagonia has run its business with a strong point of view about protecting and preserving the environment. The company knows that pollution is a by-product of how the business does business even when it makes conscious choices to reduce its impact on the environment.

The company has gone so far in its environmental mission by encouraging its customers NOT to buy new clothing but instead, to reconsider their purchase and/or repair their current Patagonia products.

By voicing its strong point of view, Patagonia is able to attract like-minded customers that aren’t tied to functional marketing triggers of price, promotion, or distribution. Instead, Patagonia endears itself to customers through emotional triggers. Michael Crooke, former Patagonia CEO explains…

Customers become advocates of brands because they develop an emotional connection with their core purpose. Brands that elicit advocacy provide a value beyond just product quality and experience. This connection is something that deserves analysis, as it is the foundation of true loyalty.

Creating loyal customers should be the goal of any business.

Unfortunately, according to Craig Wilson:

The term ‘loyalty’ and its associated meaning has been dumbed down to effectively mean giving your customers something, or paying them in some way, to stick around and keep buying from you. It’s disconcerting. Rarely is the word loyalty used to refer to a relationship, and more rarely is the word loyalty used to describe advocates.

The Patagonia way to foster customer loyalty that leads to brand advocacy is based upon doing business “from a place of trust and inspiration.” When customers trust your business stands for something far greater than making money, then a loyal tribe of believers will be emotionally inspired to support your business.

This is what Patagonia has been doing for the past 30 years. It’s what your business should be doing for the next 30 years.

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