Staying True to Brand

“The bottom-line question is: Precisely what is it you want to be famous for?”

That quote from business guru Tom Peters came to mind, when Yvon Chouinard, the founder and CEO of Patagonia, announced he was giving away his company and his billions in the name of saving the planet. “Hopefully, this will influence a new form of capitalism that doesn’t end up with a few rich people and a bunch of poor people,” Mr. Chouinard told the New York Times. “We are going to give away the maximum amount of money to people who are actively working to save the planet.”

Talk about being true to your brand – this bold move was affirmation of the company’s values and principles on steroids.

While there are many definitions of brand, we like to think of it as “the promise you make to your employees, customers and yourself.” It’s not only what you stand for, but how you behave, how you look, and the litmus test for making decisions large and small.

Patagonia has four core promises, and has adhered to them for more than half a century:

* Build the best product

* Cause no unnecessary harm

* Use business to protect nature

* Not bound by convention

Mr. Chouinard and his family have not only reaped massive positive “PR” with this announcement, possibly inspiring others with major wealth to take similar steps, they have established themselves as philanthropists of the highest order and with a higher calling than tax incentives. They’ve also demonstrated that trust and respect for Patagonia’s core values will extend beyond their lifetimes and involvement in the company – paying it forward in a unique and sustainable way. (At 40-years-young, MacKenzie can identify with the pride that comes with longevity and the deep relationships that have made success possible, and we appreciate the importance of communicating “what comes next?” Holding up the mirror and reflecting on your core values and principles lights the way forward to an enduring brand.)

Patagonia is a point of inspiration to those of us who work in the brand space, with its emphasis on consistency and purpose. There’s never been any doubt what business Patagonia is in, or the kind of values-driven customer they seek to attract. From their beautiful catalogs that rely on storytelling and world-class photography, to consistently avoiding fashion trends to focus on functionality, to their famous Black Friday “Don’t Buy This Jacket” campaign, they are a remarkable story of living their promise.

Thank you, Patagonia, for reminding us of what being rich and famous is really all about.