The Inside Story of Patagonia's Black Friday Promotion

I'm excited to finally be able to share this with you! I've been telling this story both privately and in small groups since I heard it in April. But haven't posted about it until today, because it's not really my story to tell.

Lisa Pike Sheehy, VP of Environmental Activism and John Goodwin, Brand Creative Director for Patagonia presented this talk last April at the 1% for the Planet Give Back Gathering. The video of their talk is now available on YouTube. If you have 45 minutes, I encourage you to watch the video to get the story directly from the source.

Patagonia Black Friday 2016: 100% For The Planet

For those of you not familiar with Patagonia, they’re not really a Black Friday sort of company. There are no doorbusters or special sales - in fact, Patagonia would rather repair the gear you already own than sell you something new. And on Black Friday, you can actually buy Patagonia stuff on sale at other retailers. Patagonia was one of the first Certified B Corps, they basically invented the concept of 1% for the Planet, where 1% of gross sales are donated to environmental causes, and they’re famous for using that funding to support small, grassroots nonprofits that have the opportunity to make a local impact. In other words, their commitment to the environment is real and unimpeachable.

So for Patagonia, the result of the 2016 presidential election was not just a shock, but felt like a direct attack on their core values. With Black Friday approaching, the team felt that it could be used as an opportunity to respond. But how?

Their first idea was to close all the stores for the day, drape them in black crepe, and post a pro-environment manifesto on the door. But part of Patagonia’s mission is “ use business to inspire…,” and their mission runs so deep that closing stores just didn’t feel right. It wasn’t inspirational at all.

A week before Black Friday, Patagonia decided on an inspirational, brand appropriate response: 100% of sales would go to charity.

It would prove to be a really savvy move:

  • It trended on Twitter & Facebook
  • Patagonia got 60,000 new Facebook followers in two days
  • Emma Watson and Al Gore mentioned it to their Twitter/Facebook followers
  • The story was picked up by the AP, CNN, Forbes, New York Times, Washington Post, Huffington Post, Outside Magazine, and Treehugger, among other media outlets.

Any other Black Friday, Patagonia would expect $1.5 to $2 million in sales. Because of the promotion, they projected a maximum of $3.5 million. They were wrong:

  • In store foot traffic was up 17%
  • In store sales were up 76%
  • Total sales tripled their maximum projection – Patagonia did more than $10 million in sales on Black Friday, and 100% of that is being distributed to environmental charities.

Was that successful and inspirational? You bet it was. But here’s the kicker: 70% of online purchases were made by first time customers. And now each of those customers is on the Patagonia mailing list, learning about what Patagonia is doing, and actively engaging with the brand. Pretty much a CSR grand slam.

Nice work, Patagonia.