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Bundling up with Winter Brands: The Rise of Patagonia

Bundling up with Winter Brands: The Rise of Patagonia Bundling up with Winter Brands: The Rise of Patagonia Bundling up with Winter Brands: The Rise of Patagonia Bundling up with Winter Brands: The Rise of Patagonia
01/12/15
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by Riley Kelley
In the wake of the winter solstice, as we bring out our warmest winter wear, BAV is curious to interrogate which brands become our “go-to” winter items. For me, that is my North Face black Denali Fleece Jacket. Over the past 10 years, The North Face has moved from a niche brand to a leadership brand in the eyes of consumers. How does a company like Patagonia compete with and enter into the same consideration set as a leadership brand like The North Face?

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The North Face has put significant work into solidifying its leadership status and has managed to differentiate itself and increase consumer knowledge about the product. This differentiation was achieved by rebranding itself as a member of the leisure apparel market in the late 1990’s and by leveraging The North Face official website and targeted marketing to exhibit this change. Since 2004, The North Face has increased its relevance, esteem and knowledge, thus becoming a leadership brand.

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In addition to growing in brand equity and presence, The North Face has also evolved its brand personality to stay culturally relevant. It has become more socially responsible in the past few years after witnessing the success of other companies in the marketplace making this a priority. The North Face is dedicated to reducing its environmental impact by using clean energy and improving the manufacturing process. These efforts have allowed for it to keep up with brands like Patagonia, which has become renowned for its sustainable and environmental awareness efforts in the past few years.

How can Patagonia follow in the footsteps of The North Face, while promoting its unique brand values?

One of the things Patagonia is best known for is its heaving emphasis on environmental awareness and its seemly counter intuitive campaigns against buying new clothes when the old ones suffice. The company has amped up sustainability efforts in the past five years. These conscious efforts to be a better company for the environment are being advertised on a large scale. Our data illustrates how they are improving their knowledge and popularity by being a more transparent company. Patagonia has mapped out its supply chain in their Footprint Chronicles which allows the customer to view every part of their production process. Along with these chronicles, Patagonia works with fisheries to preserve salmon populations. They have also put out numerous videos and campaigns to encourage customers to buy less, and all together are paving the way for the clothing industry to be more responsible.

However, these measures have not yet managed to gain the same amount of traction as The North Face in the consumers’ eyes, and have remained a niche product for those who are avid about the outdoors. While Patagonia is viewed as a differentiated product and carries high esteem, it has yet to substantially break through and increase knowledge about its products, its brand and what it stands for.

Although increased knowledge about Patagonia has slowly increased, and based on BAV’s qualitative trend research, the brand is tapping into shifting consumer values about sustainability and purpose in such a way that makes it poised to augment its ascendant brand stature. Patagonia can become an industry leader by increasing knowledge, burgeoning popularity, and continuing to improve on its green efforts.

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Change in market dynamics between the two brands is already evident. Perceptions of each brand, Patagonia and The North Face, have shifted in the past ten years. As noted in the chart above, The North Face in 2004 was viewed as visionary, authentic, high performance, rugged and a good value brand, among other attributes. Patagonia in the same year was seen as unique, socially responsible, innovative and social. In 2014, the roles somewhat reversed.

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The North Face is currently seen as more socially responsible, up to date, unique and a market leader, while Patagonia is now seen as more trendy, rugged, and high quality that had good value and is gaining in popularity. The quality and performance changes can be attributed to the shift in perception from The North Face being a fashion brand as opposed to its previous portrayal as being a performance brand. These shifts have changed due to the outdoor clothing industry’s internal changes to preserve the beauty of the outdoors that their customers love so dearly. These changes are also a product of the consumer’s ability to research brands more thoroughly, thanks to the internet, in order to determine their durability, quality and sustainability. Millennials, according to our Brand Asset Valuator study, are less knowledgeable about Patagonia than they are about The North Face. This makes sense when you consider that Millennials were growing up in the early 2000’s, which was when The North Face was gaining popularity as a fashion item and a “must-have” jacket.

Patagonia has always been a beloved brand by consumers who enjoy the great outdoors, and with their shift to becoming a more transparent company, they are not only gaining attention, but also paving the way for companies of all industries, especially clothing, to become more responsible and sustainable. The North Face will soon have leadership competition if Patagonia sticks to this path of transparency, and pairs with it a way to connect to younger generations.

Patagonia has the chance to improve the way consumers view their brand. A great way to connect with younger generations, as Patagonia has begun to demonstrate, is to help them understand the importance of sustainability and appreciate the items currently in their closets. With these changes comes the chance for Patagonia to finally migrate and become a leadership brand, and to sit at the top as The North Face has done for years.

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