“A cover is a statement. It should provoke, challenge, interest, entice, snare, grab, arouse, titillate, excite, shock, infuriate, seduce, motivate. It should give the reader an irresistible taste of the magazine’s spirit. It should capture a reader.”—George Lois
World-saving, paradigm-changing initiatives require more than a press release
Yesterday, Patagonia announced a new environmental initiative, called "The Responsible Economy" to “…promote the concept that everyone must learn to consume less and use resources far more productively – as well as innovate as quickly and ingeniously as possible to reduce adverse human impact on the natural systems that support all life.”
They’re asking business to spend more on manufacturing and R&D while earning less, and asking consumers to spend more on durable goods and less frequently. These shifts are critical in order to reverse the “growth-based capitalism” paradigm, “…the assumption that a growth economy equals prosperity and a healthy society.”
It is an awesome initiative tackling a huge issue. Can you have both a healthy business and economy, and, a healthy, sustainable planet. Patagonia’s business model and success prove you can. The last sales numbers I heard pegged the company at about $700mm/annually, despite the company’s plea to it’s customers to buy less stuff.
Now Patagonia is recruiting other companies in an attempt to scale that success on both ends of the equation.
So how do you introduce and promote the cause?
The Responsible Economy doesn’t seem to be a consumer marketing campaign, yet. It’s an ‘initiative’ (and a book) designed to raise the issue, start a conversation, and promote the concept, according to the press release and a couple of essays on the Patagonia site.
Patagonia themselves says that time is running out, yet they don’t seem to be in a hurry to affect change. The initiative is missing the back end, the call to action, the way to participate. It appears that they are trying to work the inside game with discussions among sympathetic business leaders and customers through catalog copy and some web presence.
That’s hardly enough. As Bill Clinton says, "It’s not enough to talk about saving the world." Patagonia needs to stoke this fire from the outside in/bottom up. It’s a cause, a call to action, a movement…you don’t disrupt paradigms with press releases, business conferences, and catalog copy. You need to educate, encourage, and empower the community, (and I don’t mean the brand community, I mean the community-at-large community). Address the issue from their perspective.
Patagonia already knows how to do this. Their "Don’t buy our coat" ad in the NYTimes in 2011 had community community people talking. More along these lines, please. It needs big, ballsy ideas that challenge society’s norms, makes people uncomfortable, and causes tension.
If this was designed to be a launch of a huge initiative, it was more of a whisper than a grand opening.
“It wasn’t that long ago when most of our content was centered around a press release and we were pretty happy when a press release was distributed and received and maybe even used by journalists to engage and amplify a message to the public," said Mr. Gallagher. "Those days are behind us. What we need now is content like this, based on real human insight that understands safety isn’t a fun message, that the way to reach children in particular needs to be fun, engaging and imminently sharable, and it needs to bring about real change.”—'Dumb Ways to Die' Nabs Grand Prix in PR, Direct Categories - Cannes 2013 - Creativity Online