- Patagonia has endorsed two U.S. Senate candidates running in the upcoming midterm elections, marking the first time the retailer has gotten behind specific candidates, Fast Company reported. The candidates are Jacky Rosen, a Democrat in Nevada, and Senator John Tester, an incumbent Democrat running Montana.
- Patagonia is including the endorsements as part of its brand marketing and posting them on its website, social channels and emails.
- Separate ads for each candidate feature white text on a black background with the tagline that a vote for Rosen or Tester "is a vote for public lands."
More brands are aligning themselves around political and social issues, but Patagonia is going a step further by endorsing political candidates who support the conservation efforts that have been a part of the brand's cause marketing initiatives for years. As noted by Fast Company, companies are usually less overt in their political maneuvers, instead offering support via lobbying or CEO donations to candidates.
The campaign is the latest example of brands taking risks in their marketing this year to support values that are important to them. Consumers increasingly expect brands to take social and political stances on the issues that they consider important, and they increasingly decide which brands to purchase from or boycott based on these positions. In today's divisive social and political climate, two-thirds of consumers think brands should take a public stance on issues, like immigration, civil rights and race relations, according to a Sprout Social report. And, 58% think brands should share those opinions on social media.
When executed well, risk-taking can pay off for marketers, as Nike discovered when it launched the latest iteration of its "Just Do It" campaign in September starring the controversial professional football player and activist Colin Kaepernick. The effort appeared to provide a boost to key metrics, including online sales and store visits. The risk lies in alienating portions of a brand's audience that does not agree with its stance and in the effort coming across as self-serving and inauthentic.
Since Patagonia has a long history of activism around environmental issues, that risk of alienation is lower, while the potential to resonate is higher. The company’s global distribution center, which employees more than 650, is located in Nevada, and Patagonia has worked with several environmental nonprofits in the state, along with state leaders, on conservation efforts, according to Fast Company. Patagonia has also been involved with conservation efforts in Montana since the late 1980s and has supported the Montana Wilderness Association through grants, per the publication.
More closely aligning a brand's marketing with its values could be a particularly well-suited strategy for trying to win over Gen Zers, with 54% of 16- to 19-year-olds saying they have deliberately purchased or stopped using a brand because of its ethics, according to MediaCom research. Seventy-one percent of the age group also think brands have the responsibility to give back to society.
Patagonia's endorsement of U.S. Senate candidates isn't the first time the brand has gotten political. The company called out President Donald Trump in December over plans to reduce the size of two national monuments in Utah. The company replaced its homepage with the message "The President Stole Your Land" in white letters on a black background, similar in style to the new campaign ads. Patagonia has also vowed to give employees a paid day off to vote in the upcoming midterms.