Patagonia: A Commercial Video Success Story

Commercial video offers an exciting opportunity to connect with viewers and turn them into customers. Video creators have total control over the information inside, and they can package it in ways that are easy for prospects to consume and enjoy.

In this series of posts, I’ve already touched on different commercial video applications and video’s unique advantages over written content.

With that being said, there’s no substitute for checking out a real company that’s already using video effectively to see the principles in action. You can draw inspiration from what’s working well and apply it in your own business.

Let’s take a look at how Patagonia, an outdoor clothing company, is using video to stand out from competitors, connect with prospects, and drive sales.

A Brand with No Shortage of Personality

Since Yvon Chouinard founded Patagonia in 1973, the brand has never been afraid to stand for what it believes in – even if those beliefs cut into their bottom line.

Patagonia values stewardship of the earth above everything else, donating 1% of their sales every year to preserve and restore the environment. Passion for environmental causes reflects Patagonia’s core values, and they’ve embraced this since the beginning.

For decades, Patagonia has been injecting their eco-friendly personality into everything they do. It certainly sets them apart from their competitors. Patagonia’s strong stances on environmentalism and conservation might put some people off. But for those whose core values align with Patagonia’s, it’s a strong sell to become a Patagonia fan for life.

While a lot of brands get more conservative as they grow and mature, Patagonia continues to be aggressive. On Black Friday of 2011, Patagonia bought a full-page ad in the New York Times with the headline “Don’t Buy This Jacket.” The ad encouraged customers to think twice whether they needed a new jacket at all.

How Patagonia Uses Video to Connect with Viewers and Drive Sales

Using video has allowed Patagonia to continue what it started with written copy and take it even further, connecting with viewers in an entirely different medium.

Go to Patagonia’s website, and it won’t take you long to find videos alongside the written content. Patagonia uses these videos in a wide range of applications; anything from corporate responsibility to product demos are fair game.

Let’s take a look at some of Patagonia’s commercial videos and see how they’re using them to engage viewers:

Product demonstrations

As a clothing manufacturer, Patagonia faces the typical challenge of other apparel companies selling online. People can’t touch, feel, or try on clothes like they could in a physical store.

When visitors browse Patagonia’s online product catalog, they’ll find short demo videos associated with each product. In these videos, a Patagonia employee points out key features, shows viewers how the product works, and ties those features to valuable customer benefits.

Take a look at Patagonia’s video for their men’s Torrentshell Jacket:

In less than 1.5 minutes, prospects learn everything they need to know before buying the jacket. The friendly Patagonia employee goes over the different features, making sure to point out how they could benefit the viewer. He spends a (relatively) long time talking about the special zipper design. But then he connects it to a valuable benefit: keeping the rain out.

The video wraps up with the employee hammering home a few more benefits about the jacket. It’s “lightweight,” “packable,” and “great on the road or trail.” The presentation leaves viewers with a strong impression about the jacket’s value.

Patagonia includes similar videos for its other products as well. These videos are easier to consume than written copy. And they help clear up any confusion because it’s easier to see something in action rather than read about how it works. All it takes is a short video to bring the online catalog to life.

The manufacturing process

Patagonia’s website also includes a lot of information about their supply chain and manufacturing process.

While these topics might seem dry to the typical consumer, that isn’t the case for Patagonia’s target demographic. Understanding they’re getting the highest possible quality materials – and the materials are being sourced in an environmentally responsible way – is critical for many Patagonia customers.

Patagonia uses videos to highlight different stages of their manufacturing process. Instead of simply saying they use “organic cotton,” they include a beautiful 8-minute video featuring one of their longest running cotton suppliers: The Texas Organic Cotton Marketing Cooperative.

This video isn’t just visually stunning. It’s also an effective sales tool. Patagonia customers get a chance to learn more about the organic cotton growing process and what makes it superior to other methods. And they also get to see that the suppliers aren’t nameless, faceless corporations, but real people they can connect with.

Finally, this video does a great job cementing Patagonia’s unique selling proposition (USP) as a sustainable, environmentally responsible company. This creates a win-win scenario in the minds of their customers, who don’t mind paying a premium for their outdoor gear as long as they’re confident of the quality and sourcing.

Corporate responsibility

Patagonia also uses videos to discuss what they see as their corporate responsibility. Once again, video turns an ostensibly dry topic into an engaging one.

Here’s a short video of a Patagonia employee explaining their vision for a responsible corporation:

This video does a great job of educating the viewer and reinforcing Patagonia’s core values at the same time. Viewers get the additional information they were looking for about how Patagonia selects which factories make their inventory. And they also get reassurance that everything’s done in a socially and environmentally responsible way.

Patagonia could have provided this information in a written document. But that probably wouldn’t have been as engaging as the video delivery. Instead of wading through a boring press release, visitors can simply press a button to listen to a personal presentation from a Patagonia employee.

"Worn Wear"

I saved Patagonia’s best video for last. Their “Worn Wear” video – it’s actually more like a short film, clocking in at almost half an hour – is one of the most creative uses of commercial video I’ve ever seen.

The features people from different segments of Patagonia’s target market: surfers, skiers, cyclists, and other outdoor enthusiasts. The video follows different individuals as they enjoy these activities outfitted in their Patagonia gear. Many have owned their gear for decades.

Take a look if you have a few minutes to spare. But don’t blame me if you get sucked in!

Pretty cool, right?

Stunning visuals aside – and there are plenty of those – this video is an effective sales tool for a lot of different reasons.

One of the first things that jumps out is the people, not the Patagonia products, are the “heroes” of the film. The Patagonia gear is there to help people in their adventures, but it doesn’t take center stage. It’s easier for viewers to connect emotionally with another person’s story than if the video had just droned on about how great the Patagonia equipment was.

This film also serves as a great product demo video. We get to see people engaging in a variety of outdoor activities with their Patagonia gear. Instead of reading copy, viewers can see how the stuff works with their own eyes. It’s easier to imagine how it could work for them.

Finally, the film does a great job of touching on Patagonia’s USP. Patagonia released this film as the “antidote” to Black Friday. The whole premise is that, even if someone has owned the same Patagonia gear for decades, they should consider whether they really need a new purchase or if they could just repair the stuff they already have.

Embracing Video in Your Own Business

You might not have the budget to produce commercial videos that rival Patagonia’s production value.

But that’s okay. You can still take a page from their playbook. You can embrace video gradually in your own business to set yourself apart from competitors, connect with visitors, and make more sales.

Adding just one application of video to your website can create a significant impact on engagement and conversions. The key is getting started. You can always experiment and refine your system as you go.

So start today!