The “You Don’t Need Us” Awards, Round 5

First was USAA. Then Arborwear. Then New Glarus Brewery. Then Chick-Fil-A. And now, ladies and gentlemen, we present to you the fifth company that we believe does not need Brains on Fire’s help: Patagonia.

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I’ve been a long-time fan of Patagonia (or “Patagucci” as we used to call it back in college), and could go on and on about the incredibly durable clothes and packs they make our my own personal experiences with them. But instead I’ll shortlist some thoughts on why they get the fourth “You Don’t Need Us” Award.
1) Culture. If you haven’t read Patagonia founder, Yvon Chouinard’s, book “Let My People Go Surfing,” then go buy it. Talk about a culture that is rooted in relationships – wow. From the website: “We were surrounded by friends who could dress however they wanted, even barefooted. People ran or surfed at lunch, or played volleyball in the sandpit at the back of the building. The company sponsored ski and climbing trips; many more trips were undertaken informally by groups of friends who would drive up to the Sierras on Friday night and arrive home, groggy but happy, in time for work on Monday morning.”

And I’m not just talking about hanging out and going surfing. They live and breathe Patagoina. And it shows.

2) Product. Have you ever owned a piece of Patagonia gear? I still have a pair of shorts I bought ten years ago. My tried and true travel bag that I take on any trip (the original MLC) has been through it all is has held up better than any bag I’ve ever owned (you listening Dana Design?).

3) Innovation. There have been SO many game-changing innovations that have come out of Patagonia over the decades. I mean, come on. Backpacking through Zion National Park in the Spring I don’t think I would have survived without my Capilene® baselayer. Patagonia was also the first company to figure out how to make fleece jackets out of recycled plastic bottles. How do they do it? They listen to their biggest fans. Simple. And effective.

4) They believe in something bigger than themselves. Patagonia is a pretty hard-core environmentalist company. Their (beautiful) catalogs are part product info, part environmental activist activities. The 1% For the Planet program, which companies can join that pledge 1% of net sales to the preservation and restoration of the natural environment, has been going strong since 1985.
Not too long ago, Patagonia entered into the blogosphere with The Cleanest Line, which covers everything from new product testing to employees own expeditions, to encouraging readers to ride to work, to how to get involved to save the planet. It’s a fantastic example of a company using a blog to open the kimono and connect with its fans. And man-oh-man, does Patagonia have a lot of fans.

So, as much as we’d love to work with you, Patagoina – you don’t need us. Keep on, keepin’ on.