This is perhaps one of the greatest interview questions of all time. We all talk about iconic brands, and we know them when we see them, but if you had to pick just one to be, which one would you choose (and it can’t be one you’ve worked on)? My snow/skate comrades might chide me for not going with a more “endemic” brand to our space (sorry guys), but I choose Patagonia.

Trademarks: Patagonia (for retail stores), patagonia.com, Patagonia (for on-line transactions and sales), Patagonia Surfboards, Patagonia (for luggage and backpacks), Patagonia (men’s, women’s and children’s clothing)

First use in commerce: 1986

Why? Patagonia manages to be both simple and technical at the same time. It is classic yet innovative and has stronger brand loyalty than most outerwear and sportswear companies out there. You’ve got serious surfers, hard-core mountaineers,  sorority girls, and even my grandparents all wearing Patagonia, yet there’s no loss of brand identity (unlike some action sports brands where there’s a sense of loss of credibility when you see non-snowboarders or non-skateboarders wearing the brand).  Not to mention, Patagonia is a serious leader in environmental stewardship. When it comes to endorsements, the company sponsors the people making a difference in sport (just plain solid people, not the big name pros or flashy guys*). And generally speaking, Patagonia is a company that most consumers feel like they can trust.  I think Patagonia’s key to success – and what other brands can learn from Patagonia – is that Patagonia managed to get to this level, and it’s almost (well, at least from the consumer’s perspective) as if the company wasn’t even trying. Of course Patagonia was trying, but for the consumer, she feels like she discovered Patagonia first, rather than Patagonia going directly after her. So, maybe a better way to ask the title question of this post is: What brand do you feel you discovered?

*I’m not saying there’s not a time and a place for the big-name pros or flashy-guys, as this absolutely can, and does, work to many companies’ advantage. For Patagonia, however, the need simply isn’t there – Patagonia already has a solid and loyal following (which is also steadily growing),  so there is likely no added value that would be gained from a high profile athlete endorsement. For brands where there is added value: show them the money!

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