As Values Rise, Gravity Falls

Last week, Patagonia made headline news. Each story begins like this: “Patagonia Dumps Jackson Hole,” or “Patagonia Blacklists Ski Resort,” or “Patagonia Boycotts Jackson Hole.”

When an unfortunate hiker takes a spill down a mountain, the headlines don’t read, “Gravity Attacks Hiker.” 

In terms of values-driven businesses, Patagonia is a vanguard. They have shown time and again that they will take bold action to live their values. They have been as consistent as gravity. 

The inciting action was an owner of Jackson Hole Ski Resort hosting a $2,000-per-plate fundraiser for election-deniers. In response, Patagonia just lived their values like they always do. If you drop a ball at the top of a slide, now you have to expect it will roll down and someone will report on it.

The difference today is that reaction is creating press in response to silent actions. This raises the stakes. Your partners, employees, and customers are watching. And if a boycott or strike happens, news sites are eager to tell these stories.

This means that today’s brands have to be consistent and accountable — was this fundraiser the behavior of a rogue owner or are these the values that Jackson Hole wants to associate with its brand? Even if it’s the former, it comes off as the latter.

Brands are often skewered for being too political, but ask yourself, which is the more overtly political action here? The fundraiser or the boycott?

Another interesting question to ask yourself is, would you have heard about the Jackson Hole fundraiser at all if not for Patagonia?