The communication challenge around ‘buy our product less often’

Quite a few clothing brands have, from time to time, spoken about responsible fashion. But in doing so, they face an extraordinary situation where they have to ask people to buy their products less often!

One of the most famous and vocal voices is from Patagonia that has a full section on its website for ‘worn wear‘, besides extensive communication on why people should buy clothing less often and use what they buy more!

Patagonia’s famous advertising around this line of thought is the one where the headline screams, “Don’t buy this jacket” ad they ran in The New York Times on Black Friday 2011!

It sold a LOT of jackets, incidentally, because of the entire ethos that Patagonia brings to the topic – it is extremely well thought-through and so thoroughly integrated into the company’s values.

Of course, there are other ways to frame ‘buy us less often’ creatively.

Other clothing brands that focus on children’s wear often use smaller cues to encourage hand-me-down habit – once a child outgrows a piece of clothing, the clothing labels encourage the parents to hand it over to another child who can use the same clothing.

John Lewis recently launched a campaign to encourage hand-me-down behavior.

Many other brands too have this idea and one interesting method they use to encourage this behavior is through the name tags in the clothing. Here are name tags from L.L.Bean and Luvmother, for instance, that have space for more than one child’s name and specifically have a call-to-action like ‘hand-me-down’ or ‘pass it on’.

Patagonia too uses this tactic in the name tag, even for clothes meant for adults.

I recently stumbled on a beautifully narrated ad film by the French fashion brand Aigle (by the agency Rosapark) that uses the ‘hand-me-down’ theme without framing it as ‘buy our product less often’.

The narrative uses key moments in the lives of 2 sisters, and the younger one is seen often trying and admiring the elder sister’s yellow parka. At some points in their lives, the elder one resents the younger one invading her space and at other moments she plays and enjoys each others’ company. The journey comes to a touching end when the elder one moves out of the house and what happens to the yellow parka is for you to find out.

While we are immersed in the lives of the sisters, the undercurrent is that the parka is really long-lasting! The same intent – responsible fashion, buy-our-product-less-often – but told in another way without the negative angle. The implication is precisely that, but the route to communicate that takes on a delightfully positive spin of ‘fashion to love longer’.

PS: I had written about the same hand-me-down approach used by a luxury brand, recently. In the case of luxury brands, the stupendously high prices already dissuade people and narrow the target audience. So, the framing of lasts-long is used for an entirely different purpose!



2 thoughts on “The communication challenge around ‘buy our product less often’

  1. Patagonia is my absolute favourite brand. You can walk in to their store and get any of their products fixed free-of-charge. It has been one of the most forward thinking companies before it was cool to become one (flexible work schedule in 1980’s, on-site childcare since 1983) If you get a chance read/listen to this book it is a light read – Let My People Go Surfing: The Education of a Reluctant Businessman: Yvon Chouinard. Also, Chouinard shared a beautiful friendship with Doug Tompkins, North Face co-founder.

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