Patagonia is a company that has finessed the art of pandering to the pampered. Its recent attack on fracking is just more of the same.
Casey Sheahan, the CEO of Patagonia, the ritzy outdoor clothing company built on selling things such as trendy “rain gear for an urban setting” for just $699 just announced he’s in favor of a statewide fracking ban in Colorado. He’s making a fortune wearing the cloth of “environmental and social responsibility” to sell over-priced merchandise to the pampered, who are blithely unaware of the incongruity of a company branded on the appeal of the great outdoors marketing rain gear for city sidewalks.
Sheahan’s really good at appealing to the guilty consciences of those who imagine they have done undeservedly well but don’t want to sacrifice any of it. He seduces them with shallow talk about how much better the world would be with them in charge to impose their utopian vision on the rest of us, subtly suggesting, of course, the first step might be buying a $45 t-shirt that carries their Live Simply© Guitar image. After all, it’s made with organic cotton that’s “not genetically modified in any way” and “screen-printed using PVC- and phthalate-free inks.” Who knew demonstrating your social consciousness and living simply were just one expensive t-shirt away?
Patagonia Panders to the Pampered
Patagonia buyers surely don’t care, but there are several obvious problems with the company’s greener than thou contentions (or, perhaps, greener for them intentions). The inks and the fabric may be as pure as the snow in all those mountain top images they love to work into marketing materials, but they are screen-printed using heavy-duty electric or natural gas fired dryers.
Nature USA also produces essentially the same product under their own “bgreen apparel” brand name and acknowledges their natural gas use, bragging about their ability to reduce consumption (not that there’s anything wrong with that). Nature USA also does something else that’s sort of neat, but requires natural gas; they recycle plastic bottles and stuff to make polyester thread. Here’s a nice little video of the process involved:
You’ll note the process requires a lot of heat and hot air (see 0:20). Those commodities can only be supplied economically by natural gas or electricity made with natural gas, most of which is fracked gas these days. The US Census says Ventura and Rancho Dominguez, where Patagonia and Nature USA are, respectively, located, rely overwhelmingly upon natural gas for heat (not that they need much heat for anything but manufacturing) and 62% of California’s electricity is made using natural gas according to the Energy Information Administration. That’s 6.7 times its closet competitor in the state, hydroelectric power. Moreover, 39% of natural gas produced in the US is shale gas. So, we can be certain those pricey t-shirts were all made using a generous quantity of fracked gas.
Patagonia Hypocrisy Sells Like a Feature, Not a Bug
Carbondale, Colorado, where Casey Sheahan and his wife Tara reside (in the Rock Creek Subdivision) also uses a lot of fracked gas. There’s natural gas service, in fact, on Crystal River Road where their house is located, just up the road. Some 75% of residents use natural gas for heat and another 21% rely upon electricity, so darned near everyone depends upon it. The Sheahan home has a radiant heat system according to real estate records, so it’s more than likely they do as well, either directly or indirectly.
Patagonia very cleverly uses all this hypocrisy as a feature, rather than a bug. That’s Marketing 101, after all. You can read about it here, where the company tells its customers not to buy what they don’t need, but, hey, everyone needs a $45 t-shirt, right? It then argues the purchase of their particular t-shirt is morally justified by the fact it will last a long time. Really? Does anyone think Patagonia customers, the trendiest of the trendy, aren’t going to buy next year’s NEW item, the one offering the latest in guilt-soothing wear?
Then, there’s this genius “Don’t Buy This Jacket” advertisement that appeared in the New York Times, the paper of record for the sort of nose in the air, urbane folks who view everything on the west side of the George Washington Bridge as flyover country.
You can read more here, but the idea, of course, is to employ reverse thinking, almost guaranteed to get children and shallow-thinking adults with attitude to do exactly what you desire of them. Tell them not to touch the wet paint and they’ll do it immediately to learn why you wanted to restrict their behavior. It is, in a word, pride, human nature at the root, and all con men know how to exploit it, particularly when dealing with a population that considers itself several steps above the rest of humanity. Lure them in with a “don’t touch” message and then seduce them with a “it lasts a long time and saves the planet” message. Clever as hell, literally.
Patagonia knows its audience. They’re urban to the core, hypocritical, prideful, self-centered and shallow. They’re pampered, and pandering to their guilt complexes is the ticket to selling those overpriced parkas and t-shirts. Attack the fracking that makes your business possible and sell them anything you want. Casey Sheahan is the best there is at that.