Patagonia doesn’t need any help with marketing their products. In fact, the ad they placed in the New York Times on Black Friday last year said “Don’t Buy This Jacket”.  Don’t be fooled, they still want you to buy their product, but only when you really need it. What does that mean? This marketing conundrum and a number of other insightful ideas on how this company operates were shared by CEO & President Casey Sheahan at the Business of Outdoor Recreation Lecture Series presented by the Outdoor Industry Association and the Leeds School of Business at the Stadium Club on the University of Colorado campus in Boulder.

To be fair, Patagonia is not the only company taking on the dichotomy of sales versus conservation, but they are making the biggest push to promote it. I once sent in my Gregory backpack to have it serviced. I had hauled it to the far corners of the earth and after 15 years it needed some help to stay together. Sending it in, I had only requested one part be re-enforced, but when it came back they had gone over it meticulously and added extra stitches to a number of spots to keep it going. They wanted to see it last another 15 years instead of trying to get me to buy a new one.

Casey mentioned that Patagonia is “…masquerading as an apparel company in order to fund saving the planet.” This is evident in a number of of their initiatives including 1 percent for the planet, the Common Threads Initiative and encouraging folks not to buy the latest and greatest when what you have will work just fine.

Since the focus of the talk was to help inspire and drive the students in the crowd looking to get into the outdoor recreation business themselves, and since many of them carry great hopes of human compassion, earthly sustainability and smart business, Casey threw out a number of gems like this one: When faced with the dip in the economy and laying employees off seemed to be the only solution, Casey’s wife asked him “Are you making this decision in fear or love?” When she put it that way, he realized it was fear that was driving his decisions. They didn’t go through with the layoffs and ended up having record sales and would have been up the creek without those employees.

But don’t take my word for it, see it for yourself. Download Casey’s talk and others from the series here:

Next up: Thursday, March 15 – Doors open at 6:30pm; Keynote at 7pm: Mark Satkiewicz, President and General Manager, SmartWool. Click the link above for more information.