Don’t Buy This Jacket.

Outdoor athletes – the real high achievers, in particular – understand Patagonia’s tagline. And Patagonia’s tagline clearly shows that they understand their core market to a remarkable degree.  That’s nice, for a change.

Outdoor enthusiasts do things that the rest of us don’t. They spend time on mountains. In winter. On purpose. They run in lousy weather and do it for longer distances than the rest of us would under any condition. They train for events with names like “The Canadian Death Race” that make everyday triathlon competitions look pale. They’re different.

They’re different people, too. Where your Under Armour athlete plays team sports and is highly competitive to the point of trying to beat you to the coffee machine, the outdoor athlete is more cooperative. More than racing the clock, or a competitor, they’re trying to best themselves. And the connection to the great outdoors overrides all. They want to leave a lighter footprint on the earth and respond to others who feel the same way.

Which brings us back to Patagonia. Don’t Buy This Jacket – unless you’re looking to buy fewer, better things; unless you understand that paying more for something of great value means it will last longer, perform at a higher level and inspire other similar minded people to do the same.

Don’t buy this jacket as a fashion statement – buy it as a personal statement, an understatement that shows a commitment to earth, culture, self and a nod to smart consumerism, much the way Scott Griffith of Zipcar described the evolving nature of consumption in my interview with him (in Killing Giants: 10 Strategies to Topple the Goliath In Your Industry).

From a psychological standpoint, it’s a great example of a strategic retreat – of arguing against your own self-interests. Don’t buy this jacket says you can trust us because we’re not out to hustle you into buying something you don’t need. It hits a clever decision trigger, particularly for this group.

It’s a smart ad because it speaks to this market. I’m not suggesting it would work for another because it probably wouldn’t.  But squint at the lesson and see how this decision trigger can work for you.