Branding: The Integrated Shopper
One small disappointment: I wish Patagonia would have carried over the customer star rating system from its website to the pages of its catalog. Shoppers love these product reviews, and they're just as useful on the printed page as online.
Overall, Patagonia understands how to deliver a consistent and unique experience at all touchpoints. I give it a solid A.
When you think of outdoor outfitters, you most certainly think of REI. A group of mountaineering friends founded this company in 1938, and its commitment to outdoor adventure hasn't wavered since. REI has done what all brands aspire to: created a real community around its brand. In fact, as the largest consumer cooperative in the nation, REI serves more than 3.7 million active members. You get a real sense of belonging when you connect with this brand. Fans speak passionately about it. REI's more than 100 stores have become destinations in themselves. In short, it's a major player in the category because it walks the walk.
Unlike Patagonia, REI carries a variety of other brands: North Face, Under Armour, Marmot and, yes, even Patagonia. This is good and bad. It's good because people can view REI as the ultimate resource for outdoor gear. It's bad because it dilutes the exclusivity and loyalty for the REI brand name.
After viewing its catalog, browsing its site and roaming its store, it seems REI has chosen to embrace its positioning as the ultimate resource. It offers a wider variety and bigger selection than Patagonia, and because of that comes across as the big guy on the block, although perhaps not as special. REI also uses lifestyle photography throughout its catalog and website, but it feels a bit staged and too polished compared to Patagonia's snapshot, real-life execution.
REI has done a commendable job of establishing a unique face for the brand — a very identifiable look and feel that, at a glance, sets it apart from the competition. There's no mistaking whose catalog you're flipping through or on what site you're shopping. The tighter you define this visual vocabulary, the easier it is to execute across all channels. With well-defined brand standards — typography, color palette, graphic treatments, etc. — you more easily translate your brand's personality to all touchpoints.