How Cotopaxi created a brand to support its mission

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How Cotopaxi created a brand to support its mission

Outdoor gear company, Cotopaxi, is best-known for its brightly colored products and annual Questival scavenger hunt, a social media sensation. But, there’s far more to the company than meets the eye. They HeyU podcast team got an inside look at how Cotopaxi integrates its values and mission into its overall operation and marketing in an interview with Director of Brand and Impact, Annie Agle.

From its inception, Cotopaxi has been committed to its mission to “do good.” Despite the advice of lawyers and would-be investors, they incorporated as a benefit corporation because they felt it was key to their brand. Originally, profits from each product they sold were tied to a specific cause. According to Annie, they’ve refined this model over the years, increased their total percentage donated, and developed the Cotopaxi Foundation, which gives out 1% of their revenue in dozens of grants. Cotopaxi is also a Certified B Corporation.

But, Cotopaxi’s contribution isn’t just financial. They try to take responsibility for the impact their products will have throughout their lifecycle. This includes taking into account the materials they use and how they are sourced, the manufacturing process and the conditions for the laborers who make them, as well as the longevity, function, and sustainability of those products.

As Forbes puts it, “Cotopaxi is part of a wave of successful start-ups who are proving that fundamentally realigning the balance between profit and philanthropy can generate win-win relationships for everyone involved.” 

Annie and the rest of the Cotopaxi team have caught on to this value shift. In our interview, one of Annie’s focuses was on Cotopaxi’s interest in positive storytelling. “I think it’s really powerful in 2020 to tell real stories,” she said. “We try to find these feel-good stories—and create them—and do what we can to nurture them.” Their impact plays a significant role in their marketing, and Annie says the brand avoids cynicism in their storytelling. She hopes that the stories they tell bring smiles to their audience and celebrate their capacity for positive impact.

Questival, the brand’s annual scavenger hunt, was a key move for demonstrating that Cotopaxi understands the customer’s desire to participate in a collective story and to use positive and fun platforms for telling their own stories. This intention aligns with a core Cotopaxi value. According to Annie, to Cotopaxi, “The whole idea is to facilitate real human interactions. The product is almost secondary to our do-good mission and getting outside, having an adventure, and having a full life.”

How does Cotopaxi manage to elevate their operation on so many levels? Annie says a lot of that has to do with the people. Cotopaxi screens its job candidates on character, and company culture reinforces their commitment always to take the ethical high road. “If there isn’t a high road option, we try to create one,” Annie explained.

Check out the full episode at or on your favorite podcast platform. Don’t forget to leave a review! 

Author: MaryAnne Hafen is a Recruiting Coordinator for Business Career Services at the David Eccles School of Business where she works with student ambassadors who build employer partnerships and connect students to careers.