The North Face
Building a better brand foundation for a sustainable future.
Background and Challenge
The North Face, is one of the world's prominent manufacturers of outdoor recreation products.
Since its launch in the late 1960s, The North Face gained many loyal followers that were dedicated to the brand, the majority of whom were avid outdoor enthusiasts. As the brand was largely sold at outdoor shops that employed salespeople who themselves were outdoor enthusiasts, the sales teams quickly became brand ambassadors, passionately offering expert advice to potential customers.
When the original founders eventually sold the brand to VF Corporation, the largest clothing brand company in the world (Nautica, Vans, Wrangler, Timberland, and many more), new distribution channels were introduced to fit the VF model. This primarily meant the introduction of major department stores.
While this was good for revenue, the original, technical, and athletic brand loyalists largely left the brand as The North Face became more of a fashion brand. New management recognized that they had created a brand that was vulnerable to fashion, and could become “yesterday’s brand” very quickly. They needed to build a better brand foundation, one that could grow and reconnect with their lost enthusiasts while setting the brand up for sustainable future success with a younger audience.
What we did
With the executive leadership team, Brandigo worked to identify the purpose and meaning of The North Face brand for the next 25 years of its life. Because it was now part of a public company, it had significant revenue and earnings challenges ahead, but the team knew that the brand, and the extension of the brand into new technical gear, was the key driver to making that happen. With the executive leadership team, Brandigo worked to identify the purpose and meaning of The North Face brand for the next 25 years of its life. Because it was now part of a public company, it had significant revenue and earnings challenges ahead, but the team knew that the brand, and the extension of the brand into new technical gear, was the key driver to making that happen.
Brandigo helped guide the thinking behind what was called the “Growth Summit.” This summit, comprised of four mini-summits, painted a vision of the future state of The North Face around key principals that would lay the foundation for the brand positioning, including:
- Exceptional Brand Experience
- Product Excellence
- Outdoor Participation
Each component played a significant role in both brand, operations, and R&D, and collectively became the Brand Point of View.
Brandigo’s involvement focused particularly on two of the summits — Sustainability and Outdoor Participation. While The North Face had long been a responsible company, its primary competitor, Patagonia, was doing a much better job of legitimately tying the brand to a sustainable mindset and making that a brand value in itself.
Brandigo helped build The North Face’s story, working the new sustainability team, and published its first-ever Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) report to help communicate its efforts and better position the brand.
The second focused Summit was Outdoor Participation — how to better engage with customers in the outdoors. The North Face challenged Brandigo to develop a new sub-brand, creating a new way to engage and connect.
Brandigo researched and developed The North Face’s first new endorsed brand: PlanetExplore™. PlanetExplore is a platform, or a way for The North Face to help better connect its customers with the outdoors, via online, app, and in-store. But to launch a program like this, it needed to reach every aspect of the organization, both internally and externally.
PlanetExplore’s purpose was to create outdoor opportunities, even if it just meant introducing a child to a park on a Sunday afternoon. The site and app were created to enable prospects and customers to find outdoor activities in their area whenever they wanted. Hiking opportunities, kayaking, climbing, walking, skiing — nearly every outdoor activity — were featured on PlanetExplore.
But this was a daunting task, The North Face did not have the resources to host hiking trips. They were busy running and growing a brand. Brandigo located platform partners that were already doing these things and then aggregated them together on PlanetExplore — groups like Outward Bound, Appalachian Mountain Club, Girls Move Mountains, Sierra Club, American Hiking Society, and dozens more. PlanetExplore offered them a place to help grow and connect their brand, with The North Face at the center.
Ads and point of purchase were created to help bring the PlanetExplore to life at retail with the PlanetExplore brand essence: Every Trail Starts Here.
"We came to Brandigo when we realized that, while we are well known for our apparel and gear offering, we are not as well known for what we stand for as a company."
National TV coverage
Campaign led to additional support of smaller not-for-profits
- PlanetExplore was launched in Central Park in New York, in the presence of The Today Show. The large-scale event focused on introducing inner city kids to outdoor activities they had only seen on TV, such as kayaking and mountain climbing, with many activity areas set up throughout the park
- The event was called Outdoor Nation Youth Summit to give it gravitas and a deeper cause.
- The launch was so successful that a new foundation and fund was created to help smaller not-for-profits that were focused on getting kids outdoors to further enhance the meaning and purpose of the brand.