North Face History Case Study – The Inside Story

North Face History Case Study - The Inside Story

Introduction

Recreation has its beauty. It is part of life’s essentials. It is an earth-old activity that contributes to a long life span. Hiking and skiing are old sports dating back to 6000 BC in Russia and the 18th century. Records have it that over 40 million people ski in the US, and there are over 130 million skiers in the world. Also, there are over 50 million hikers in the United States and more than 115 million people globally.

From the beginning of industrialization, there have been continuous demands placed on various industries, from recreational activities and the sports industry. Every sector contributes its quota of supply to the needs of recreational activities. These supplies are either in goods or services or in both forms. This article looks into a company known as The North Face from the textile industry. It aims to study The North Face’s history.

  • The Start Of The North Face History
  • Its Dominating Strategies
  • SWOT Analysis of The Brand

The Start Of The North Face History

The Beginning

The North Face is a US-based company. It specializes in producing outdoor recreational outfits like clothing, footwear, and other related products. The brand was created in 1968 by a couple known as the Tompkins. It began as a climbing equipment retail store and targeted mountain climbers. After two years of its existence, Kenneth “Hap” Klopp took it over for 50,000 US Dollars.

It has always been based in California, but history has it that its first location was in San Francisco before it moved to Alameda. 

In 1969, North Face produced its first internal frame pack known as Rucksack. A backpack with lightweight and outstanding functions. In 1971, the brand was already under the control of Klopp, and it took a new shape. Firstly, it began to produce its line and had David Alcorn design its logo. David designed the logo after Half Dome, the cleft rock in Yosemite National Park.  

The North Face grew continuously as the year went by through devotion to research and creation. By 1975, it produced its geodesic dome tent. This tent has poles that go diagonally across its top. It is designed to withstand adverse weather conditions. And within five years of this innovation, the clothing brand experienced more development. The 80s saw the brand creating extreme ski wear outfits that promoted the brand’s catchphrase- “Never Stop Exploring.”. It used the 10-year period of the 80s to design and publicize its products. One of its popular products during that time was the Mountain Light jacket. Another notable product was the Mountain Gore-Tex jacket. It gained more fame and was contracted to manufacture exclusive polar wears and kits for the TAE.

The End Of The 90s

Towards the end of the 90s, The North Face had an increased customer base. It no longer manufactured and supplied goods to only outdoor lovers. Instead, it expanded its focus and concentrated on street couture. However, the brand was handed over to a new phase of leadership in 2000 when VF Corporation acquired it for over 25 million US Dollars. In the first few years of the 21st century, it followed its street trend and was recognized as a streetwear designer brand.

The Brand’s Dominating Strategies

From The North Face’s history and look today, we see that the brand has fought steadily through boisterous winds and dark times. There were processes and strategic actions it took to remain a mainstream brand. Check out these strategies the company employed to dominate the market.

Sponsorships

The brand has sponsored events ranging from high mountain explorations to Olympic freeskiing groups and other outdoor sports. It is forever engraved in the North Face History that from the 70s, the company had made it a norm to sponsor 70 athletes and explorations to different unreached places in the world. This said action is in concordance with its “expedition tested” mantra. In 2011, the brand sealed a deal with the United States freeskiing team. This deal was set to run for eight years. In the following year, The North Face company took a team to the peak of Everest. Shortly after that, the establishment featured as a sponsor to the 2014 Olympics.  

TNF began a foundation in 2010 known as North Face Explore Fund. Since its inception, it has sponsored over 350 grassroots establishments that support more than 95000 explorers in the US. In mid-2015, TNF declared the winners of the 2015 Explore Fund. It spent 500,000 US Dollars to support 47 establishments in the United States.

Also, the company has strategically built its character through its productive partnerships. It regularly collaborates with its suppliers to lessen and control waste, water, energy, and chemicals in its mills. This collaboration has yielded tremendous positive results. Since 2010, The North Face has eradicated over 90 tanker sizes of chemicals and saved over 220 Olympic pools of water. More so, it recycles its materials and ensures it lowers the release of greenhouse gas. Its dedication to environmental service and improvement defines it as a brand with value and virtue. Also, the North Face’s regular participation in outdoor sports competitions has immensely contributed to its massive visibility to the world. Its involvements have given it a public perception of being solid and credible.

Customer Engagement

It is a well-known fact in The North Face’s history that the brand focuses on its customers and humans at large. It takes humanity and everything related to it as a priority compared to other things. In a bid to preserve the interest of humanity and its environment, it has facilitated voyages and adventures, protected people’s environments and their activities, and created a social responsibility around its supply chain. Also, as part of its engagement plan, it began the “Our Athletes” campaign. The essence of this campaign was to recognize and celebrate athletes that used its branded products. So, the more people see the athletes in their branded products, the more the brand gets visible and recognized.

The brand has a blog known as “Never Stop Exploring” that supports this recognition movement. The blog displays the brand’s athletes on their explorations like free-wall climbs to the summits in Yosemite. These athletes make video records and write articles about their experiences. These contents inspire customers and viewers to partake in the outdoor sports that the brand sponsors. More so, the blog offers advice to intending or participating explorers and reveals the features of the brand’s products in a way that is not salesy.

Supports For Women Participations

We know that women love outdoor sports and expeditions just as men do. But they do not receive as much acknowledgment as the men do. So the North Face initiated a global scheme in 2018. It changed its designs from the usual to promote women for outdoor sports and explorations. It made sure to produce more products for women and opened two new stores for only-women outfits. Also, it ran ads that promoted female participation in explorations. 

The North Face brand has a solid social media presence and engagements. It allows followers to post their pictures on its Facebook page and replies their comments. It also throws questions to the public and engages in lengthy discussions. The brand also runs giveaways on its platforms as well. For instance, it told its fans to post pictures using a hashtag- #GearUpGetOut. Every week, it gifts the best photo with a $100 gift card.

A Focused Target Market

The young generation mostly loves street outfits. This has been a sales pitch for The North Face Brand. Its active customer base ranges from teenagers to mid-30s, having famous figures like Kendall Jenner, Emily Ratajkowski, and Kardashian on the list. New jackets are up to £200; therefore, the fairly used ones would be an early get for younger patronizers. Its products are the most searched on Depop. Recently, it had a search increase of 500% on the platform. Between July and December in 2020, there was at least one search every three seconds, and Beyond Retro recorded a 315% sales increase of the brand’s products.

It launched an outfit called the Nupste and had Kanye West styling it. Knowing the nature of its target market, it announced its alliance with a trendy brand, Gucci. In the light of this collaboration, it released the North × Gucci monogram buffer. It also released a video that featured graffiti artists, climbers, and the brand’s designer, Alessandro Michele.

SWOT Analysis of The North Face Brand

Studying from The North Face history, there are visible strengths and weaknesses, coupled with opportunities and threats peculiar to the clothing brand. This section aims at outlining them.

Strengths of the North Face Brand

The North Face has been innovative and satisfactory in its operations. It has a high reputation for keeping a close relationship with its customers and maintaining a good image among prospects. Also, it made sure to develop a norm among its marketers to promote the brand’s products and train the marketing unit on customer satisfaction. The company’s quality products and services have allowed it to scale up and down on the market conditions and demands and penetrate new markets and dominate them.

Weaknesses of the North Face Brand

The brand is highly successful, but it does not have a clearly defined selling position which is a weakness against its competitors.

Opportunities for the North Face Brand

It is usual for the brand to experience new policies in new environments. However, these policies expose the company to explore innovations and technologies. Also, its heavy online presence is an avenue for The North Face to have new customers and create more sales channels. Apart from new sales, it can further interact with its customers and not lose them to competitors. And a regular cash flow allows the brand to branch out into new sectors and expand.

Threats of the North Face Brand

Changes in market policies in different regions can be threats to The North Face because of its operating system. Also, currency fluctuations cause imbalances in its profitability.

Conclusion

The North Face brand has served and is still serving athletes, skiers, hikers, and other sports personnel. It has never relented in global sponsorships. Despite the unfavorable conditions, it remains a standout and a strategic brand. Adopting new technologies will give the company a boost and enormous recognition compared to its competitors.

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