The North Face: Weathering the Competitive Storm for Over 50 Years

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Since 1966, The North Face has missioned to “provide the best gear for our athletes and the modern day explorer, support the preservation of the outdoors, and inspire a global movement of exploration.” For more than five decades, The North Face has been a brand connected to the most extreme outdoor weather and the most remote reaches of the planet. Despite much competition in their space – particularly coats made to handle the coldest weather – they have remained a cult brand for decades.

The rivalry in the extreme cold weather jacket space is competitive. Cult Brand Honoree The North Face reached the summit of elite mountaineering wear many years ago, and they have shown much resilience in staying on top while fending off such brands as Patagonia, Marmot and Canada Goose. Good technical coats are comprised of many elements and building a good functional coat for serious outdoor activities is a combination of both art and science.

The North Face continues to innovate, push boundaries and bring new styles and fashions to their demanding customers. This partnership with BMW to build a “tent on wheels” that debuted at the Consumer Electronics Show last month and highlighted a new textile called FutureLight that competes with Gore-Tex. The partnership shows how deeply The North Face brand is associated with innovation in the outdoor space, and how they have turned this innovation into a remarkable brand value proposition.

In fact, The North Face’s bet on FutureLight is an example of their commitment to live up to their brand reputation. It also demonstrates that a lifestyle brand without the substance behind the brand promise is a short-term game that could end badly. FutureLight is a product that could be revolutionary, though time will tell. But the FutureLight move – and everything you can deduce going in to developing a new product of this magnitude – certainly paints a clear picture of a cult brand not satisfied with status quo.

That said, The North Face is a lifestyle brand. There’s a retail store in downtown Miami, for example. Not a lot of sub-zero temps hitting South Beach anytime soon. Also, read exciting headlines of The North Face Purple Label product line finally being made available outside of Japan and South Korea – the hallmarks of a lifestyle brand are there. The focus on function has never left fashion far behind, and the brand cache of The North Face jackets and other cold weather products remains strong today.

The North Face parent, VF Corporation, just reported strong Q3 earnings, crediting both The North Face and Vans ( a 2018 Cult Brand Honoree!) brands for the great results. This highlights the business benefit of a cult brand – sustainable financial performance over time. The North Face is a clothing brand that has truly weathered the storm and protected the company from the elements that have taken down other outdoor clothing and retail brands before.

As you read this, The Gathering is less than two weeks away. There are still a few slots remaining to join us to learn more about Cult Brand Honoree, The North Face, and to hear from cult brand leaders such as Tom Herbst, The North Face’s Head of Global Marketing. All Access Passes are sold out, but Summit passes and VIP passes remain. Consider joining us to experience The Gathering and take in the excitement and the wisdom of so many cult brand leaders.

 Are you interested in hearing more? Register for The Gathering HERE.

– Dan Ribolzi