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Lost Branding Opportunity – The North Face



Building a brand comes from consistent and diligent communication of what your brand stands for.

Brands with rock-solid identification among its target audience understand this. Solid brands see every communication as an opportunity to imbed their brand in the minds of consumers.

In the photo above The North Face totally missed on an opportunity to leverage their brand’s reputation with consumers. According to the company’s website, “We are named for the coldest, most unforgiving side of a mountain. We have helped explorers reach the most unfathomable heights of the Himalayas.” The story should continue…but for you wimpy suburbanite’s who buy our overpriced product we’d suggest you stay indoors if there’s a little snow and ice on your driveway.

If that’s the case why, as the sign suggests, would a little “inclement weather” close you down?

In fairness this photo comes from mid-Atlantic region last week where the combination of snow and ice made a mess of things. Just the same – a branding opportunity was lost.

Judging by the pedestrian reflected in the glass, (a) some people were able to rise above the elements and get outside, (b) the snow doesn’t appear to even cover the walkers’ shoes.

The North Face is currently owned by Vanity Fair (VF) Corporation. VF is no lightweight when it comes to branding. The North Face is the premier brand in VF’s ‘Outdoor and Action Sports’ division. Other brands in this group include Timberland, Smartwool, Jansport, Vans and Lucy. The North Face and the outdoor division have been instrumental in VF’s financial success in the past 7 years.

The North Face’s success enjoyed by VF – comes with a cost. Distribution and market saturation have diluted many a brand, consider Columbia Sportswear. Take a walk around any college campus north of the Mason/Dixon line and the accepted coed ‘uniform’ consists of Ugg boots, leggings and (the predictable) North Face jacket.

Yikes. Doesn’t sound like how the company arrived at its name, does it?

We’ll give The North Face a pass on the missed opportunity in the photo above. The sign was likely prepared hastily by a minimum wage employee who just wanted to get the heck out. But still what a lost opportunity to support the brand’s image by not wording the sign to say, “Store Closed. Get Outside And Have An Adventure. We Are”.

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