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 in 2019 and highlighted a new textile called FutureLight that competes with Gore-Tex. The partnership showed 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 Florida, for example. Not a lot of sub-zero temps hitting South Beach anytime soon. Also, The North Face Purple Label product line was finally made available in recents years 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.
As a Cult Brand Honoree in 2018, The North Face was highlighted as a clothing brand that has truly weathered the storm. They have protected the company from the elements that have taken down other outdoor clothing and retail brands before all while maintaining a sustainable financial performance over time.