With an exhibit of its jackets at San Francisco's Museum of Modern Art, a new campaign anthem set to stirring Japanese Breakfast vocals and its first fully circular collection, the North Face is finding many paths to relevance. Mike Ferris, vice president of global brand at The North Face, owned by VF Corp., tells Marketing Daily what the company hopes to accomplish with the next phase of the "It's More Than A jacket" campaign.
Marketing Daily: This is a new iteration of "More than a jacket," which you introduced last fall. What's different about this, and what are you hoping the new ads accomplish?
Mike Ferris: It's the continued emphasis of the stories. We're not just a brand that creates outerwear. We're a brand that creates a product that equips people to explore and find new experiences.
Our athletes do that as they're going into mountains or places they're exploring in New York City. They come to life through our content, so it's exciting to see them come to life through this exhibit in San Francisco. It tells stories about how our jackets and gear have equipped people to embrace and explore their curiosity.
Marketing Daily: Not many people will see it, especially given how global the North Face is. How will you share it?
Ferris: We'll have a lot of our content on social media and user-generated content.
Marketing Daily: The North Face has worked with recycled materials before. What's different about this Circular Collection?
Ferris: Yes, we've got lots of commitments and are working with many vendors. This launch is more conscious. We're starting to show what that full circle can look like. It's made from recycled materials, but it's also made to be broken down at the end of the life cycle. Consumers can return it to our stores. This is a change not just for our brand but for lots of brands. The shift is from being sustainably led to circular-led.
Marketing Daily: You compete with many brands with a strong sustainability commitment that also communicate the excitement of being outdoors. How do you try and make the North Face stand out?
Ferris: Whether you see our brand at REI, Dick's Sporting Goods or even in a fashion context, like a Gucci collaboration, we want people to see us and realize that no matter who you are, if you are a person willing to push your limits or embrace something new, then we are the brand for you. That's true whether you are in mountains or cities. The point is progressing forward as a person.
Another difference is that we're doing everything we can to protect the places we play and the places we love.
Our sustainability commitments are an important part of who we are, too, and that is a journey that will never stop.
Marketing Daily: Which products are the main sustainability focus right now?
Ferris: We're constantly trying to innovate with our performance products, and that's different than just a T-shirt or basic clothing item. You'll see more of our Summit series in this campaign, made with 100% recycled materials.
Scale is part of that. We're a $3 billion brand right now, and the more we do around sustainability, the better it will be for the earth. We're the biggest brand in the outdoors market.
Marketing Daily: The North Face had a huge quarter in the latest quarter, with sales up 31%. Can you tell us what some of the highlights were?
Ferris: The pandemic accelerated the desire to get outdoors: hiking, camping, and trail running. We're benefiting from that, along with other brands. Another part is the increase in hiking footwear, which is driving a lot of growth. And our core strength has been jackets, outerwear -- wintertime clothes.
Marketing Daily: What's ahead in the next few months?
Ferris: We've got a strong media buy for this, with lots of compelling brand storytelling. Later this month, we'll launch snow sports gear with stories from our athletes, and stories about the products themselves.
Marketing Daily: You had a really sad story this week, with the death in Nepal of Hilaree Nelson, one of your brand ambassadors. Very sad.
Ferris: Yes. She was our team captain, and has been with our brand since 1999. A really great woman, great athlete, great mother. She was an amazing athlete doing amazing things.