Sharkey’s Machine


The Corporate Alphorn: TNF Online Newsroom
December 3, 2008, 11:28 am
Filed under: The North Face Project | Tags: , ,

The functionality of The North Face online newsroom leaves something to be desired. The page is visually appealing and organized with a tiled list of articles in chronological order. Within each tile there is a brief synopsis of the article and a relevant picture. The newsroom consists of 18 articles ranging from March 26, 2008 to November 18, 2008; there is no archive link to view previously posted articles. Within the 18 articles, I felt like only seven belonged in the newsroom; these articles where related to new store openings, recently received awards, the sponsorship of a ski competition, and articles relating to innovations in facility sustainability. The remaining 11 articles revolved around accomplishments of TNF athletes. While many of these feats are impressive and newsworthy, I don’t think the corporate newsroom is the appropriate place to post these articles. The corporate online newsroom should predominately revolve around the business functions of an organization. The North Face could place the athlete articles on its community blog page with the rest of its athlete information; or it could restructure its current newsroom to provide for categories of news (e.g. Personal, Facility, Athletes, Products, New Opportunities, Archives, Recent, etc.) The online newsroom could also provide an excellent venue to shed light on new products and technologies, corporate strategy, and new business opportunities and partnerships, which are currently lacking from the current news page.  

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The Summit: Awards and honors of TNF

The North Face is the 2008 recipient of the American Mountain Guides Association’s (AMGA) Industry Award. The Industry Award is presented annually to an outdoor company that has shown outstanding support through scholarships, products, and sponsorships of professional mountain guides. The North Face has partnered with the AMGA to provide educational support for the past twelve years and became a Diamond Partner in 2004. The North Face is the official sponsor of all AMGA Alpine Guide Certification exams, helping to reduce tuition costs. The North Face provides one full tuition scholarship each year for an AMGA Alpine Guide course or exam. This scholarship provides financial support for mountain guides seeking training and certification in the United States. 

The North Face products are constantly receiving awards for leading in innovation and functionality. Here are some of the recent ones:

 

culmination3MARCH 2008 – German Outdoor magazine gives coveted Editor’s Choice Award to The North Face
“Cat’s Meow” synthetic sleeping bag

 

 

APRIL 2008 – TNF Primero 60 backpack wins the prestigious Gear of the Year by Outside magazine

 

 

JULY 2008 – TNF wins two OutDoor INDUSTRY AWARDS for its innovative work on the Minibus 23 two-person tent and the Reversible Mercurial Jacket.   

   

JULY 2008 – TNF wins the APEX award for its oustanding design and use of Polartec fabric.



The north face of The North Face: The Challenges Facing TNF

The North Face derives its name from side of the mountain that typically is the most the challenging to climb. The North Face business structure also faces challenges. In times where most companies are experiencing a regression in financial productivity, TNF seems to be prospering. At the April 2008 Lehman Brothers Retail Conference, Senior Vice President and CFO of VF Corporation Bob Shearer discussed how the outdoor division of VF Corp continued to show profitability despite an overall slowing of the economy. Mr. Shearer identifies TNF’s biggest challenge not with economic fluctuations but with staying on top of new technology and product development. Mr. Shearer says “we’re never satisfied with what we have at The North Face. We’re always looking for that next new (technological breakthrough)… more than anything else it’s just absolute devotion to having the best product out there.”

 

It is often said that imitation is the highest form of flattery. When you are the technological leader you are blueprint for imitation. The North Face isn’t red from blushing; however, it is red from anger over the imitation of its products. TNF products are some of the most counterfeited products on the black market today. Over the past few years The North Face has received multiple multi-million dollar counterfeit lawsuits judgments in its favor. The North Face has over a hundred employees who work on investigating and uncovering these misrepresented goods. For some that is not enough. In 2004 a college student developed a website, www.thenorthfaceguru.com, after being ripped off when he unknowingly purchased a counterfeit TNF jacket. The website has been featured in Business Week; and gives tips, forums, and pictures to help other consumers spot fakes.

 

 

 

 

Reference: 

Casabona, L. (2007, February 2). North Face Gets $7M in Counterfeit Suit. WWD: Women’s Wear Daily, 193(24), 19.

Casabona, L. (2006, March 6). Legal Breifs. WWD: Women’s Wear Daily, 191(47), 31.

Guru, (2008). The North Face Guru. Retrieved October 26, 2008, from The North Face Guru Web site: http://www.thenorthfaceguru.com/

Hawker, Lizzy (2008). The North Face. Retrieved October 26, 2008, from Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia Web site: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_North_Face 

McClintock, M. (2008).VF Corporation at Lehman Brothers Annual Retail Conference – Final. Fair Disclosure Wire (Quarterly Earnings Reports). Conference transcription, Accessed online November 25,2008, from EBSCOhost database Georgia Southern University.

 

 



The Publics

The publics of The North Face are multi-layered; here is a brief overview.

Internal Publics

The VF Corporation Board of Directors

  • Eric Wiseman Chairman, President, and CEO
  • Charles (Chip) Bergh
  • Ursula Fairbairn
  • Barbara Feigin
  • George Fellows
  • Robert Hurst Jr.
  • W. Alan McCollough
  • Clarence Otis Jr.
  • M. Rust Sharp
  • Raymond Viault
  • Juan Ernesto de Bedout

VF Corporation Executives Relevant to TNF

  • Eric Wiseman Chairman, President, and CEO
  • Robert Shearer SVP and CFO

  • Bradley Batten VP, Controller, and CAO

  • Martin Schneider VP CIO

  • Frank Pickard VP and Treasure

  • Cindy Knoebel VP Financial and Corporate Communications, VF Services

  • Ellen Rohde VP Branding Planning

  • Paul Mason Director of Corporate Communications

  • Dave Gatto President, VF Outdoor Americas

The North Face Executives

  • Dave Gatto President
  • Steve Rendle President, Americas
  • Topher Gaylord President, Outdoor International, VF Coporation
  • Dan Templin CFO
  • Joe Flannery VP, Marketing
  • Jim Gerson VP, Research, Development, and Design
  • Todd Spaletto VP, US Sales
  • Patty Pierce Directory, Human Resources
  • Michelle Barth Director, Marketing
  • Sumi Reddy Product Manager, Tekware

The North Face employs about 860 workers across the world.

 

External Publics

The customers of TNF are sprinkled across the outdoor activity spectrum. On one end are the hardcore adventurists that push the limits in the extreme conditions TNF gear was designed for. On the other end of the spectrum are customers who are drawn to TNF products because of emerging fashion trend of wilderness chic. The North Face products are by everybody from explorers to weekend warriors. 

 

 

 

 

References:

Boyd, K. (2007). The North Face, Inc.. International Directory of Company Histories, 78, Retrieved October 23, 2008, from http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_gx5202/is_2007/ai_n19123745/print?tag=artBody;col1

Hawker, Lizzy (2008). The North Face. Retrieved October 26, 2008, from Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia Web site: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_North_Face

The North Face Apparel Corp.(2008). In Hoover’s Company Records – In-depth Records (online ed.), Saint-Laurent: Hoover’s Inc.

V.F. Corporation. (2008). In Hoover’s Company Records – In-depth Records (online ed., Saint-Laurent: Hoover’s Inc. .

 



The 3 P’s of The North Face’s PR Strategy

In the 1984 book “Managing Public Relations” James Grunig and Todd Hunt outlined the four academic models of public relations. With the shift in technology mediums over the past few decades, many organizations that operate within the general public execute a version of the Two-way Symmetric Model of PR. The major concept of the Two-Way Symmetric Model is that there is reciprocity in the exchange of information between the producer and the consumer that facilitates mutual achievement of goals. The North Face is no different than any other modern organization as it creates two-way communication avenues in its PR functions that benefit its customers and its bottom line. The North Face has open dialogue with its customer base in three ways:

 

People:

The North Face sponsors over 50 athletes on alpine climbing, rock climbing, skiing and snowboarding, and endurance running teams. These athletes serve a crucial role in TNF PR platform in two ways. The athletes serve as somewhat of a “stable of guinea pigs;” they can test and rate gear and report back to R&D with suggestions and critiques. In essence The North Face has a focus group that at will it can dialogue with to improve its products.

 

The athletes also serve as sounding board to other customers. The athletes serve as ambassadors of The North Face. Whenever the athletes are on the trail they are always open to suggestions from other outdoor enthusiasts; also, they can demonstrate and explain the benefits of TNF gear. This engagement between corporate athletes and the general public is carried off the trail into retail locations during product demos special events.  

 

Partners:

The North Face has three categories of partners: corporate, technology, and philanthropic. Corporate partners, like the Alpine Club of Canada; the Island Lake Lodge; and the Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort, provide close committed relationships with organizations that allow constant detailed feedback on the products and services of TNF.  Technology partnerships with companies like DuPont, Gore-Tex, and Boa allow The North Face to produce innovative products for its consumers. Partnerships with cutting-edge technology companies allows TNF to incorporate advancements in other industries (e.g. automobile racing, aeronautics, textiles) into solutions for its products and consumers. The philanthropic partnerships, with Global Giving; Leave No Trace; and The Conservation Alliance, promote corporate goodwill and community involvement and encourage dialogue between management and the public.  

 

Presence on the Web:       

As I previously outlined in my blog post Article Review on How Social Media is Changing, the ubiquity of communication technology is changing the way PR is practiced today. The advent of the internet, blogs, wi-fi, mobile devices, networking applications, and the list goes on changes how consumers communicate with corporate America. These new forms of communication mediums allow for a more immediate effective interchange between a corporation and its publics. The North Face has taken advantage of the evolution of communication. The North Face has a community webpage separate from its retail homepage that allows people to read and comment on athletes’ blogs, have general discussion on topics like endurance sports, and preview and discuss the release of upcoming gear. The North Face has also established a presence in social media. From TNF’s homepage there is a link to its Facebook Fan page. The over 19,000 fans can post comments, link to TNF blogs, upload their own videos, and connect with other members who have common interest. Web applications like blogs and Facebook allow TNF management to keep a thumb on the pulse of its brand.

 

 

References:

McClintock, M. (2008).VF Corporation at Lehman Brothers Annual Retail Conference – Final. Fair Disclosure Wire (Quarterly Earnings Reports). Conference transcription, Accessed online November 25,2008, from EBSCOhost database Georgia Southern University.

The North Face, (2008). Get Inspired. Go Explore. . Retrieved December 3, 2008, from The North Face Community Web site: http://tnf.typepad.com/community/

 The North Face, (2008). Never Stop Exploring . Retrieved October 26, 2008, from The North Face Web site: http://www.thenorthface.com/catalog/index.html

The North Face, (2008). The North Face Fan Page. Retrieved November 10, 2008, from Facebook Web site: http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-North-Face/6550003123

 



Knots in the Rope: TNF Company Timeline
December 3, 2008, 6:42 am
Filed under: The North Face Project | Tags: ,

picture121 

References:

Boyd, K. (2007). The North Face, Inc.. International Directory of Company Histories, 78, Retrieved October 23, 2008, from http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_gx5202/is_2007/ai_n19123745/print?tag=artBody;col1

 

 

The North Face, (2008). Never Stop Exploring . Retrieved October 26, 2008, from The North Face Web site: http://www.thenorthface.com/catalog/index.html



From High Altitude: TNF Corporate Overview
December 3, 2008, 5:26 am
Filed under: The North Face Project | Tags: , , ,

The North Face is the leader in developing innovative performance gear for outdoor enthusiast such as mountain climbers, endurance athletes, explorers, and extreme snowboarders and skiers. The company was founded in San Francisco in 1966 by two hiking enthusiast Doug Tompkins and Dick Klopp who opened a small retail location specializing in high-performance climbing and backpacking equipment. Eventually the company evolved into the production and retail powerhouse of outdoor adventure products that it is today.

 

The rise to supremacy in the outdoor apparel market as been just as an arduous and sinuous trek as the trails on the mountains The North Face products are designed for. The 1970’s where a time of company growth and industry leading innovation. The 1980’s where plagued missteps and corporate blunders. By the 1990’s the company was in a time of turnover and transition. At the turn of century The North Face was acquired by The VF Corporation, a Fortune 500 company and the world’s largest apparel manufacture.

 

Today The North Face is headquartered in San Leandro, California and employees about 860 people and garners about $238 million in sales (2005 est.). It senior management team include:

           

Dave Gatto: President

Steve Rendle: President, Americas

Topher Gaylord: President, Outdoor International, VF Coporation

Dan Templin: CFO

Joe Flannery: VP, Marketing 

Jim Gerson: VP, Research, Development, and Design

Todd Spaletto: VP, US Sales

Patty Pierce: Directory, Human Resources

Michelle Barth: Director, Marketing

Sumi Reddy: Product Manager, Tekware

 

 

 

 

References:

Boyd, K. (2007). The North Face, Inc.. International Directory of Company Histories, 78, Retrieved October 23, 2008, from http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_gx5202/is_2007/ai_n19123745/print?tag=artBody;col1

Hawker, Lizzy (2008). The North Face. Retrieved October 26, 2008, from Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia Web site: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_North_Face

The North Face, INC., (2008). Our Story. Retrieved October 26, 2008, from The North Face Web site: http://www.thenorthface.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/TNFAttachmentDisplay?langId=-1&storeId=207&catalogId=10001&attachment=%2Fcorporate%2Fabout_us%2Four_story%2Four_story&type=corporate

The North Face Apparel Corp.(2008). In Hoover’s Company Records – In-depth Records (online ed.), Saint-Laurent: Hoover’s Inc.