Sharkey’s Machine


The North Face Project
December 3, 2008, 8:39 pm
Filed under: PRCA 3331, The North Face Project | Tags: , ,

This page is the culmination of my work analyzing the PR platform of The North Face Inc. The project was done as an assignment conducted through Professor Barbra NixonCorporate PR class at Georgia Southern University. I chose to focus on The North Face (TNF) because of my personal satisfaction in using their products and  their unique insurgence into main stream pop-culture and fashion, even though their products are geared predominately toward a small faction of adventure enthusiast.

 

Table of Contents

 

From High Altitude: TNF Corporate Overview

 

Knots in the Rope: TNF Company Timeline

 

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

 

The Publics

 

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

 

The Summit: Awards and honors of TNF

 

Feel the Vibrations: A Groundswell on The North Face

 

The Corporate Alphorn: TNF Online Newsroom

 

On Belay! Belay On!: Career Opportunities within TNF

 

Climbers, Campers, and Cold-weather lovers: The Community of The North Face

 

Clinging to a Ledge: Crisis within TNF

 

Should I Never Stop Exploring?

 

The Assent of 10 Things You didn’t know about The North Face Power Point Presentation 

 

 

(This post is a duplicate of a similar page ; and  was created to help organize post when using some blog themes)



The Assent of 10 Things You didn’t know about The North Face

This was predominately an oral presentation. Below are my informal speakers notes; some of the information may have been omitted during presentation. As well, some information could have been added. I guess you just had to there.

 

Slide 2:

Doug Tompkins started a retail shop for high end hiking gear. San Fran altitude 150 above sea level

 

Slide 3:

1975 Geodesic Dome Tent Buckminster Fuller architect, inventor, engineer, EPCOT : Dissipates Stress, Hemispherical is the most efficient way to enclose space, aerodynamic shape sheds wind the best – Revolutionized back packing tent making, First to include flexible aluminum poles. Also, in 1975 first to develop shingled construction and synthetic insulation sleeping bags.

 

Slide 4:

The North Face logo was inspired by the Half Dome in Yosemite, revered as one of the greatest big walls in the world.

 

Slide 5:

World’s largest apparel company: Also own Lee, Rustler, Majestic, Eagle Creek Travel Gear, Aura, Red Kap, John Varvatos, Chef Designs, The Force, Lucy, Napapijri, Eastpack

 

Slide 6:

Products in 3500 Retail Locations. 30 TNF stores are in 17 states; Atlanta 35 A West Paces Ferry Road

 

Slide 7:

Together with JanSport, TNF sister company they manufacture nearly half of all small back packs sold in the US.

 

Slide 8:

Joe Flannery VP of Marketing: TNF wants to have their brand on the majority of products in your pack. This as lead to an increase focus in peripheral categories: footwear, underwear, accessories.

 

Slide 9:

Launched widget in November 2007 on iGoogle “Video of the Day” Give users a reason to come to the website. The widget is planning to be expanded to social networking sites. Sarah Gallagher senior manager of interactive marketing: “Social Networking is evolving into one the most dominant paradigms for how people interact online, and how content is distributed. To keep up, social networking will need to become a prime platform for us to interact with potential customers.”

The realization of this huge for me or anyone interested corporate PR with TNF. They are just coming into social media, and need people to monitor and develop strategies and profiles on sites like twitter or facebook.

 

Slide 10:

Showcases 20 to 30 expeditions from around the world. Daily video journal. Downloadable 2 -3 minute snippets. Filmed in HD by the athletes. This along with live streaming webcast are more cost effective. Joe Flannery VP of Marketing :“The only time it (backcountry snowboard competitions) is profitable for that to be on television is Saturday afternoons in winter at three o’clock on NBC, when anyone who is interested in snowboarding is out snowboarding.”

 

Slide 11:

A website was created in the winter of 2004 by a college student aggravated by purchase of a counterfeit North Face item, to educate consumers on how to shop smart, particularly online.

On March 26, 2006 an improved layout was launched with Whitelist and Blacklist sections to report the good and bad E-Bay vendors.

In August 2007, Business Week interviewed the owner and featured the site in one of their articles.

 

Slide 12:

Handsome Devil



Should I Never Stop Exploring?
December 3, 2008, 2:26 pm
Filed under: The North Face Project | Tags: , , , , ,

The North Face corporate slogan is “Never Stop Exploring.” Should I  take them up on it and see where TNF takes me? After conducting my research, Professor Nixon poses the question “Are you more or less likely to peruse a job with your company?”  I guess my answer would have to be neither. I am intrigued about the possibility of working for TNF. I always said that it would be one of the many fish bowl companies that I would try to land with my ping pong ball resume.  I have attraction to TNF because I am a firm believer in their products, I enjoy many of the adventure lifestyle activities, and I have the assumption that they have somewhat of laid-back corporate culture. However, I have no idea what role I would like within the organization. I can see myself doing a wide variety of task; I just don’t know which if any I WANT to do. Curse of a college student, I guess. I still have intentions of applying for some position with the company. I have been energized by many of things I found out about TNF; like its unyielding commitment to innovation. However, I have also been discouraged by some aspects too; like the TNF failure to maximize its potential in its communication functions. Overall I would say the ebbs and flows in my propensity toward TNF have resulted in a net sum zero. I am still just as enthusiastic or apathetic about a possible career with TNF depending on the day.

Ultimately as long I can find a job I don’t mind going to everyday in location that something to offer I will be happy. Whether I am working a Fortune 500 company or a 5 brother family business an opportunity at happiness is all I can ask for.



Clinging to a Ledge: Crisis within TNF

The North Face underwent a tumultuous time in 1999. The company was under attack by its CEO in his attempts to take The North Face private. James Fifield and his leverage-buyout-firm, Fifield and Leonard Green and Partners, attempted to buy the controlling majority of TNF at $17 and remove the company from public trading. The buyout was denied by shareholders who felt the price per share was undervalued. Just a few days after the buy-out proposal was announced TNF disclosed that it may have misrepresented its 1997 and 1998 financial statements. The company eventually divulged that it had overstated 1998 sales by $16 million, or 6%, and earnings by $6 million, or 42%. The adjusted sales for 1998 where $247 million dollars, with $8 million in profit. The company also said that 1997 sales had been overstated by $5 million and earnings by dilated $3 million. The preponderance of accounting irregularities by TNF impelled shareholders to bring about class action lawsuits against the company claiming that it had purposely exaggerated its financial fillings in order to drive up share price.  Amongst all of the turmoil the CEO James Fifield left the company and TNF faced Chapter 11 bankruptcy. It was then, that VF Corporation swopped in and acquired the fledgling outfitter. The VF Corp purchased The North Face for $24.5 million in 2000. The nation’s largest apparel provider purchased TNF at a substantial discount (90%) of its yearly sales ($240 million). The North Face would go on to post losses $100 million on $238 million in sales in 1999. However over the next few years with VF Corps influx of capital and restructuring its business functions, The North Face returned to profitability. In 2003 the company showed a 34% growth and a 61% growth in 2004 cementing itself as the cornerstone of the VF Corps outdoor lifestyle sector.

The North Face was able to overcome financial and leadership crisis by yielding to a company that had a proven track record in apparel manufacturing and distribution. The VF Corporation not only had the capital to bail out TNF, but it also had the expertise and managerial skills to reorganize the operational structure of TNF to get it back not only to sustainability but to profitability. The acquisition of TNF was somewhat opportunistic and predatory, but it has proved to be mutually beneficial to both organizations.

 

 

References:
 
Boyd, K. (2008). The North Face Apparel Corp.. Retrieved October 26, 2008, from Answers.com Web site: http://www.answers.com/topic/the-north-face-inc
 
Kapner, S. (2008, March 14). How Fashion’s VF Superchargers its Brands. Fortune, [157(7)], [108-110].

Morris, K. (1999, June 21). Egg All Over North Face. Business Week, online.

Peltz, J. Jeans Giant VF to Buy Outdoor Gear Maker. (2000, April 08). Los Angeles Times, p. C1.



Climbers, Campers, and Cold-weather lovers: The Community of The North Face

The North Face products inspire community. Whether its family and friends coming together around a campfire using a TNF Trailhead 6 cabin tent, or advance climbers discussing the advantages of their TNF Solar Flare – 20° sleeping bag. A place where outdoor enthusiast of all levels can come together is The North Face Community page. Athletes post journal blogs of their latest expeditions, tips on how to effectively use TNF gear, and posts on general adventure discussion. Community members can read and respond to athlete post; also you can find people with similar interest. The page is categorized by blog topics into Alpine Climbing, Endurance, Expedition Dispatches, Gear Watch, and A year-in-the-life blog of climber James Pearson. If you don’t like going to a blog every day to see if there is new content you can subscribe to the RSS feed, or download the Google or Yahoo widget and have new content pushed to your reader when it becomes available. You can also try your hand at the life of TNF athlete by registering for TNF Endurance Challenge, a series of foot races that take place throughout the year and vary in distance from 10K to 50 miles. While you are training for your big run you can subscribe to Pandora internet radio station developed by TNF, and listen to the same music that inspires TNF athletes. On the community page you can also signup for an email newsletter and get exclusive content; such as discounts, new product information, and TNF wallpapers.

The community page is great page in function, but it lacks in effectiveness. I only found the community  page by happen stance; you have to click on a blog post on TNF’s Facebook page to be directed to the community site. There are no links from TNF’s corporate retail homepage to TNF’s community page. Many of the same blogs, podcast, and press articles are available through the Explore tab on the corporate page; but the information is not as well organized and the page is less appealing than TNF community page.  



On Belay! Belay On!: Career Opportunities within TNF

When mountaineering a person climbing or rappelling will shout “On Belay!” to signify that they are ready to traverse the rope; in response the belayer (anchor person) if ready will retort “Belay On!” Starting your career in PR can seem like climbing a mountain, and while you may ready to shout “On Belay!” there may not be the echo of “Belay On!” from PR arms of The North Face.

 

The North Face Corporate

There are four jobs currently listed on the TNF Careers page that have a strong relation to PR, corporate communication, or marketing. The jobs that are currently listed are: an eCommerce Senior Merchandising Manager, Retail Marketing Manager, Copywriter, and Merchandise Coordinator-Field. There are more jobs listed that entail some peripheral PR functions most of them are in retail  such as a product specialist, assistant store manager, or sales associate.

 

The VF Corporation: Parent Company to TNF

Even less communication job opportunities are available through the holding company online career page. A few human resources positions are available, and a few merchandising positions are available; but it unclear what if any interaction one would have with The North Face.

Ruder Finn, Inc.: The North Face PR Agency

Ruder Finn does not list specific job openings, in order not pigeon-hole itself into looking for certain job candidates. The agency is open to new creative individuals who can submit their resume via email at careers@ruderfinn.com. However, new college graduates can apply to Ruder Finn’s acclaimed Executive Training Program; after the four month program there is the possibility of gaining a position within the agency perhaps on The North Face account. 


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.