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The North Face marketing fiasco in Dolomites

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livellozero 06 Aug 2018

The North Face Mountain festival in Dolomites during last weekend has generated its good number of controversy and criticism

https://livellozero.net/en/the-north-face-zeni-bivouac-marketing-fiasco-in-dolomites/

1
 Wft 06 Aug 2018
In reply to livellozero:

Next level crag swag, no victim there, take it and run. 

 DerwentDiluted 06 Aug 2018
In reply to livellozero:

Good to see TNF branching out into outdoor gear.

1
In reply to livellozero:

I recently read this from James Pearson and Caroline Ciavaldini - 

https://www.wildcountry.com/en-gb/slow-travel

Seemed like a pretty admirable environmental stance to take - I wonder how they square that with the behaviour of their major sponsors, who, taking the OP's link at face value, clearly don't give a shit about the outdoor environment.

Put it this way - if you want to be seen as an environmental role model, you might be concerned about the carbon footprint of helicoptering your old gear 2000m up into the Dolomites so TNF can flog it to climbing fanboys and girls.

 beardy mike 06 Aug 2018
In reply to livellozero:

I'm in the Dolomites at the moment and we are getting daily thunderstorms, and I don't mean small ones. The other day someone died after the Larch tree they were standing beneath was struck, the next day there was a fire further down our valley, and during the storms it's like armageddon. It's pretty disgusting that they removed all the facilities and locked the door just so they can run some sort of stunt. The primary reason for huts is shelter from storms...

In reply to livellozero:

"Athletes legacy": you couldn't make this shit up!

 TMM 06 Aug 2018
In reply to Robert Durran:

> "Athletes legacy": you couldn't make this shit up!

I actually felt a little queasy reading that marketing wank. Really nauseating stuff.

 asteclaru 06 Aug 2018
In reply to Robert Durran:

I take it you won't be bidding on Honnold's old jacket?

£623 with 7 hours to go. That's just mental.

 trouserburp 06 Aug 2018
In reply to asteclaru:

Not bad, how much for his sweaty nut funk underpants from the Chad desert trip?

 SDM 06 Aug 2018
In reply to planetmarshall:

It is obviously better that they take part in schemes like the carbon offsetting than carry on going all over the world without the offsetting but it really is a drop in the ocean. Anyone who really cared that much about their environmental footprint couldn't justify doing the amount of travel that pro climbers do.

It is a bit like the person who fits environmentally friendly LED lights in their home only to reboil the kettle multiple times per day and then driving to work with a 4 litre V8. 

In reply to trouserburp:

> Not bad, how much for his sweaty nut funk underpants from the Chad desert trip?

I reckon even a hint of brown on his underpants from soloing Freerider would be worth six figures. Proper athlete legacy shit.

In reply to planetmarshall:

> I recently read this from James Pearson and Caroline Ciavaldini - 

> https://www.wildcountry.com/en-gb/slow-travel

> Seemed like a pretty admirable environmental stance to take - I wonder how they square that with the behaviour of their major sponsors, who, taking the OP's link at face value, clearly don't give a shit about the outdoor environment.

I think it's written into pro contracts these days that you have to do at least one mea culpa blog post about how you accept you are part of the problem with litter/overcrowding/the environment/glamourising countries with dodgy politics. 500 words, bit of hand wringing, not sure what we can do, we destroy the things we love, I feel so privileged ya da ya da. Job done.

> Put it this way - if you want to be seen as an environmental role model, you might be concerned about the carbon footprint of helicoptering your old gear 2000m up into the Dolomites so TNF can flog it to climbing fanboys and girls.

The "optics" are awful but it's a storm in a tea cup, helicopters are flying all over mountain areas, huts/campsites/roads are sometimes over crowded to the point you can't get in so while they are contributing to the problem they are not *the* problem and it gives the rest of us a convenient whipping boy to deflect from our own contribution. We all need to take responsibility, I feel tremendously privileged to travel to these areas but recognise I'm part of the problem, what can be done, mea culpa, ya da ya da .

 galpinos 06 Aug 2018
In reply to Tyler:

As much as all the environmental bits and bobs show TNF up as total hypocrites the main issue I have, as per Mike Kann's post, is the shutting of the shelter, to flog clothes, without telling anyone. That could have gone properly pear shaped.

Wiley Coyote2 06 Aug 2018
In reply to livellozero:

TNF have form for this sort of rubbish. Not life-threatening like closing a refuge but I remember when they plastered TNF flags and banners all over the approaches to crags during the Kalymnos Climbing Festival. OK Kaly - and especially the crags above Massouri - are never  going to be a wilderness experience but it still looked pretty crass and stupid behaviour for an outdoor brand. On the plus side one of their guys did give up a lift when we were hitching back from Arginonta after we missed the bus.

In reply to Tyler:

> ...so while they are contributing to the problem they are not *the* problem and it gives the rest of us a convenient whipping boy to deflect from our own contribution. We all need to take responsibility...

Oh sure, it's like sitting in a traffic jam complaining about the traffic. A key difference though is that I accept my own hypocrisy in this, and I don't write blog posts eulogising my own environmental credentials with one hand while accepting money from the likes of TNF with the other.

 

Post edited at 12:23
 Arms Cliff 06 Aug 2018
In reply to planetmarshall:

> I recently read this from James Pearson and Caroline Ciavaldini - 

> https://www.wildcountry.com/en-gb/slow-travel

> Seemed like a pretty admirable environmental stance to take

 

Sorry but this seems just like some greenwashing to come up with something to make a video about to sell some more kit to me.

 

In reply to Arms Cliff:

> Sorry but this seems just like some greenwashing to come up with something to make a video about to sell some more kit to me.

Indeed, hence the "Seemed like..."

In reply to Arms Cliff:

> Sorry but this seems just like some greenwashing to come up with something to make a video about to sell some more kit to me.

Just take my frikkin' money for Honold's undies already!

In reply to livellozero:

Closing a bivi hut to turn it into some bizarre exclusive shop for over a month is utter crap. Failing to widely publicise that they have done so is unforgiveable.

Both TNF and whoever authorised their use of the hut should be ashamed, and if anyone had come unstuck as a result they should face harsh consequences.

 Arms Cliff 06 Aug 2018
In reply to Tyler:

> Just take my frikkin' money for Honold's undies already!

I'm after the long johns from the Fitz traverse

 

 Arms Cliff 06 Aug 2018
In reply to planetmarshall:

Apologies, I think I misread the emphasis of this bit of your post. 

It's a real shame to see North Face making such bad moves environmentally, especially considering the work Doug Tompkins went on to do after founding the company.

 andyman666999 07 Aug 2018
In reply to livellozero:

Funny but I’ve never really seen TNF as an outdoor brand really. Generally see the logo mostly on people who I wouldn’t associate with being outdoors. I really see it as a fashion brand - this sort of debacle just re enforces that.  Is their gear any good anyway??

Post edited at 17:07
4
 tjdodd 07 Aug 2018
In reply to andyman666999:

I agree with the fashion brand comment.  It is a shame as some of their gear is very good.  I think you just need to look for the more specialist clothing that people in the street would not wear.  Some softshell trousers I had a few years ago were great.

 Doug 07 Aug 2018
In reply to andyman666999:

>  Is their gear any good anyway??

25-30 years it was very good, although expensive & difficult to find in the UK. But since the original owner sold it, much of their stuff is more 'fashion' than function

Post edited at 17:31
In reply to andyman666999:

> Funny but I’ve never really seen TNF as an outdoor brand really. Generally see the logo mostly on people who I wouldn’t associate with being outdoors. I really see it as a fashion brand - this sort of debacle just re enforces that.

They have a history and range the equal of most outdoor clothing brands, they're just better than most others at selling to non-outdoor people.

> Is their gear any good anyway??

Yes

2
 beardy mike 07 Aug 2018
In reply to Tyler:

Can't say I'd agree that the gear is good for what it costs. When you compare to Patagonia which is similar they are worlds apart.

 andyman666999 07 Aug 2018
In reply to beardy mike:

That’s the same experience I have had. 

 kevin stephens 07 Aug 2018
In reply to livellozero:

Looks like TNF are getting some flak for this on their facebook page, worth a read before the comments get taken down

https://www.facebook.com/thenorthface.europe/?brand_redir=6550003123

 

 1234None 07 Aug 2018
In reply to livellozero:

I had a look at this just now and, while it does seem like North Face are (rightly) getting a lot of flak, what about the people who probably took their money to let them embark on this daft project?  Yes, I read that NF didn't stick to the terms, which is pretty crap, but even if they had, it would still be daft and the hut owners must've given them permission, doubtless in exchange for a hefty wad of cash...If they are willing to flog their huts off (temporarily) to the highest bidder, it seems to me like they should be getting just as much flak as North Face.

 beardy mike 07 Aug 2018
In reply to 1234None:

Well the hut is owned by the Italian Alpine Club (CAI) who have apparently charged them a pretty hefty wad. I agree, it's pretty ill advised but then I suppose at least the money is going to something worthwhile, whereas for TNF it's just marketing to earn more money to pay the shareholders...

 jam 08 Aug 2018
In reply to andyman666999:

Amongst more casual outdoors enthusiasts, TNF is seen as a solid outdoors brand. I led a casual group to the Dolomites recently, and people were buying TNF jackets despite my (overly subtle) attempts to steer them to other brands.

They do make some good stuff still- expedition tents (not many other companies make massive expedition domes), and their load hauler duffels are great. 

Post edited at 05:51
 Goucho 08 Aug 2018
In reply to Arms Cliff:

> Apologies, I think I misread the emphasis of this bit of your post. 

> It's a real shame to see North Face making such bad moves environmentally, especially considering the work Doug Tompkins went on to do after founding the company.

Around 80% of their business now comes from the casual leisure/fashion market. 

The climbing market is just a sprat to catch mackerel, and their sponsored athletes are just a cost effective PR exercise to maintain an illusion that they are still a cutting edge outdoor clothing brand. 

Mountain Hardwear are already heading down the same road - especially now Topher Gaylord (ex TNF CEO) is now in charge - and Arcteryx will probably follow suit at some point. It's where the big money is, and these businesses are now run by shareholders.

Post edited at 08:46
In reply to Goucho:

> Mountain Hardwear are already heading down the same road.

Weren't they, somewhat ironically, set up by people from TNF who were disillusioned with the commercial/fashion route they had headed down?

 

 Goucho 08 Aug 2018
In reply to Robert Durran:

> Weren't they, somewhat ironically, set up by people from TNF who were disillusioned with the commercial/fashion route they had headed down?

Yes.

But then someone comes along waiving a big cheque with lots of zero's in your face, and you think 'hell yes', that'll do nicely

 Arms Cliff 08 Aug 2018
In reply to Goucho:

> Around 80% of their business now comes from the casual leisure/fashion market. 

> The climbing market is just a sprat to catch mackerel, and their sponsored athletes are just a cost effective PR exercise to maintain an illusion that they are still a cutting edge outdoor clothing brand. 

It would be interesting to know these splits for Patagucci, Finisterre etc, that retain some environmental credibility whilst catering to a large market. Although I guess these both may be a lot smaller then TNF in terms of sales.

I think the sponsored athletes thing is true for the majority of companies, from Five Ten up to Team Sky. Certainly the Arcteryx outlet in Vancouver was full of tourists buying softshell trousers to wear around town, rather then cutting edge alpinists looking to save a few grams on their next ascent!

Post edited at 09:17
 galpinos 08 Aug 2018
In reply to Robert Durran:

> Weren't they, somewhat ironically, set up by people from TNF who were disillusioned with the commercial/fashion route they had headed down?

It was Sierra Designs, not TNF.

 Fredt 08 Aug 2018
In reply to livellozero:

God forbid Regatta head down this slippery slope, my brand loyalty would be severely tested.

 Goucho 08 Aug 2018
In reply to Arms Cliff:

> It would be interesting to know these splits for Patagucci, Finisterre etc, that retain some environmental credibility whilst catering to a large market. Although I guess these both may be a lot smaller then TNF in terms of sales.

> I think the sponsored athletes thing is true for the majority of companies, from Five Ten up to Team Sky. Certainly the Arcteryx outlet in Vancouver was full of tourists buying softshell trousers to wear around town, rather then cutting edge alpinists looking to save a few grams on their next ascent!

I think it's very challenging in today's retail climate, to survive (and more crucially, make a profit) out of relatively small niche markets - especially given the discount pricing consumers now expect.

If you're an outdoor clothing brand, then you've either got to have a business model and strategy to stay small (lifestyle business) or tap into the much larger and more lucrative general leisure/fashion market.

Doing the latter while still maintaining credibility is the hard part - especially if you're owned by of a holding company, where profit and cash flow are king.

ME and Rab seem to doing a pretty good job in this respect, but having a strong brand legacy is no guarantee of survival in todays cutthroat retail sector.

It will be interesting to see how things pan out for companies like Jottnar and Norrona etc?

 

 galpinos 08 Aug 2018
In reply to Goucho:

Norrona has a turnover of something like 50 million euro at a guess. I'm not sure Jottnar is quite on the same scale.

 IanMcC 08 Aug 2018
In reply to Goucho:

Is there really a CEO called Topher Gaylord? 

Jings!

Lifeismeaningless 08 Aug 2018
In reply to livellozero:

It's perfectly possible for a large company to make good gear, we just like to buy from smaller companies because it makes us feel like we know something all the 'tourists' don't, to some extent at least. I have to say I am thoroughly disappointed with TNF stores but they do sell some good stuff if you can find it. I actually don't find TNF that expensive compared to some others, and they also have a surprisingly good returns/testing department (for when your waterproof isn't waterproof). I definitely take a small amount of satisfaction watching people wander round Edinburgh in the rain in TNF down jackets but it's not to say they aren't as good as my Rab or ME kit and let's face it, I bought their stuff partly due to fashion, it's just a different fashion to the TNF target market...

On their marketing, very poorly executed 

 

1
 Goucho 08 Aug 2018
In reply to IanMcC:

> Is there really a CEO called Topher Gaylord? 

> Jings!

Yep

In reply to IanMcC:

> Is there really a CEO called Topher Gaylord? 

Sounds like the baddy from some sort of spoof camp version of Doctor Who!

 

In reply to livellozero:

#neverstopexploiting

 Roberttaylor 08 Aug 2018
In reply to livellozero:

I live for the day when hipsters discover the ronhill leggings and buffalo jacket combo.

 Arms Cliff 08 Aug 2018
In reply to IanMcC:

Also previously not an uncommon first name in the US. 

In reply to Natalie Berry - UKC:

Nice find, I've just ordered myself a sweet new T-shirt for £60

 Roberttaylor 08 Aug 2018
In reply to Natalie Berry - UKC:

I must go... I'm needed in Milan.

In reply to IanMcC:

> Is there really a CEO called Topher Gaylord? 

> Jings!

There was a 1980s American gymnast called Mitch Gaylord, who pioneered some sort of gymnastic manouevre(s), possibly on the rings, called the Gaylord and Gaylord II.

Cue athletic young men around the USA hammering the rings really hard in order to try to nail the Gaylord.....

 

 

 

In reply to livellozero:

This is just such a load b*llocks, I can't believe TNF can fack up in such a major scale, it really goes to show how out of touch they are and how gullible their athletes are. Even more incredible is that Conrad Anker let this go through being the top dog in the Athlete liason. They are all trained like monkeys to churn a constant stream of crap on social media without actually question the campaign at hand. I mean, if you are a TNF climber up there in the valley, sure you will feel bad that it's been closed down to everyone else? Anyway I don't know the ins and outs of how this went down, but it goes to show how far removed TNF is from climbing and they'll do anything to sell more jackets to city lawyers (I mean, what climber wears TNF???)

1
In reply to beardy mike:

In both quality and attitude.

 andyman666999 08 Aug 2018
In reply to Ramon Marin:

Nicely said

 beardy mike 08 Aug 2018
In reply to Ramon Marin: somehow i very much doubt that Conrad had much to do with this, more likely a gnarly bro named Brad sat in a corporate office somewhere came up with the idea whilst sipping a triple mokka-lokka-chino with rxtra cinnamon and spice after musing how to trim his beard next month.

 

1
In reply to beardy mike:

Conrad was there, following their IG stories it sounded he was coaching the athletes in content generation for this Pinnacle story, that’s what I gathered anyways. 

In reply to Ramon Marin:

> .......... coaching the athletes in content generation......................

Is this really what it's come to.........?

 Misha 09 Aug 2018
In reply to Goucho:

Arcteryx is making inroads into the mass market (not a bad thing in itself) but their gear is actually very good or even industry leading. 

 Misha 09 Aug 2018
In reply to galpinos:

> Norrona has a turnover of something like 50 million euro at a guess.

That would be about 100 jackets a year then. Most expensive brand around? Must be between them, Haglofs and Mammut... The forex doesn’t help of course. 

In reply to livellozero:

#brandsnobs

 bensilvestre 09 Aug 2018
In reply to Lifeismeaningless:

Sadly I see Rab going the TNF route. They sort of are already. Build quality has gone massively downhill in the past few years, and increasingly they seem to be a fashion brand with a few lingering quality products (more than TNF, granted, and their sleeping bags are very good.) Obviously they have realised that fashion is what makes them the money. Which is sort of fair enough. But it's a shame, as they used to be really good. 

Lifeismeaningless 09 Aug 2018
In reply to bensilvestre:

I wouldn't know about the quality to be honest as I only have a handful of bits of theirs but could their rise in the popular/fashion market be because they have historically been cheaper than some of the really desirable brands but the gear is comparable? Gets them a good rep for value for money, and recommended by shops/forums. That and they have a couple of bits of kit that are 'genre defining' like the microlight alpine jacket, which seems to be the best way to make money as an outdoors brand.

 

Part of the problem with more mainstream brands is probably the perception of poor quality rather than reality, the top end TNF stuff is as good as anything else, they just sell lower end stuff as well, very careful not to be too much of a brand snob about this sort of thing!

 GarethSL 09 Aug 2018
In reply to Misha:

> That would be about 100 jackets a year then. Most expensive brand around? Must be between them, Haglofs and Mammut... The forex doesn’t help of course. 

They also make children's wear and are sold in pretty much every high-street sport shop here... So its impossible to take them as a brand seriously.

In fact, if we could all just ignore Norrøna please, maybe they'll just go away.

In reply to Robert Durran:

Yes it has unfortunately, it's the athletes main job, depends on which contract they have

In reply to bensilvestre:

I wouldn't know about Rab, they've haven't had a major marketing fiasco yet. But growth doesn't intrinsically mean a bad brand. There are not many examples, but there's a way to be big and responsible at the same time. Patagonia comes to mind. Unfortunately big f*ck ups like this TNF are needed to make them realize that it can be very damaging for their brand and therefore build a better stewardship, specially towards the environment. Ironically, if you look at the TNF UK feed is full of comments from people encouraging them to do the same Pinnacle project in the UK, it goes to show that hardly any customers are actually climbers or couldn't care less about brand stewardship or the environment, they are totally oblivious to the impact. But I guess if you are a city lawyer why would you care anyways. I just hope they don't get any ideas of taking over a bothy and closing a valley here in UK

 bensilvestre 09 Aug 2018
In reply to Lifeismeaningless:

My experience of Rab products was that 7-8 years ago everything was bomber, but in the past 4-5 years things have gone down hill, most noticeably cheap zips and poor stitching, especially stitching on less crucial areas (which obviously arent crucial but its annoying). I might be making it up but I feel like the products with stitched on logos tend to be higher quality than the print on ones. Different factories? I don't think there's anything wrong with selling for fashion, and I expect those products to have worse build quality, but if that creeps into the specialist products then that is a shame. I havent bought rab in a couple of years though, since noticing this decline, so cant speak for recently 

 NottsRich 09 Aug 2018
In reply to livellozero:

Anyone know if the shelter was always red, or has it been painted (and stickered) just for this?

 galpinos 09 Aug 2018
In reply to NottsRich:

Painted and stickered for this.

In reply to NottsRich:

It's always been red but I believe they gave it a new lick of paint according to the report.

 Misha 09 Aug 2018
In reply to bensilvestre:

Have Rab ever made really good gear other than sleeping bags and down jackets? I’ve always thought of all their other gear as pretty average. Not rubbish but hardly Arcteryx. 

 steve taylor 09 Aug 2018
In reply to GarethSL:

> They also make children's wear and are sold in pretty much every high-street sport shop here... So its impossible to take them as a brand seriously.

> In fact, if we could all just ignore Norrøna please, maybe they'll just go away.

From the look of their website, it looks like they've disappeared - none of the links I checked actually work.

 Simon Caldwell 10 Aug 2018
In reply to Misha:

Arcteryx make the worst chalk bag in the history of the world, a perfect example of design over function. But good if you'd like the contents of your rucksack to be a bit whiter.

https://arcteryx.com/gb/en/shop/aperture-chalk-bag---small

 d_b 10 Aug 2018
In reply to Misha:

Their VR jackets were brilliant value for money when they first came out, then they doubled in price.

In reply to GarethSL:

> In fact, if we could all just ignore Norrøna please, maybe they'll just go away.

My only experience of them has been with trousers, and they make fantastic trousers (and importantly, fantastic colourful trousers). When these ones die I'll be replacing them with an identical pair.

 Boogs 11 Aug 2018
In reply to Natalie Berry - UKC:

not sure I'd trust any of those quickdraws  .  .  

Amazing hair & really impressive cheekbones though I'll give 'em that . 

 GDes 11 Aug 2018
In reply to planetmarshall:

That wild country slow travel thing seems to be ineffective tokenism at best, and utter bullcrap at worse. Asking an air hostess to fill your bottle with water instead of using a plastic cup. Really? That makes it OK to go on multiple flights per year. I found it to be a sickeningly patronising way of attempting to justify something that they clearly know is a really unsustainable way of living  

 Wee Davie 11 Aug 2018
In reply to livellozero:

This shit show just shows you how much the fake plastic insta thang is starting to swamp over the real thing.

 Timmd 11 Aug 2018
In reply to Tyler:

> so while they are contributing to the problem they are not *the* problem and it gives the rest of us a convenient whipping boy to deflect from our own contribution. We all need to take responsibility, I feel tremendously privileged to travel to these areas but recognise I'm part of the problem, what can be done, mea culpa, ya da ya da .

Which is why I've never flown on holiday. When a return flight to New York in carbon terms emits (per person) more than the estimated amount of carbon an individual can get away with emitting per year (clumsily put but it's late), I couldn't look islanders losing their homes to rising seas in the eye and tell them it was worth it, for me getting to fly to somewhere cool. 

 

Post edited at 23:19
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