Growing an American Brand in China
How an outdoor retail company found a new Asian audience through digital and brick-and-mortar shops
In the US, many know The North Face as an innovative, technically advanced outdoor apparel, equipment, and footwear company. For more than 40 years, the company has partnered with the world’s highest-achieving climbers, skiers, snowboarders, mountaineers, alpinists, and endurance athletes to test its products’ boundaries.
Once the brand was established in Asia, The North Face wanted to expand its presence as a market leader in the region. The company partnered with IDEO to develop ways that The North Face brand story could resonate more deeply with consumers in China.
In the Western Hemisphere, The North Face brand has long represented an active, sporty lifestyle that’s filled with challenges and adventures. But appreciating “the great outdoors” in China is less about extreme sports and more about connecting with nature in a communal, spiritual way. This research-based insight led the team to identify new opportunities for The North Face to better target its messaging.
During the design research phase, Chinese participants selected images of what being outdoors looked and felt like.
Designers found a key opportunity: Encourage Chinese consumers to escape the pressures of hectic city life by enjoying the freedom and renewal that comes with spending time outdoors.
Today, as people find less time to enjoy the benefits that lie just beyond China’s large cities, there’s a tangible desire to return to the outdoors to refresh, reassess, and renew oneself. The North Face aims to help consumers do exactly that.
To create a compelling new brand vision for The North Face in China, the team’s design research tapped into preferred Chinese ways of spending time outdoors.
The North Face brand’s new messaging links “old nature” and “new outdoors” through a combination of digital, retail, and interactive community channels.
IDEO’s insights and creative brief provided the essential brand story for The North Face in China and informed the tagline of the company’s current marketing campaign, “Go Wild” (去野).
IDEO also collaborated with the company on designs and prototypes for a new digital platform and an updated store-within-a-store merchandising display. The digital community aims to attract newcomers and connect them with more experienced outdoors enthusiasts and clubs. As the platform evolves, it will help aspiring adventurers plan trips, learn skills, and share their experiences through photos.
The retail community space aims to integrate this digital community with in-store shoppers and an effort to turn the “buy-a-product moment” into a “join-the-outdoors moment.” Both will be integrated to provide a holistic brand experience in China centered on nature and community.