The Challenge

The North Face had enjoyed ample growth, seeing its revenue increase about 10-fold since 2003. But by 2018, the brand’s growth numbers in EMEA had started to slow down, the outdoor market was not really growing as a whole and competition was on the rise, from both other high-end brands (Patagonia, Arc’teryx) as well as value players such as Decathlon. It was clear: The North Face needed to come up with another approach that would catapult it into the next growth phase.

A full strategic reset of brand, purpose and strategy

The North Face started by recognizing the need for a complete strategic overhaul. It also took a year off: the brand downsized its ambitions for one year (and one year only!) in order to get ready for the next phase of hyper growth. This meant aligned with the executive team, board members and wider investor community.

First, the North Face went back to basics. A thorough review of the current state of its business, how it came to be successful in the first place, and the core strengths of the brand and the company that it wanted to build on for the future. A continued focus on exploration and innovation had been at the root of its success for the previous 50 years, and should form the basis for the next 50 years.

Then, we went to work on what those next 50 years should look like. Or rather, the next 5: as who can tell what the world will look like half a century from now? We defined the goals and ambitions for The North Face, both financial and non-financial. Identified opportunities and threats. And developed the key strategic questions to be answered and where to play and how to win choices to be made.

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The Process

The journey that The North Face embarked on, was not for the faint-of-hearted. It required vision and courage. From redefining its core in outdoor, to identifying new market segments in mountain lifestyle, outdoor training and running and urban exploration, to developing direct-to-consumer channels, to a complete overhaul of product design and marketing approach: no topic was avoided.

  • Internal and External Analysis and Opportunity Identification

  • Key Strategic Questions and Strategic Framework

  • Where to Play and How to Win Choices

  • New Target Consumers and New Market Segments

  • Partnering with Strategic Accounts and a Focus on Digital Channels

  • New Product & Portfolio Strategy & Design Language

  • A Focus on Direct-to-Consumer with Owned Retail and E-Commerce as well as Partners

  • A Relentless Focus on Strategy Execution

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Alignment of the entire organization behind joint goals and objectives

Once the direction was clear, the work really got started. The entire team was involved in bringing the strategy to life. Through a series of presentations, interactive workshops, and team goal setting days, the North Face’s strategy was cascaded throughout the organization. At the end of this exercise, every team members goals were aligned to the overall strategic framework. Every team member’s role was clear. And furthermore, the right organizational structure, capabilities and funding were being put in place to ensure in-market success.

But this did not stop with headquarter staff. Also external stakeholders and local teams were involved. The North Face’s management team went on a roadshow and introduced the new approach to board members, investors and key customers. In addition, the executive team travelled to over a dozen local offices to involve the teams on the ground.


Annual Growth Rate

The North Face accelerated into the next growth phase. And it was sustainable, year-on-year, growth.


Outdoor Brand Globally

The North Face consolidated its position as the number one outdoor brand in the world. While expanding into new market segments.


Growth in DTC Channels

While also partnering with key retailers, The North Face created a win-win situation by positioning its owned retail and e-commerce channels to boost its brand around the region.


The North Face successfully re-energized its core in outdoor. By doubling down on exploration, the North Face indeed became The Explorer Brand once more. By driving innovation, segmentation and newness, it retook the leadership position in the premium categories. And by using its athlete team, it was able to tell authentic, inspiring stories. All this gave the brand a license to play in other segments, as well.

Revitalizing Outdoor

Almost single-handedly, The North Face injected new energy into the outdoor category. By focusing on younger consumers in brand and marketing, restyling its products, telling inspiring stories and developing new go-to-market channels, the brand was able to connect with new audiences and re-energize the entire market. Hiking was becoming cool again. And that was one of the goals.

Expand into New Segments

Based on the credibility of the brand in exploration and high-end outdoor, as well as a focus on innovation and design, The North Face was able to extend into new segments such as mountain lifestyle and urban and streetwear. We worked to specifically identify targeted strategies for new markets, including branding, product design, go-to-market approach, consumer experience and engagement tailored to the specific segments.

Reshape the Marketplace

The North Face realized that the market was changing and that its go to market approach needed updating. From an almost fully wholesale-led model, the company transformed into a consumer-centric, digital first approach. The North Face identified key retail partners to win with in various segments, both in traditional retail as well as online. Next to this, the brand accelerated the development of owned channels, such as brick and mortar and e-commerce platforms, and scaled monobrand store concepts with third parties. Also, lifestyle partnerships such as with Supreme helped to propel The North Face into the future.

Beneath the go-to-market activities lay a solid segmentation and differentiation model, ensuring that various channels did not compete with each other, but worked together to create maximum impact and omnichannel experiences.

“The North Face saw a fantastic acceleration to new growth levels following the work we did on our brand, strategy, go-to-market and execution capabilities.”

Arne Arens

Global President, The North Face

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Let’s discuss how we can help you achieve your ambitions.