Has North Face reached a summit in consumer segmentation?
To enhance segmentation efforts, The North Face last year introduced a new “consumer territory model” strategy to define the many ways consumers are experiencing its brand.
“Our tag line, ‘Never Stop Exploring,’ manifests itself across many different dimensions in our consumers’ lives, not just the physical one, as they’re exploring the mountains, but also as they’re doing their everyday training or when they are living their lives day-in day-out,” said Arne Arens, general manager Americas, North Face, in late March at the annual investor meeting of VF Corp., the brand’s parent. “Now, regardless of the occasion, our brand has a right to play.”
North Face came up with four consumer territories:
- Mountain Sport: The brand’s largest and traditional business of equipping athletes to tackle outdoor adventures, whether mountaineering, climbing, hiking, snowboarding or skiing.
- Mountain Athletics: Addresses the training needs of athletes, including those prepping for outdoor feats, and includes running, training and fitness-oriented apparel and footwear.
- Mountain Lifestyle: Addresses “pre and post activity adventures” and a more youthful consumer.
- Urban Exploration: While the brand gained its foothold as the “original urban outerwear brand” in the eighties, North Face’s “mountain” values — protection, performance-driven lifestyle and exploration — are “also very relevant in the city.”
Each of the territories are backed by distinct design teams which will create messaging and outreach programs tailored to their respective consumers.
Beyond its bigger stores, North Face will open smaller boutiques to address Urban Exploration or Mountain Athletics consumers in a “very local, curated and personal way,” said Mr. Arens
At wholesale, success with Mountain Athletics and Mountain Lifestyles is expected to encourage traditional retailers to carry the brand year round rather than largely during cold months. Advances made in the Mountain Sports and Mountain Athletics territories could open up greater opportunities for the brand at athletic specialty and sporting goods stores while Mountain Lifestyle and Urban Exploration could open a path to the much larger lifestyle distribution channel.
Said Mr. Arens, “Through these segmentation efforts, we will build a differentiated consumer experience across channels and across tiers, maximizing revenues but also assuring a premium positioning across the entire spectrum of distribution.”
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What advice would you have for lifestyle brands and the retailers working with customer segmentation approaches? What are some common missteps in such schemes?