Where will the ‘new generation of female explorers’ take The North Face’s business?

Discussion
Fernanda Maciel - Image: The North Face
Apr 09, 2018
Tom Ryan

Hearing that women often feel misrepresented in much of advertising, The North Face launched “Move Mountains,” a campaign celebrating the “new generation of female explorers.”

The brand also committed to equal representation of women in all advertising, social media and content moving forward.

As would be expected in a typical campaign from The North Face, Move Mountains features many of the explorer-athletes associated with the brand, including alpinist Hilaree Nelson, climbing phenoms Ashima Shiraishi and Margo Hayes and ultrarunner and activist Fernanda Maciel.

But the campaign also features other kinds of “explorers,” including NASA scientist Tierra Guinn Fletcher, musician and activist Madame Gandhi, and America Ferrera, the star of Ugly Betty and women’s empowerment advocate.

“Women and girls don’t see themselves represented as ‘explorers’,” said Tom Herbst, global VP of marketing, in a statement. “We had a simple theory that if women and girls see more role models in exploration, it will create more female role models for future generations.”

The North Face is also collaborating with the Girl Scouts of the USA, opening two women-focused stores and expanding its female exploration grants program.

The campaign comes as gender equality movements in advertising are striving to not only reduce objectification and stereotypes, but make sure women are portrayed accurately.

Last year, the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) formed the #SeeHer initiative to address the related unconscious bias that persists in advertising, media and programming. The group found 40 percent of women don’t identify with the women they see in ads and 90 percent of parents are concerned that there are no role models for girls in TV programming.

In a recent column for Campaign Live, Heather Andrew, the chief executive of Neuro-Insight, the market research firm, wrote that brands approaching diversity often play it too cautiously to avoid offending anyone. Her firm finds that seeing women in traditional roles in ads, however, sometimes works well for the brand.

“There is no clear right or wrong,” Ms. Andrew wrote. “In terms of effectiveness, stereotypes can work and, conversely, more non-conformist depictions don’t necessarily equate to a greater impact. What matters is getting a context that is meaningful and believable.”

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What do you think of North Face’s Move Mountains campaign? What advice would you have for portraying women in advertising in conventional versus unconventional roles?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"With the be-all-you-can-be theme that underpins successful ad campaigns, The North Face Move Mountains campaign has every chance of high success."
"Why is there even the conventional versus unconventional woman role conversation?"
"I do not think the identification with The North Face is strong enough to be effective in these ads."

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11 Comments on "Where will the ‘new generation of female explorers’ take The North Face’s business?"


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Anne Howe
BrainTrust

Three great concepts here. 1) A simple theory of adding role models to inspire. 2) Making sure that women are portrayed accurately. 3) Finding context that is meaningful and believable.

Add all three to great products and you have a win!

Neil Saunders
BrainTrust

This is a nice move and one that many will rightly support. However, the fact that it has to be called out, talked about and promoted like it is something special kind of negates the point of it. Guess what? Women go out and do climbing, hiking, exploring and participate in every other kind of outdoor activity. This should be an accepted part of life and naturally reflected in advertising.

Ryan Mathews
BrainTrust

Ah … I guess better late than never, although the fact that it is late is likely not to go unnoticed. On the one hand I like the fact that it recognizes “explorers” across several areas of activity. On the other I think it’s a shame that in 2018 women are still seen as a “new” group, just breaking into the real world. What is unconventional about a woman doing anything she wants to? That’s the real question they ought to be asking.

Lyle Bunn (Ph.D. Hon)
BrainTrust

With the be-all-you-can-be theme that underpins successful ad campaigns, The North Face Move Mountains campaign has every chance of high success (no pun intended). The formula works and this has the added value of being an inflection point of targeted campaigns to core target demographics. The multi-year campaign in the The North Face brand-building strategy will surely include experiential promotions that can pop up in-store and at events that integrate the Move Mountain campaign into customers’ lifestyles.

Lee Kent
BrainTrust

It is great that North Face is creating a campaign around women. Many of us love the great outdoors, hiking, camping, climbing. Reminding us of the fun in getting outside is great however I question the role models mentioned here. These names are not ones that many will even recognize. It’s nice to set the tone so this is a good first step for my 2 cents.

Camille P. Schuster, PhD.
BrainTrust

While I strongly approve of the concept, the fact that this is a topic to be discussed is surprising. Of course a company’s ads should be such that the target market consumers can identify themselves and see the brand as relevant. I do not think the identification with The North Face is strong enough to be effective in these ads. Female explorers in a variety of fields does not necessarily link with The North Face brands.

Gabriela Baiter
BrainTrust

While storytelling is the only thing you can do with ad spend, this thirty seconds falls flat. The most meaningful part of this program is what they’re enabling for girls with Girl Scouts USA. Why is this left out?

Considering that the organization has been slammed for depicting women in traditional gender roles by dishing out homemaking badges and spatulas as prizes in some cities, this is a HUGE step in partnering with a modern legacy brand to create meaningful change.

I’m super interested in seeing how this partnership manifests into a physical space. Let’s just hope it doesn’t look anything like a store (unless that store is selling Girl Scout cookies of course).

Evan Snively
BrainTrust
For the question of portraying women in conventional versus unconventional roles it’s pretty simple — brands just need to depict women in a way that will resonate with their desired audience and which aligns with who they are as a brand. It won’t be the same for everyone, and like Heather said in her quote “there is no clear right or wrong.” (Side note: I’m not sure what is categorized as “unconventional” but don’t think participating in outdoor sports fits that billing …) No doubt that under the guidance of The North Face’s expert marketing team, this will be a successful campaign for them. I do really like this spot, in particular the energy derived from the music (I tend to be super picky about song selection in ads and movies). This song is from the artist “Madame Gandhi” whose brand definitely aligns with this overall campaign and though the lyrics are a bit difficult to hear, they really hammer home the message: “I heard Amy Poehler speak at the White House Her words hit… Read more »
Cynthia Holcomb
BrainTrust

What is revealing about the The North Face’s Move Mountains campaign is why they felt compelled to create such a campaign after years of being in business. And why is there even the conventional versus unconventional woman role conversation? Maybe The North Face is banking on women younger than 18 who have not yet realized or experienced the unspoken gender inequality in the world. Just saying….

Ricardo Belmar
BrainTrust

You would expect The North Face to know who its customers are and their demographic makeup. Given that, shouldn’t this campaign just be a natural part of any of their campaigns? Yes, it’s a great idea as a campaign in and of itself, but the fact that it needs to be promoted as something special and unique says more about what is happening in advertising than the campaign itself. Like any advertiser or brand, how you portray conventional versus unconventional roles is a function of who your target audience is and how they perceive you as a brand.

Doug Garnett
BrainTrust

Each marketer has to make their own choice here. But I’m always cautious about that fuzzy line between “this is important for society” and “this is a case of tyranny of a small population.” Marketers, after all, must pay homage to the unbending dictatorship of statistics — do these kinds of ads affect enough of their target market to pay off? A committed vocal minority can force poor advertising choices.

In this case, I think it’s possible that The North Face has made a smart choice. That said, I’ll suggest that these women’s ads could well suffer the same problem with many ads for men: These exaggerated “heroes” may not really be that appealing to the target market.

The “risk taker” male stereotypes are often offensive — meaning the advertiser starts implying “if you’re not like this you’re not doing things right” even though 90% of their purchasers aren’t the least bit like those they feature in their ads. The North Face needs to take the same care when featuring adventurous women.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"With the be-all-you-can-be theme that underpins successful ad campaigns, The North Face Move Mountains campaign has every chance of high success."
"Why is there even the conventional versus unconventional woman role conversation?"
"I do not think the identification with The North Face is strong enough to be effective in these ads."

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