September 17, 2013
Every year, many people worry about the cold winters in the Midwest. Coming from warmer weather climates such as California and coming to the Midwest can be exhausting to plan for. Living by the beach, winter jackets were never important to have and out of nowhere it became important to have. Other people live in the Midwest, and simply need a new jacket. Ultimately, both type of customers end up scouring the internet looking for the best options. Two major companies come to mind when it comes to winter jackets: The North Face and Columbia Sportswear. Through evidence presented in this essay, it will become clear that North Face’s marketing strategies are more effective than Columbia Sportswear’s.
The North Face was founded in 1968 and has really picked up steam in the past twenty years among the younger generation. North Face has become so popular that the company had to file lawsuits against distributors making “fake” North Face jackets.[i] The company goes to great lengths to associate with high-performance athletics, so they have sponsored several athletic events such as the North Face Endurance Challenge which attracts some of the premier long distance runners in the world.[ii] Through the athletes who don North Face apparel, North Face tries to give themselves a credible image by using Aristotle’s tools of persuasion (ethos). North Face is using the top athletes in the world to make it seem as though they endorse North Face products. With top athletes endorsing the products, North Face’s credibility skyrockets, and predictably their sales do as well. Younger adults and teenagers tend to be more influenced by athletes as they think of athletes as role models, and as a result this marketing technique has a higher appeal to people who are younger.
The top athletes in the world wearing North Face products at the Olympics represents a chanticleer fallacy as well. Chanticleer fallacy means that because something comes after another thing, the first thing caused the second thing. In this situation, athletes put on North Face apparel and then compete, so essentially the North Face products were the reason the athletes were successful in their competition. Even if the athletes don’t win, people still think that wearing the North Face products makes the top athletes the best in the world. That may be illogical, but it works in many cases.
The main way North Face became an iconic image in winter jackets is through brand messaging. Every jacket has the North Face logo and the word “The North Face” on the upper left part of the jacket. As North Face’s popularity grew, the logo would be seen even more by potential customers as a result of the logo being on every jacket. The ethos tool of persuasion is at work again. The more people who see other people wearing a North Face jacket, the more likely they’ll feel that the jacket is a legitimate and credible brand and want to buy a North Face jacket.
The North Face’s website (thenorthface.com) is very new and modern looking, seemingly trying to appeal to a younger demographic. North Face uses black, red, and silver on their website and the color scheme really pops and grabs your attention. Since they use athletes and edgy, attractive colors, it’s clear they try and appeal to the younger generation. Younger people are influenced by athletes and other people their age, and with the logo being plastered all over North Face jackets, North Face’s popularity just took off and has become the iconic brand that it is today. North Face doesn’t use words to draw people to their products on their website, rather North Face utilizes the colors on the website to do so. Even the prices are written in a bright red color to highlight the cost of each jacket. The fact that the jackets are so expensive targets a younger audience, who don’t fully understand the value of the dollar. Many younger people make the mistake of thinking that expensive automatically equals higher quality. When younger people see others wearing North Face jackets, it gives off the impression of wealth. Naturally, younger people end up buying the jacket to seem wealthier than they are.
Columbia Sportswear was created in 1938.[iii] Columbia has also used a variety of strategies to attract customers, many of which are similar to North Face’s strategies. In order to promote their high-performance jackets, Columbia had the Canadian National Freestyle Ski team wear their products during the 2010 Winter Olympics. Columbia reached a deal with the United States team to have them wear Columbia products during the next Olympic games as well.[iv] Columbia is utilizing the ethos tool of persuasion and chanticleer fallacy in the same way North Face does, making it more appealing to customers as a correlation is created between top notch athletes and wearing Columbia.
Brand messaging was big with Columbia too. Every jacket has the Columbia logo and the name “Columbia” on the upper left of the jacket. That way, people will recognize the logo every time they see it and as more and more people wear the brand, the credibility and popularity increases. Just like North Face, the more people who wear the jacket the more popular and credible the brand gets, solely because it’s visible and obvious to the public what a Columbia jacket looks like.
Columbia’s website (Columbia.com) used less attention-getting colors than North Face. Blue and white were pretty common on the site, which were more wintery colors than North Face. Unlike North Face, Columbia used terms on the website such as technology to describe their jackets, and have different “technologies” that each jacket falls into. By using fancy words like “omni-reflective” and “omni-heat” to categorize their jackets, Columbia creates an impression of higher quality and fanciness among consumers, but not necessarily in the way that North Face does. Columbia makes it seem extremely complicated and scientific, but with the “new technology” the jackets have to keep you warmer and comfier than other jackets. Columbia emphasizes higher quality based on merit and research, whereas North Face does it through customers. The colors and fancy terms on Columbia.com indicate that the target customers are older adults. Placing less of an emphasis on athletes and more on technology reflects maturity from Columbia’s brand. It’s not about Columbia Sportswear, rather it’s about the technology and science behind the brand.
North Face has done a better job of marketing their jackets. I see their jackets everywhere I go, especially among younger people. The concept of wanting to fit in and be like others makes it tempting to want a North Face jacket, more so than that of Columbia. Additionally, North Face was founded thirty years after Columbia Sportswear. While a 2010 development report declared Columbia Sportswear the number one outdoor brand and North Face number two, I argue that North Face’s strategies have been more effective.[v] North Face continues to grow among the younger generation, while Columbia seems to be a little more popular with adults. As the younger generation gets older, they’ll continue wearing North Face and the new younger generation will begin to wear North Face. Soon enough, Columbia won’t exist unless they start appealing to a younger crowd. Essentially, North Face is here to stay and will be much more popular than Columbia by 2030 based on how they’ve marketed their products, particularly jackets.