By Barry Janoff
October 16, 2016: In 1966, The North Face was founded in San Francisco by Douglas and Susie Tompkins to sell gear to people who were mad about wilderness exploration and other adventures that challenged the mind and body.
Now, The North Face is launching "Question Madness," a global multi-media effort to help celebrate its 50th anniversary.
Along with an anchor 60-second spot, Internet, social media and OOH, a series of digital shorts features the exploits of athletes who represent the company.
In addition, The North Face has opened a flagship store on Fifth Avenue in New York and an Urban Exploration Concept destination in San Francisco.
"The campaign and flagship store are the next evolution in The North Face’s rise as a global market leader from humble beginnings as a single storefront in San Francisco in 1966," according to the company.
"Over those five decades, the brand’s commitment to exploration — from the peaks of the Himalayas to the sidewalks of Manhattan — has remained unchanged, and continues to drive the brand’s work across retail, advertising and customer engagement."
The 60-second spot, "Question Madenss," features shots of people engaged in such extreme sports as mountain climbing, scaling the slides of rock and ice cliffs, trekking through wilderness and over rugged isolated trails, skiing off mountain tops, hang gliding and marathon running; all of them seen enduring cold, heat, pain and loneliness, but in the end expressing joy for meeting their personal challenge.
It is played out to “Miles From Nowhere” by Yusuf Islam (Cat Stevens).
"This campaign comes at a time in our brand’s history when exploration — of all kinds — matters more than ever," Todd Spaletto, president for The North Face, said in a statement.
"As a society, we are questioning traditions, systems and institutions. What was considered beyond the norm yesterday, even impossible, is commonplace today. We rally behind and celebrate those who have the courage to take on the unknown and define success in their own way," said Spaletto.
The campaign extends the boundaries of endurance and personal challenge seen in last year’s The North Face global effort, “Never Stop.”
Lead agency is Sid Lee, New York.
According to Stacy Peralta, a skateboarder, surfer, filmmaker and director of the campaign’s digital shorts, "The fine line between progress and madness is something athletes cross and re-cross daily. I’ve spent time around athletes and in my opinion they’re really misunderstood.
"The rest of us assume it’s madness, but what they’re chasing isn’t a tangible reward — it’s greater than that,” said Peralta, whose work also includes the internationally renowned Dogtown and Z-Boys. "It’s about using every single fiber of your being to pull something off, and when you finally get there, it’s unbelievably liberating. When everything else is stripped away, and it’s just you and the moment – that’s the greatest feeling on earth."
Among The North Face athletes in the "Question Madness" campaign are Xavier De La Rue, Emily Harrington, Alex Honnold, Angel Collinson, Renan Ozturk and others who have been part of the brand’s history.
Collins ("Crazy or Calculated"), Ozturk ("Obsessed or Devoted") and Honnold are also among the athletes whose personal stories are brought to life in The North Face’s digital series.
Consumers are being invited to share stories of "how they are pushing their own boundaries in the pursuit of exploration" on social channels using #QuestionMadness.
The campaign will be distributed globally through the fourth quarter in more than 16 markets, including the U.S. U.K., Germany, France, China, Hong Kong, Australia and New Zealand.
The anchor spot opens with a voiceover that says, "It is weird how many people question your motivation, question your sanity."
Text follows: "What is madness? Devoted/obsessed. Crazy/calculated. Pain/perspective. Freaks/pioneers. Madness/progress." The spot ends with: "The North Face. 50 Years. #Question Madness. Never Stop Exploring."
"Miles From Nowhere" includes the lyrics, “Miles from nowhere/I guess I'll take my time/Oh yeah, to reach there. Look up at the mountain/I have to climb/Oh yeah, to reach there. Miles from nowhere/Not a soul in sight/Oh yeah, but it's alright.”
The store in New York offers consumers an "immersive brand experience including an interactive climbing wall, community seating and a custom embroidery service," according to The North Face.
It will also feature custom product exclusive to the location, including a limited-edition Original Daypack collection; a collaboration with lifestyle brand New Era; and on-site product customization featuring vintage and new collectible patches in partnership with Lot, Stock and Barrel.
The Nroth Face Urban Exploration Concept store in San Francisco, which also will be a store-within-a-store in New York, is stocked with apparel and footwear from the brand’s premium streetwear collections.
The North Face is a division of VF Outdoor, Inc.