The North Face: An SEO Lesson On Thinking Things Through

North Face: An SEO Lesson On Thinking Things Through

Sometimes things can seem like a really really great idea in your head. Maybe it’s a Friday afternoon and you’re out with friends having a few drinks. Maybe it’s when a company is pressuring you for short term results and you can’t lose the contract.

But sometimes those ideas don’t play out quite the way they were planned.

Such is the story of The North Face’s recent ad campaign. Interestingly, I don’t even need to tell you how it played out or what’s wrong with it … they made a video.

At the 1:34 point you’ll see:

North Face claims they collaborated with Wikipedia.

Here’s the problem (in case you can’t see this coming) … it resulted in a Tweet from Wikipedia that read:

I don’t know about you but to me that doesn’t sound like a happy collaborator.

On their Twitter wall their first post is asking folks to sign a petition. But if we look at the comments:

Click For Link To Tweet

I have to admit … the idea itself was bright. It’s the kind of idea that I’d chuckle with friends over, enjoying a pint and realizing even then that it was a horrible horrible idea in the real world.

You Have To Think About What Your Brand Stands For

While I’d never condone this action as it ruins a great resource for everyone (Wikipedia) and makes the editors lives miserable as copycats are sure to jump on board, the biggest flaw in my eyes as a marketer, was not understanding their brand.

Had this campaign been conducted by a rogue startup with a focus on extreme travel to prohibited locations, while I’d disagree with the company’s purpose, the campaign would make more sense and I’d view it in a completely different light. It would match the target audience sentiment.

That was not the case here. That is not their audience. Web community ethics aside, it’s still a bad marketing move.

But What’s Really Odd

The part that really has me scratching my head is the video. It’s like their marketing department wanted to take kudos for doing something no one had done before, without stopping to think about why that was.

They wanted to advertise their deception just to possibly win a couple ad awards that don’t add to their bottom line, at the expense of the campaign itself. They’ll probably win those awards for innovation, but the judges should perhaps consider the impact on the company itself.

At the same time we have to thank The North Face for reminding us all of some core marketing principles …

  • Know your audience
  • Know your ethics
  • Don’t brag about violating either