Conrad Anker in North Face jacket
Outside Business Journal

These Outdoor Brands Are Turning Customer Stories into Marketing Gold

Story-based marketing is hot right now. Three new campaigns from The North Face, Houdini, and Kari Traa show how outdoor companies are leaning into the trend.

Conrad Anker in North Face jacket

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Story-driven marketing is gaining steam in the outdoor industry.

This month, three outdoor companies—The North Face, Houdini, and Kari Traa—have launched marketing campaigns built around customer storytelling, leveraging the voices of brand loyalists to build both visibility and relatability among consumers.

The North Face: It’s More than a Jacket

The North Face’s brand campaign for fall, It’s More Than A Jacket, is an “initiative honoring and celebrating the memories and stories of adventure created over [the company’s] more than 55-year history,” according to a LinkedIn post from Mike Ferris, TNF’s vice president of global brand management.

“To capture the meaning behind every piece of gear at the heart of this campaign idea, we will also be launching our first-ever crowdsourced archive, in partnership with the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art,” Ferris wrote. “This new archive will call on our global community to submit stories and images of their own well-loved TNF products to include, stories that will sit alongside stories from our athletes and ambassadors, illustrating how those products inspired them and their curiosity to explore.”

To add some start power to the campaign, The North Face tapped musical artists RZA and Haim, as well as rock climber Conrad Anker and skier Ingrid Backstrom, to be the first contributors to the archive.

To contribute to the official archive and potentially appear in the brand’s partner experiences at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, customers are being asked to post their stories on social media using the hashtag #MoreThanAJacket.

Houdini: The Storyteller

Houdini’s new campaign, called The Storyteller, takes a similar approach to TNF’s, collecting as many customer stories as possible through a hashtag campaign, #WearYourStories. The brand has also selected a curated group of product users—some of them Houdini employees—whose stories are being promoted on the company’s website. Unlike TNF’s campaign, Houdini’s is centered around a single product, the Power Houdi, one of the brand’s flagship jackets.

“This Power Houdi belongs to artist and skier Per Öhrås,” one of the stories on the brand’s website read. “The color stains and welding burns have disqualified it from recreational use, but it keeps Per warm every day in the workshop and will do so for many years to come. The Houdini Power Houdi has been around for almost 20 years and seen countless adventures.”

The campaign is much more sales-oriented than TNF’s, with links to buy Houdini products embedded throughout the campaign’s hub on the Houdini website.

Yellow Houdini jacket
This particular Power Houdi, promoted through Houdinis campaign, belongs to artist Per Örås. (Photo: Courtesy)

Kari Traa: Girls Will Be Girls

The least sales-oriented of all the campaigns on this list, Kari Traa’s latest effort is more about brand building and making a statement of purpose for the women’s sportswear company.

The stated purpose of the campaign, called Girls Will Be Girls, is to “encourage women to share stories of inequality, and break the rules traditionally associated with being a woman,” according to a company release.

“We believe that sharing these stories will help drive and escalate change,” said Sissel Himle, director of marketing at Kari Traa North America. “Women all over the world live by completely different rules than men. Our campaign shares stories from real women who have experienced inequality across the outdoor industry.”