The North Face: Red Flag

Ogilvy Shanghai


When The North Face opened its doors in China it faced an unusual but exciting challenge: How to inspire the affluent urbanites to ‘go outdoors’? With a modest budget of little over USD 1 Million to work with, we decided not to ‘sell the jackets’ which was the usual practice, but instead to sell the experience of exploration itself. To help us do this, we created a highly actionable platform we called ‘planting a flag’ to signify the thrill that comes with ‘conquering’ a territory - the twist being that this would happen digitally, with the help of your mobile phone. And then we created a campaign around it - with launch events, advertising and coupons sweetening the path to the retail stores and then, the outdoors.

Despite the campaign’s humble resources the iconic action of ‘planting a flag’ struck a chord and within the 6 day campaign period, over 600,000 flags were ‘digitally planted’ all around China exceeding everyone’s expectations. And this enthusiasm for flag planting carried on into the store, driving sales up 6% despite the campaign spending only a third of competitor’s campaigns also in market. Together with the incremental sales driven by the coupons, and the PR value created, the campaign returned 5 times the value of its initial investment, making it a happy experiment for The North Face China.

Ultimately, the campaign’s proof of worth is that it helped to create increased awareness and understanding of outdoor sports and ultimately helped inspire more people to take their first step from their apartment, to China’s vast outdoors.