The North Face


Exploring Technical Feasibility, Market Impact And Consumer Responsiveness


\ Challenge

The North Face was excited about a potential partnership with a start-up called Cocona. Their material provided an entirely new approach to moisture management — rather than wicking, it displaced. The fiber effectively took small amounts of moisture and spread it across the surface area of a football field (no exaggeration), leaving the garment feeling virtually dry. The material’s effectiveness was undeniable; however, leadership at TNF wasn’t certain the value proposition would be comprehensible enough to have serious market impact.

Getting alignment on strategic goals was critical. TNF wanted to reestablish leadership in the technical space since their brand had become ubiquitous in the “everyman” market (think college coed). Cocona wanted to find a market big enough to justify exclusivity. For a partnership to work, the opportunity had to be both big and attractive to sponsored athletes.

\ Our Approach

We pulled together a cross-functional team from TNF and Cocona… without taking time to form a joint development agreement. An NDA was sufficient for assessing the value proposition.

A wide range of ecosystem members — from outdoor sports writers to TNF sponsored athletes like Conrad Anker — participated in a Rapid Brewery session with members of TNF and Cocona’s teams. Groups were grounded in key functionality of the technology and then built a series of value propositions that were visualized by our designers in real-time.

That night, concepts were tested with athletes. A variety of compensating behaviors were discussed, including stripping down in hidden places and trying to dry out clothes. Traditional “moisture wicking” lacked believability; however, “temperature control” garnered positive response. Controlling temp was the untapped opportunity.

The next day, concepts were further refined and tested again with new athletes, honing in on the positions that resonated.


The temperature control opportunity was big! It could significantly strengthen TNF’s position…and not only by reenergizing their brand in the eyes professional athletes. It would take them outside of their core season (winter), and allow them to compete with Under Armour on the base layer.

TNF and Cocona now had the clarity for a JDA, which they managed to pull together in a matter of weeks — one of the fastest JDAs in open innovation history!

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