This is a story that came from The Associated Press:
ST. LOUIS — The North Face Apparel Corp. is suing a small suburban St. Louis-area company called The South Butt and the teenager who started it. The lawsuit filed last week in federal court in St. Louis seeks unspecified damages and asks the court to prohibit The South Butt from marketing and selling its parody product line.
The North Face says it does not comment on pending litigation.
The South Butt’s attorney, Albert Watkins, says the company was started by 18-year-old Jimmy Winkelmann to help pay for college. It puts out products with the tag line “Never Stop Relaxing,” a parody of The North Face line, “Never Stop Exploring.”
The parody company sells T-shirts, fleece jackets and sweatshirts on its Web site.
This strikes me as funny. The punchline cracks me up. But there’s a bigger issue here.
If an NBA player walks onto the court amid loud cheers with a couple of boos, that player wisely smiles at the fans and ignores the smattering of haters.
This is a similar deal. The teen involved is having fun and making a little money at the expense of The North Face’s widely known brand name. But The North Face isn’t losing money from Winkelman’s venture.
Truth be told, I’m a walking billboard of outdoor apparel and gear. Patagonia, Black Diamond, and yes, The North Face. I was a late convert to the brand just because I grew tired of non-outdoors people playing poser by buying the company’s more fashion-oriented duds. I resist all things trendy.
But when I needed some decent water-resistant hiking pants, I broke down and bought a pair. I’ve never regretted it. Well-made, confortable and high performing. Later, I bought a day-pack that I took to Thailand and, later on, up the summits of four Colorado peaks. Again, an excellent piece of gear. Later came a beanie which I’ve worn to death.
So I’m sold on the product line. They make good stuff. Several of my friends have likewise sung the praises of all things North Face, from sleeping bags to jackets to tents.
So why the fuss over The South Butt? It’s not like this kid will ever become a rival like Columbia, Patagonia or the many others trying to take a piece of the outdoor gear pie.
My advice to The North Face: Ignore the haters. Play your game and please your fans. Make good stuff. Some of those haters, like I was, will convert and buy your stuff. Suing this kid just makes the company look bad. And that will drive potential converts away.