Steve Lesnard The North Face VP of Marketing’s 3 Rules for Growing Your Brand to Last
Steve Lesnard’s new rules for growing your brand organically and creating a customer base that will stay the course.
Mass marketing used to be the main way that companies reached potential customers. Today, successful companies analyze consumer lifestyles to market to consumers in a more personal fashion. Brands who don’t understand this fundamental shift will be left behind.
But brands that leverage new technology to respond and react to changing consumer demands will revolutionize the way they interact with consumers; they will provide product personalization at a scale that was never before possible and at a level of intimacy that will leave consumers asking for more.
So how do you build a brand that will survive this precipice of innovation? Brand marketing guru Steve Lesnard, the brains behind The North Face’s innovative new branding strategy and former vice president of global marketing for one of the world’s largest sportswear retailers, shares his top tips on growing your brand organically to stand the test of time.
- “Companies with a strong purpose stand out.”
If you don’t know what your brand stands for, neither will consumers. And when consumers are confused, they don’t buy.
Think of your favorite brand icons. What they all likely have in common is a values-driven identity that reflects their target consumer, along with products and services that consistently stand for this promise.
According to Steve Lesnard, your brand identity should focus externally on your target consumer in a way that removes friction and delivers a better consumer experience. Likewise, your mission must be internally coherent. From the ranks of CEO to seamstress, your mission and values should resonate at all levels to ensure that every decision and action aligns with those that matter most to your consumer.
When a company’s mission and purpose are aligned, it is better equipped to create clear and innovative products and services that deliver on its target consumer’s expectations.
The North Face’s new branding campaign, under Steve Lesnard’s watch as their newly appointed Vice President of Marketing, is a good example of this principle in action. Since its inception, The North Face has been known for its roots as a mountaineering equipment manufacturer whose products equip the modern day explorer and “inspire a global movement of exploration.” The brand is also known for its commitment to preserving the outdoors for the enjoyment of future generations.
In line with this mission, the company’s new campaign is intended to better align its brand with its values as the premier equipment and clothing manufacturer for the modern explorer. As part of the campaign, the retail experience is designed to engage outdoor enthusiasts through an interactive process, while featuring an archival collection of the flagship products that rooted the brand in the outdoor clothing and gear marketplace.
Likewise, The North Face has upped the ante on its sustainability promise with moves like its Clothes the Loop campaign and working with suppliers to reduce waste and contamination in the manufacturing process. In a similar spirit, its latest flagship store in New York’s trendy SoHo district features Forest Stewardship Council-certified reclaimed wood and low-VOC paints.
By directing the focus of its latest campaign onto its values-driven identity, The North Face hopes not only to position itself as a leader in the marketplace but also to ensure its continuity as a sportswear brand icon.
- “Add value, build trust, inspire loyalty.”
Today’s consumers are savvier than ever. They quickly see through sales-focused transactional intent. As a result, insincere sales efforts destroy trust and make it hard, if not impossible, to build a long-term relationship with consumers.
To thrive in today’s market, companies must move away from a selling mindset and focus instead on providing products and services that add value and benefit to consumers’ lives.
Lesnard calls this a “consumer-centric” approach, which is ever present in his latest move of marketing genius for The North Face. More than a simple redesign of the retail space, the company’s latest branding campaign centers around creating an innovative consumer experience. With the assistance of in-store expedition “guides” and a simulated “basecamp,” consumers are empowered and enabled to embark on new outdoor adventures.
The new retail space design also includes archival displays of past expeditions and classic The North Face products that enabled these historic feats. In doing so, consumers are invited to be part of The North Face story of equipping mountaineering devotees who believe in not only enjoying but also protecting the great outdoors.
Through the redesign, The North Face hopes to resonate better with its core consumer. According to Mark Parker, vice president of direct sales, the new concept focuses on creating an “environment that highlights our heritage and allows consumers to deeply connect with the brand as they prepare for their own exploration, wherever it may be.” Despite the short-term cost of the redesign, The North Face knows that in fulfilling its brand promise, it will generate brand equity and long-term returns that are invaluable.
According to Lesnard, “products or services launched in the context of the right consumer journey provide the biggest recipe for success.” The North Face campaign will undoubtedly prove the truth of Lesnard’s consumer-centric strategy as the company inspires a new generation of brand loyalists in an increasingly fickle and saturated marketplace.
- “Personalization at scale: offering the right product, for the right person, at the right time.”
Consumers are more demanding and fickle than ever before. If you don’t live up to their expectations, they will find another brand that does. And with the plethora of communications channels and technological mediums at consumers’ fingertips, the tweet of a lone influencer can make or break the success of your latest product line.
But technology works both ways. When a consumer interacts with your brand, they give you precious information about their needs and interests. Brands can harvest this data to help them understand their target consumer’s goals and motivations. By constantly listening to and learning from consumer feedback, companies can design products and services that create a more personalized and authentic relationship with their consumers.
Steve Lesnard’s past marketing success at one of the world’s largest sportswear brands demonstrated the importance of this principle. According to Lesnard, brands that are equipped with better information about the aspirations and desires of their target consumer will be able to quickly adjust to constantly evolving market conditions and provide a more satisfying consumer experience. By leveraging big data and responding nimbly, retailers can get the most out of their branding campaigns.
Steve Lesnard refers to this as a process that he calls “personalization at scale.” In his own words, “the more you know them (the customer), the more you can serve them and the more you drive this concept of personalization at scale, offering your consumer exactly what they want, when they want it, and how they want it.”
For example, for The North Face’s new branding campaign, Steve Lesnard explains that “consumers are telling us that they’re striving for exploration and want to get outdoors.“ In response, The North Face’s innovative basecamp experience is designed to engage and empower customers by providing more than just clothing and gear; with the aid of store “guides” and new technological tools, customers can engage in a seamless exploration planning experience by simply walking through the doors.
Other features of The North Face’s new branding experience include instruction on how to use equipment — such as pitching a tent — recommendations for gear choice based on destination and activity, and the opportunity to interact with a global community of fellow adventurers and expedition organizers. Through these various channels, The North Face has leveraged information gleaned from its target consumer to design an innovative approach to serving its consumers with an all-in-one stop for aspiring expeditionists.
According to Lesnard, brands who are nimble and innovative in response to change will find ways to deliver products and services in a way that will forever change the consumer landscape. These are the brands that will dominate tomorrow’s marketing environment. Will yours be one of them?
About Steve Lesnard
Steve Lesnard is the newly appointed Global VP of Marketing at The North Face. In his previous tenure with one of the largest athletic brands in the world, Lesnard launched industry changing innovations driving a $5.3 billion business while serving as the global vice president and general manager of the company’s running division.
While there Steve led the company’s running business to its current position as a global leader in the sporting industry, led two Olympic marketing campaigns, and ran the European marketing organization. Steve also headed the development of the women’s marketing business across the world, turning a niche industry into a multi billion dollar division.
Recently Steve Lesnard headed The North Face’s campaign for the launch of the innovative nanospinning technology, FUTURELIGHT. The North Face hired Steve Lesnard at a pivotal time for the brand to lead the launch of this game changing technology and accelerate its overall global brand presence.