The consumer landscape is moving and morphing rapidly. While exciting and intriguing for consumers as it brings them innovative and cutting-edge products, for brand leaders that means keeping up if they would like to remain in touch with their clients. In other words, brands must change how they operate in order to remain relevant.
This, in a nutshell, is the view of Steve Lesnard. The innovative executive has expertise in leading high-profile business growth, global brand campaigns, revolutionary product launches and strategic partnerships across sports, technology and lifestyle.
He is a creative and strategic brand leader with a proven track record of integrated marketing excellence and digital innovation in a fluid and ever-evolving consumer landscape. As the new chief marketing officer of The North Face, he has become one of the most impactful and insightful brand marketers in the sports world. North Face is a top name in the American and global outdoor recreation sector.
Lesnard is passionate about his line of work and truly believes in the power of marketing to better the lives of global citizens. With so many years of experience in the product marketing, brand building, and general marketing sectors, Lesnard believes that sports are a powerful platform for both entertainment as well as self-development.
The dynamic and passionate leader thrives on inspiring teams and nurturing distinctive ideas through curiosity, diverse thinking and empowerment. He also believes in the power of big ideas that challenge the status quo, the ability of passionate people to bring them to life and the positive impact the ideas can have on the world.
In a lot of ways, Lesnard was made for what he is doing. Sports were a vital part of his life growing up. A lot of ideas he gained about success in business came from sports: teamwork, resilience, dealing with setbacks and having big goals.
According to Lesnard, those are the values he took from the locker room into his professional life as he worked with some of the best athletes in the world, a time in his career that enabled him to truly get his hands dirty and both crystallize as well as materialize on some of his values. Lesnard particularly appreciated the level of thought-leadership as well as resilience that he saw in some of the world’s top athletes he worked with.
This is something that Lesnard takes into his idea of what brands need to do in order to keep up with the ever-evolving and ever-changing consumer demands. These days he is asking big brands what they are doing to not only build a brand but also maintain it. The specific question he is asking is how one builds a 100-year brand.
The global brand and marketing thought-leader has a few ideas himself as he underlines that the consumer landscape has changed drastically over the last decade. With that backdrop, so has the face of having a big brand. Lesnard urges brands to be clear on a few crucial things.
Be clear on whom you want to serve.
According to Lesnard, companies need to focus on their consumer and truly creating a connection and then channeling that into driving the brand forward. He urges brands to focus on how to make a real and true impact on people’s lives rather than merely conducting a transaction.
However, having an impact is only possible if enterprises know their clients an consumers and focus on creating a consumer journey. “And move from initiatives to consumer journeys,” he states. “The most powerful launches are informed by the consumer journey and this leads to personalization at scale, where you provide the right info at right time to optimize.”
Lesnard is cognizant of the difficulty with that, especially in the face of an ever-changing and fluid consumer landscape. He also urges companies to remain loyal to its members as they are “The most valued customers. They provide the highest ROI, are the most loyal, give the most feedback, and are your strongest ambassadors, so understanding who they are and how to serve them should always be foremost on your mind.” Lesnard highlights that serving members is vital for the foundation that companies can build on, “so listen to them, they will call you out. But they are also the first ones willing to try new things for you, and to give you feedback.”
Know who you are as a company.
Lesnard advises enterprises to truly dive into the company story, mission and values as well as the specific product or the service they offering to the consumer. In this endeavor, it is important that a company is demanding of itself as it tries to answer questions such as why the consumer should care and what value the product or service will add to their lives.
Answering these questions will truly galvanize the team to put more heart and passion into the product and the service. In turn, this effort will reconnect with the first one about connecting with the consumer: if companies know themselves and who they are, they are better able to deliver a product that will strike just the right chord with the consumer and add value.
“The companies that are strongest are the ones that constantly review their actions against their mission and adjust their mission depending on consumer landscape changes,” he said. “Focus on what it is you want to be famous for. What do you want your customers to talk about and promote?”
Drive a culture of innovation.
Innovation is truly rooted in a culture of resilience and constant effort to challenge oneself and do better. This is particularly relevant at time of the evolving and demanding consumer who will expect a better product as soon as they see one created by a different brand and who is not afraid to switch brands if their needs are not met. Driving a culture of innovation depends on a constant effort to exceed consumer expectations at all times.
In other words, listening to what consumers want can drive company strategy and ultimately innovation. “When you are in an organization that is truly consumer centric, it creates a culture which strives to exceed consumers’ expectations, always innovating to deliver new and better solutions for a better consumer experience,” Lesnard adds. “Also, constant listening and learning from consumer feedback while being ready to react appropriately is paramount to staying relevant,” he states.
He also highlights that today’s technology and data that consumers share with brands provide vital insight into consumer desires and needs. The biggest challenge for most companies is to capitalize on this information on time within their organizational structures.
Ultimately, it all comes down to trust, Lesnard states. “From my perspective, iconic brands are built over time and the iconic status is inherited by repeated consumer trust. All the iconic brands that I can think of always have a clear and innovative product or service point of view, a clear brand strategy and identity, and they sustain the test of time by staying true to their values to deliver on their consumers’ expectations.”