Find a consumer pain point and find a way to solve it.
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, Steve Lesnard served as global vice president and general manager of the company’s running division, launching industry changing innovations and driving a $5.3 billion business.
While there, he led two Olympic marketing campaigns, led the company’s running business to its current position as a global leader in the sporting industry, and ran the European marketing organization. Steve also led 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.
Steve Lesnard’s passion for creating global branding campaigns in the athletic sector is fueled by his personal zest for sports and the outdoors. From martial arts to running, mountain biking, kite surfing, and snowboarding, Lesnard relishes any activity that allows him to appreciate the “strength, power, and beauty” of Mother Nature. Steve Lesnard currently resides in Denver with his wife and three children.
Where did the interest in the global brand and consumer marketing landscape come from?
My passion for different countries and cultures started early in life, and I tried to travel as much as I could while being a student. Experiencing different cultures solidified my interest in pursuing an international career, and I have enjoyed the opportunities and challenges in building global brands that can have deep and personal meanings to the various cultures around the world.
Sports is an international language that has allowed me to bridge cultural gaps by focusing on common values and leveraging incredible sports and consumer moments to create truly global brand experiences.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I like to wake up early to work out and become mentally prepared for the day. I always set clear mid and long-term goals, which allows me to organize and prioritize my day based on the tasks that are the most important and urgent when compared to the bigger picture objectives. Planning ahead allows me to never rush. I can tackle the important projects while also giving me the time and flexibility to react to any new and urgent topics that require my attention.
How do you bring ideas to life?
My thinking process is driven by conversations with my teammates. I firmly believe that great ideas can come from anywhere, and group thinking can help develop and sharpen your thoughts.
From my experiences, the best way to bring ideas to life requires three components. First, define the actual idea and paint a clear picture of the problem that you are trying to solve. Second, know the consumer that you are targeting, and third, be clear about the benefit that the product or service will deliver to the consumer. I call this process the what phase—what idea, consumer, and product benefit.
Then you can focus on the how. How you can bring an idea to life in the most distinctive and impactful way possible by focusing on the consumer journey that you are trying to serve, which will improve their experiences.
This is a very creative process which truly benefits from the diversity of your team.
What’s one trend that excites you?
Personalization at scale is really exciting! Through the incredible amount of data shared by consumers, brands now have the opportunity to become more personal than ever before by delivering and even exceeding consumers’ expectations. This will fundamentally change the relationships between brands and consumers.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as a global brand consultant?
Staying curious and being a student of the game has always kept me grounded and excited about the latest innovations, consumer trends, or brand innovations.
But above all, engaging with different people from diverse backgrounds, cultures, and industries, to learn what problems they are facing and how they are tackling them, allows me to find ways to leverage those learnings into different strategies and fields of play.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Always strive to reach your fullest potential. Don’t settle for “good” when you could achieve “greatness.” Embrace all the trailblazing unknowns and risks that this might entail. It is a path that I have always tried to follow, and it has served me well.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
I am convinced that the island of Corsica, where I grew up, is the most beautiful place in the world!
As a global brand consultant, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
In my current role, it’s helping a brand define their next move and big idea or defining a strategy to fuel growth and reposition themselves as industry leaders. I always start with their consumer target in mind as I believe that consumer-centric organizations are in the best position for long term success.
Truly understanding consumer needs, aspirations, and their journeys helps identify opportunities for brands and services to engage with consumers in meaningful ways. In addition, we always spend a lot of time refining the product or service that a brand offers to deliver the most relevant and meaningful proposition to consumers. What is unique about the product? What key benefits does it offer? Why will consumers care and remember it? Being clear on these three points sets a strong foundation to build a brand.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow the businesses you’ve worked for?
Applying the principles mentioned in my previous answer has proven to work well in my career.
For instance, while working in the running industry for years, I was shocked to realize that hundreds of millions of Google searches related to running were centered around two very simple questions that most brands were not answering: How do you start running, and what shoes should I wear?
Understanding these consumer pain points helped to re-shape our strategy to ensure that we could become the authoritative and go-to source to answer these two questions. It also enabled our team to create meaningful and personal connections with consumers on their running journey.
What is one failure you had as a global brand leader, and how did you overcome it?
Every time that you ignore consumer feedback, it has a negative impact on your brand and your business, and the ability and willingness for organizations to address feedback in a meaningful way. This is a lesson that I learned the hard way early on in my career, and I quickly made it a priority.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Finding a consumer pain point and finding a way to solve it is always a good place to start.
Raising three young children myself, and given the omnipresence of screens in their environment, it would be beneficial to create educational applications to help them learn in a new and fun way. Technology should make education more accessible and contagious than ever before and these benefits have yet to be maximized. Access to education continues to be a major challenge around the world, and we have never been in a better position to change that.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
Recently, I bought a used snowboard for my daughter to share my love for the sport. As a young skier, she was intrigued by snowboarding and fell in love with it after a couple of runs.
Watching the positive impact that sports can have on my daughter’s life, the fun and sense of accomplishment that she receives from learning something completely new, and the contagious energy that it creates for her siblings—who now want to try snowboarding—has made this the best $100 I have spent in a long time.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
Notability is an app that allows you to merge all your files into one document. It then modifies the files and shares them again, which allowed me to centralize all my files while becoming 100% paperless.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
The Third Door is a really fun read and a great reminder of the power of resilience to reach your objectives in life. The author, a student in search for what he really wants to do in life, embarks on a journey to interview some of the most successful people in the world and discovers some very simple truths along the way.
Through working with elite athletes for over two decades, I was reminded of the incredible determination, focus, and resilience that they always displayed to achieve their goals, a lesson that this book brings to life across many different industries.
What is your favorite quote?
“To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift.” – Steve Prefontaine.
● Develop a proven and simple method to build and develop a brand. This includes a defined brand and product strategy that focuses on a consumer centric approach where the benefit of a product and/or service is made clear to the consumer.
● Always be curious and leverage the learnings from leaders in different parts of the world with varying cultures, backgrounds, and industry challenges. This will provide a great framework to implement across different industries.
● Determination and resilience are qualities that most successful people have in common.
● If you have $100 to spend, spend it on experiences that will make you step out of your comfort zone and are fun and contagious.
Steve (Stefan) Junge hails from Germany and helps with the day-to-day publishing of interviews on IdeaMensch. While he and Mario don’t share a favorite soccer club, their enthusiasm to help entrepreneurs is a shared passion.