Steve Lesnard Global VP of Marketing at The North Face Explains How To Tell A Brand Story That Inspires

Steve Lesnard

What’s the big idea? No, really. What is the big idea?

The answer to this question (or rather, the way you find the answer to this question) is the key to brand marketing success.

Unlike a traditional marketing model, where messaging is executed through various channels without coordination, a big idea marketing concept integrates a single message across all relevant channels. This approach creates a more powerful platform from which to engage with and impact your target consumer.

However, the process of creating a big idea and bringing it to life can be daunting. How do you find your next big idea and bring it to life? Brand marketing phenom Steve Lesnard shares his simple and straightforward strategy for creating a big idea that will inspire your consumers to action.

Capture their imaginations and inspire them to action.

The human species appears to have the upper hand when it comes to our ability to use intellect and logic. However, modern science continues to reveal that the unconscious mind is at work in many more of our behaviors, attitudes, and decisions than we recognize.

For example, photos of babies and puppies have long been used by advertisers for their ability to capture the attention of consumers. And science supports this marketing cliche. Our brains are hardwired to receive a hit of oxytocin, a feel-good brain chemical, every time we look at pictures of something cute. Researchers have shown that the parts of the brain associated with feel-good emotions light up when people look at pictures of babies or faces with baby-like characteristics.

But what do babies, brains, and oxytocin have to do with your next brand marketing campaign? Just like Pavlov’s dogs, a great marketing campaign has the ability to evoke powerful positive emotions, and in turn, prime consumers begin to associate your brand with those good feelings.

In his former role as global vice president of marketing for one the world’s largest athletic brands, Steve Lesnard saw time and again the incredible marketing power that can be harnessed by speaking to consumers’ emotions. According to Lesnard, one of the most effective ways to create this emotional connection with consumers is by creating a story that captures their imaginations and inspires them to action.

According to Lesnard, the channels for telling your brand’s big story have never been more abundant, from social media influencers sharing their daily inspirations and explorations to videos that inspire awe and imagination. Are your consumers craving a story of hope, perseverance, and reward? Or perhaps they want a far-off fantasy that simply offers an escape from reality. What story are consumers asking you to tell, and how will you tell it?

After all, in the words of Maya Angelou, “people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Whatever story your brand seeks to tell, the opportunities to capture consumers’ imaginations, speak to their emotions, and endear them to your brand are limitless.

Big ideas come from inspired thought.

With today’s data-driven marketing focus, it’s easy for marketers to get boxed in by metrics, analytics, and pragmatism. But just like your big idea should be designed to evoke awe and inspiration in consumers, so too must your branding campaign find inspiration from within. Data and analytics have their place, but your brand marketing process should also leave ample room for creativity and imagination to flourish.

Take Disney for example. For nearly a century, Disney has made good on its promise of creating happiness by engaging consumers in a magical experience. In capturing the hearts and minds of everyone’s inner child, the brand has grown itself into a $130 billion empire that spans the globe.

But Disney’s success has been far from happenstance. Walt Disney’s success rested in his talent of discovering creative ideas and turning them into reality. In recognizing this, Disney said that “there were actually three different Walts: the dreamer, the realist, and the spoiler. You never knew which one was coming to the meeting.” Disney consistently used this strategy to grow his business by ensuring that the creative process encouraged equal input from dreamer, realist, and critic.

In Steve Lesnard’s experience, marketing efforts that are too focused on analytics and critique often fall flat. Lesnard encourages his team members to engage in creative thought and unbridled conversation. His creative process leaves ample room for team members to share their ideas without restriction or criticism. By doing so, he creates a rich canvas from which the best ideas can be culled to create a compelling brand strategy.

Great brands know how to cultivate inspiration from within to manifest inspiration without. How do you create space for inspiration and innovation in your team of brand strategists?

Captivate consumers with products and services that solve real problems.

Capturing consumers’ imaginations is only the first step. You must then focus on the “how.” How will you deliver the services or products that will carry through on the promise that resonates throughout your branding campaign?

Steve Lesnard uses a three-step approach to bring his big ideas to life: (1) paint a clear picture of the problem you are trying to solve, (2) know the consumer that you are targeting, and (3) be clear about the benefits that your product delivers to the consumer.

For example, in his most recent branding campaign as the Global VP of Marketing at The North Face, Lesnard points out that data gleaned from social media and other channels reflected consumers’ increasing desire to explore and get outdoors. Lesnard explained at the launch of their new store in SoHo, “Consumers are telling us that they’re striving for exploration and want to get outdoors.” The new store provides exactly that as The North Face motto is “Never. Stop. Exploring.”

With the aid of in-store expedition “guides” and a retail “base camp,” customers engage in a seamless expedition planning experience. The North Face doesn’t just sell them a tent. From finding travel companions and selecting destinations to picking the right tent and learning how to pitch it, its new campaign does more than inspire. It also equips and empowers consumers to achieve their most salient dreams.

According to Steve Lesnard, companies must move away from a selling mindset and focus instead on providing products and services that add value and benefit to consumers’ lives. There’s no better way to do this than by providing products and services that help consumers fulfill their dreams and aspirations. Brands who put this philosophy into practice will lead today’s marketplace.

Read More – Steve Lesnard and The North Face Roll Out New Innovative Product FUTURELIGHT

Big ideas unleash unlimited potential when they invite consumers to tell their stories.

Great brands know how to tell the story that consumers want to hear and inspire them to action. But the greatest brands go beyond that by delivering a big idea that invites consumers to make the story their own. This creates the foundation for a more authentic one-on-one relationship with the consumer and enables a brand’s message to build organically with exponential reach. So how do you write a storyline that invites consumers to become the author of your brand story?

According to Steve Lesnard, the key is to craft a big idea that transcends and taps into bigger human needs.Will your next big idea inspire consumers to make your story their own? How will you optimize this opportunity for better consumer engagement and market penetration?

About Steve Lesnard

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 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 lead the development of the women’s marketing business across the world, turning a niche industry into a multi billion dollar division.


As a sports fanatic and outdoor enthusiast since childhood, Steve Lesnard has also provided consulting services on various global marketing campaigns for several other brands in the athletics, fashion and tech sectors. He releases regular podcasts on which he shares his experience and insights on consumer-centric global marketing and branding campaigns.

Steve Lesnard’s passion for creating global branding campaigns in the athletics sector is fueled by his personal zest for sports and the outdoors. From martial arts and running to mountain biking, kite surfing, and snowboarding, Lesnard relishes any activity that allows him to appreciate the “strength, power, and beauty” of Mother Nature. Lesnard currently resides in Denver with his wife and three children.

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