While some brands barely survived the COVID-19 pandemic, many enterprises thrived thanks to quick-thinking and future-focused leadership, creative marketing solutions, and the reimagination of brand identities. In these cases, changes in C-suite leadership revitalized brands, providing much-needed outside perspectives on the “new normal.”
That’s been the case for the internationally-recognized marketing C executive, Steve Lesnard. After successfully leading The North Face brand through the early days of the pandemic as its CMO and Global VP of Product Creation, Steve Lesnard recently announced his move to Sephora.
Today, Lesnard serves as Sephora’s new Global Chief Brand Officer, with plans to globalize the brand further through the power of omnichannel marketing. Learn more about Steve Lesnard’s marketing experience with The North Face, why he pivoted to Sephora, and what he envisions for the future of the beauty brand.
About Steve Lesnard: Brand Marketing Executive
Although Steve Lesnard grew up on the French island of Corsica, he has a uniquely global perspective on product and brand marketing. He earned his MBA in the United States and managed multinational teams across the span of his decades-long career.
As an avid outdoorsman and athlete, Steve Lesnard has over 25 years of experience marketing for athletic brands. He’s worked on high-profile campaigns with Olympians, professional athletes, and more, solving consumer pain points with a collaborative, future-focused approach to brand marketing.
Steve Lesnard As The Brand Marketing Expert At The North Face
Before his tenure at The North Face, Lesnard was the general manager of a $5 billion athletics division within the largest sports company. At The North Face, he put that expertise to work, defining the brand’s mission and leading its team through the trials of the pandemic.
As the CMO and Global VP of Product Creation at The North Face, Steve Lesnard focused on marketing and product creation, developing several initiatives that boosted the brand, despite the pandemic.
Part of Steve Lesnard’s approach at The North Face was personalizing consumer interactions as much as possible. Using the power of first-party data, Lesnard knew the brand could exceed shopper expectations, ditching generic marketing in favor of bolstering authentic relationships.
Lesnard’s marketing approach leaned heavily into consumer pain points. For example, his team was behind FUTURELIGHT, The North Face’s breathable waterproof fabric. After listening to athletes’ pain points about staying dry—without feeling suffocated in their waterproof clothes—The North Face was able to innovate and create something truly amazing. The result was a product line that mitigated consumer concerns, maintained the high-quality standard that The North Face is renowned for, and became a staple borne out of a symbiotic consumer-brand relationship.
“I learned the hard way that you can’t ignore customer feedback,” Lesnard explains, “Now I make feedback a priority.”
Reset Normal Equity Campaign
The pandemic wasn’t the only important path to navigate in 2020, with racial equality gaining traction as a major facet of personal, social, and corporate responsibility. Supporting efforts to raise awareness and bolster change, Lesnard’s team collaborated on the Reset Normal campaign, which addressed racial inequity in outdoor athletics. Not only did The North Face donate $7 million to address inequity, but its team sought to reach out to nature-deprived areas with diversity initiatives.
Recognizing the benefits of collaboration from a marketing and brand development perspective, Lesnard worked hard with his team to make strategic partnerships a reality for The North Face.
For example, The North Face began sponsoring climbing competitions in Tokyo. By bringing climbing to a new, global audience, The North Face not only found a new market but connected climbers from across the globe. Lesnard also strategically placed The North Face logo on the uniforms for extra brand exposure and recognizability.
One of Lesnard’s most successful partnerships included a co-branded campaign with Sonos. The two brands released a joint Soundscape Series, which brought the sounds of outdoor excursions to consumers’ homes. Instead of approaching this as a simple music playlist, Lesnard ensured that the audio told a story, inspiring people to enjoy and appreciate the great outdoors, no matter where they live.
While Lesnard’s team doubled down on strategic marketing partnerships, they also collaborated with several high-profile, luxury brands to create custom product lines, further expanding The North Face’s reach. The goal was to bridge the gap between high-performance clothing and luxury lifestyle brands in authentic collaborations that consumers would love.
In its partnership with Maison Margiela (MM6), The North Face revived its Expedition System from the 1990s—but with a twist. The North Face and MM6 blended their products using MM6’s famous silhouettes, like its Circle dress, to create uniquely styled products.
In his efforts to showcase The North Face brand’s diversity in application, Lesnard also initiated a collaboration with Gucci. This partnership was so successful that the two brands have already completed two unique collections. In this co-branding campaign, Gucci and The North Face created outdoor-inspired luxury outfits that were both functional and luxurious.
Pandemic Shifts In Marketing Strategies
One of Steve Lesnard’s major feats with The North Face was successfully navigating the pandemic with his team. He joined the company shortly before the pandemic hit the United States, which made for a significant learning curve. As the pandemic created bespoke and evolving challenges, Lesnard’s marketing strategies shifted to reflect the changing needs of consumers, address their concerns, and provide a positive experience.
Despite facing the unknown, Lesnard rose to the challenge. He worked with his team to find ways to get people to engage in the outdoors, even when they couldn’t leave their apartments.
In response to quarantine, Lesnard worked with athletic influencers to create meaningful content for The North Face. This gave The North Face a greater variety of perspectives, but it was also a pandemic-friendly way to put more content in the hands of North Face customers.
Pivoting To Sephora As Global Chief Brand Officer
Sephora is a company that needs no introduction. This global beauty brand has a presence in 35 countries and 2,700 retail locations. Sephora not only curates products that meet its stringent standards, but it’s also a source of expert advice and community for millions of makeup mavens across the world.
Although he changed industries, Lesnard is confident in the future of beauty. It wasn’t an easy decision, but Lesnard says the pivot to Sephora was the logical next step in his career for four reasons.
- Global Marketing Experience
As a student, Steve Lesnard traveled as much as he could. He still loves experiencing new cultures and frequently works with cross-cultural teams in his work. One of the things that drew Lesnard to Sephora is its focus on global leadership. “After working for the global leader in sports, I recognized that Sephora is a clear leader in beauty. It’s the only global beauty prestige retailer with big ambition to continue to grow and scale across the world,” Lesnard says.
International sales are a challenge for any marketing professional, but Lesnard lives for the thrill. He’s excited by the idea of finding a common language across all cultures, finding solutions that fit multiple contexts.
Lesnard’s marketing career has continuously focused on growth and change. “Sephora has been a true innovator and disruptor in their space. I’m attracted to brands with innovation and disruption at their core, because they deliver a better experience for consumers,” Lesnard says.
Sephora is known for being an innovator in its industry. While many beauty brands are floundering with brick-and-mortar shopping, Sephora is expanding its footprint. In fact, the company just launched a huge omnichannel initiative, placing mini Sephora storefronts inside Kohl’s retail locations.
- Shared Values
Values are at the core of Lesnard’s approach to his professional experiences. When he learned about Sephora’s mission and values, he realized it was a perfect match. “Sephora’s point of view on beauty, its commitment to diversity and inclusion, and its sustainability initiatives deeply resonate with my personal values,” Lesnard says.
Lesnard admires the brand for its commitment to doing the right thing, including its initiatives focused on:
# Sustainability: As a member of the Sustainable Packaging Coalition, Sephora diverts as much waste from landfills as possible.
# Ingredient transparency: Sephora’s Chemicals Policy is 100% public. The brand is making strides to choose products with more sustainable formulations, too.
#Energy consumption: Sephora has been an EPA Green Power Partner for 7 years. The brand has powered all of its US stores and warehouses with 100% renewable energy since 2019.
# Diversity: Sephora scored 100% on the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Quality Index. The brand also committed to the 15 Percent Pledge, which asks brands to source 15% of their products from Black-owned businesses.
- Omnichannel Focus
Sephora is famous for seamlessly blending the online and in-person shopping experience. As a fan of omnichannel commerce, partnering with Sephora was a no-brainer for Lesnard.
“Coming from the branding world, Sephora’s expertise in omnichannel—with over 165 million records in their database—is at the forefront of reinventing the omnichannel experience. It’s an area that I’m passionate about,” Lesnard says.
Steve Lesnard’s Growth Plan For Sephora
Sephora is the only multi-brand prestige retailer to launch products on an international scale. Steve Lesnard plans to strengthen Sephora’s international presence, taking the lessons learned from The North Face to make the Sephora brand even more desirable.
Moving forward, Lesnard plans to boost Sephora’s omnichannel experience, create a consistent brand identity, and establish best practices for growing the brand. While the pandemic changed so many industries, Steve Lesnard is confident that Sephora will grow and deepen consumer relationships through thoughtful marketing initiatives. With 20+ years of marketing expertise backing up his vision for the brand, Lesnard’s big plans for Sephora will make it an even stronger brand in the beauty space.
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