Data, CX, brand purpose, consumer insights, personalisation – sitting down with Nike’s brand brain
Steve Lesnard, former Nike brand leader, tells Marketing why some brands can’t get social purpose right and others fail to grasp the importance of CX.
To the masses, marketing can seem a rather superfluous practice. To someone who hasn’t spent time engrossed in the power of brand, the influence it has on culture, its psychological significance, its role in individual and group personality – there is an underlying art that is otherwise lost, even to some within the industry. One man who’s certainly not disenchanted with marketing, brand and corporate value is Steve Lesnard, former VP global brand marketing and general manager at Nike US.
Lesnard speaks about branding, innovation, purpose and consumer centricity with the passion of a fresh-faced scholar; in his more than two decades with the legacy sportswear brand, he led the company’s global women’s brand, its presence at the Olympics, its global running category, to name just a few examples.
Since, Lesnard has taken his learnings around the world to educate a new generation of marketers. At his forthcoming appearance at ADMA Data Day, he’ll speak on the relationship between consumer insights data and consumer expectations – why modern business approaches to innovation are all wrong, the importance of clear value propositions for brand and how consumer insights can drive personalisation.
Here, Lesnard speaks to Marketing about brand purpose, why some companies succeed at it and others don’t, brands that don’t seem to internalise the importance of CX, how a Google search empowered Nike’s customer perspective and much more.
Marketing: Lately we’ve seen brand purpose done well and we’ve also seen it fall flat on its face – is there a pivotal difference in approaching a brand purpose campaign that determines its acceptance or its failure?
Steve Lesnard: It’s a great question. The way I look at it is the ‘what’ and the ‘how’. The ‘what’ part is about making sure the brand values are authentic to the stance that the brand is taking. That gives legitimacy to a brand to take a position and to withstand the critics that will naturally come when it takes such a polarising position. That would be the first bronzer or way to evaluate, for me, the right way to do it.
Does it align with the corporate value of the brand? And is the brand willing to take some of the heat from standing behind these values?
The next thing is how you do it – making sure the messaging and the approach aligns and reflects the tone and the values for which you want to stand versus potentially falling into the trap of becoming someone who wants to take advantage of a situation. There’s the craft of the message, the ‘what’; does that truly align with your brand purpose? Are you willing to stand behind this over time? You may therefore gain some customers but potentially lose some along the way as well.
It’s quite obvious from the consumer perspective which brands really care about CX and which brands only superficially approach it. Why do so many brands struggle with internalising the importance of CX?
In my experience there’s been two elements that slow down the development of CX within the culture of the company. The first one is core competencies. Sometimes your business model is such that gathering data can be quite daunting and labour intensive. If your business is heavily reliant on wholesale partners who collect data that you don’t have access to, then collecting data can be quite challenging. Or if your systems are such that you have so many different touchpoints that collecting and organising data is not driving immediate results, that can delay adoption from companies.
For the majority of industries, data is going to be the oxygen that fuels an organisation. It’s a matter of how you wire yourself quickly to get there. Companies like Salesforce have built very successful businesses providing systems that create an ecosystem where multiple players can leverage data – so if you work with wholesale partners they can all use similar systems allowing for communication.
For other companies, younger companies or more tech-driven companies, data was the way they started to build their business and you can see them moving so much faster in elements of personalisation and consumer customisation.
I’m not sure why companies are reluctant. Some of them don’t see the value of prioritising CX based on how potentially hard it is for them to get over the short-term investments for the long-term gain.
How can broader demographic insights be used to drive personalisation on an individual level?
Here’s an example I’ve used for a long time from the world of sports, serving consumers who are training for something. Talking to people from Google a couple of years ago, they were telling us that there were half a billion searches on the topic of ‘running’ on Google.
The two most frequently asked questions were ‘how do I start running?’ and ‘what do I wear?’
Going back to the fundamental questions that a consumer has around starting running or improving running, most brands were not necessarily answering those questions, because they were more focused on launching their latest and greatest products.
If you dig a little deeper there, you understand that there’s a journey for the consumer. If you sign up for a race, there’s a really interesting journey that uncovers key moments in time, pain points where consumers are looking from guidance from brands to train or to gear up. By studying and understanding these pain points, you can then provide very personal products and services that create loyal customers at scale.
That’s just one of the example that demonstrates how consumer insights can drive personalisation at scale.
Do you have advice for marketers who aren’t confident in the data side of their role?
If you look at the key consumer touch points that consumers have with your brand, trying to pick one of these elements in organising and capturing data around that touch point would be the first suggestion. And I would go with a website. If your brand has a direct-to-consumer opportunity to sell on your website, this is the first chance to mine data and to learn about your customers on that website as much as you can.
They will give you direct information on how they’re using your product and your services – what they like and what they don’t like.
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Image credit:Kristian Egelund