What comes to mind when you think of outdoor apparel? Perhaps it’s something sleek or aerodynamic? Maybe it’s something that allows you to move freely, almost as if you’re wearing a second skin. Sure, there are already products on the market today that accomplish this goal somewhat decently, but there has yet to be a truly innovative product that has shaken the outdoor apparel industry to its core.
Consumers have been crying out for apparel that keeps them comfortably dry in rain, snow, and ice conditions. That said, people aren’t looking for yet another rain jacket; there are already plenty of available options from a wide variety of brands. Consumers seek something new and innovative as we move into a new decade.
The North Face and Steve Lesnard, who was recently promoted to VP of Global Product and Marketing, were presented with the challenge of bringing in the new year with a truly innovative product that would catch the eye of the public. The company was more than willing to take on the challenge but had no interest in designing apparel that the world had already seen before. Thus, FUTURELIGHT was born.
Years in the Making
The research and development of FUTURELIGHT fabric have been years in the making. That time was spent tailoring the product to meet the specific needs of athletes, outdoorsmen, and weekend warriors with its innovative design. FUTURELIGHT is made with a proprietary process called nanospinning, which involves spinning ultra-fine fibers together into a solid, waterproof barrier that offers air permeability never before seen in athletic apparel. After extensive testing, FUTURELIGHT stands out in the market due to its durability, construction, weight, breathability, stretch, and texture.
The Changing Nature of Athletic Wear
Athletic apparel was once the sole domain of professional athletes. The world has undergone a shift, however. Today, millions of people have adopted active lifestyles. Yoga, hiking, running, and swimming are just a few examples of activities that have become popularized and adopted by millions of people over the past few years. With more people getting out and living an active lifestyle, the outdoor apparel industry has a larger audience than ever before.
Steve Lesnard recognized that communicating with such a massive audience required delivering a product tailored to their needs and wants. He turned to the many athletes sponsored by The North Face and sought their feedback on what they wanted from athletic apparel. Lesnard also turned to the expanding customer base of everyday users to gain additional feedback. This feedback was crucial in making FUTURELIGHT into the product that it is today, but it also marked a shift in how The North Face would approach its newest marketing campaign.
A Shift in Marketing
It’s one thing to make a product that has the potential to shake up the industry. It’s quite another to communicate to your audience that it’s worth their time and money. FUTURELIGHT fills a gap in the market – the need for proper waterproof apparel. And we’re not talking about the kind that has a crunchy, bulky outer shell that hinders your ability to move freely. FUTURELIGHT is designed to fit comfortably, look great, and allow for complete freedom of movement.
To communicate the benefits of FUTURELIGHT, Lesnard decided to launch a campaign that focused on providing value first to the customer. The campaign included a series of educational resources with tips and tricks on successful outdoor living, such as how to pitch a tent and other useful information. Lesnard calls this process “personalization at scale,” which refers to brands that are well educated about the desires and aspirations of their target audience and can quickly adapt and evolve as the market evolves, ultimately providing a better customer experience. Lesnard believes that the more educated you are about your customer base, the better your ability to manufacture and market a product that will meet their expectations.
Defy the Past, Wear the Future
One of the standout features of FUTURELIGHT is its environmentally friendly design. FUTURELIGHT is entirely composed of recycled fabrics and produced in factories that operate on solar energy. The North Face’s latest slogan – “Defy the past, wear the future” – is the perfect embodiment of the company’s stance on protecting the environment.
The evidence is indisputable that the environment is undergoing drastic changes that spell trouble for future generations. Taking massive collective action is likely the only way to combat this issue. In its latest marketing campaign, The North Face positions itself as a champion for change and innovation, creating a deeper connection with its customer base in the process.
Adding Value First to the Customer
We’ve all been the target of endless ads and commercials. Visit any site or social media platform for even a few seconds, and you’ll encounter at least half a dozen ads. As a society, we’ve become desensitized to targeted sales-focused advertising. There’s a reason that your guard instantly goes up the moment you answer a call from a telemarketer.
With decades of advertising experience, Lesnard recognizes the importance of communicating the company’s message by adding value first and focusing on sales second. The ultimate goal of FUTURELIGHT is to cause a disruption in the industry and invoke change. The North Face understands the importance of giving its customers exactly what they want, which is likely the reason that the company poured time, money, and human resources into a three-year process of research and development to create the perfect product.
FUTURELIGHT has been field-tested by dozens of professional athletes. When flaws were discovered, the product engineers went back to the drawing board to rework the idea and make corrections until the product was ready for the market. Unsurprisingly, FUTURELIGHT fabric is one of the greatest innovations in the outdoor apparel industry and may cause a shift in what we expect from athletic wear in 2020 and beyond.
About Steve Lesnard
As the newly appointed global vice president of product and marketing at The North Face, Steve Lesnard brings years of experience to the table. Lesnard has an extreme passion for all things outdoors. He enjoys mountain biking, martial arts, snowboarding, running, kite surfing, and everything in between.
Lesnard brings more than 20 years of experience to The North Face, conducting innovative product launches, leading global brand campaigns, brokering high-level partnerships, and driving high-profile business growth. A few of Lesnard’s most notable accomplishments include taking charge of two Olympic marketing campaigns and launching industry innovations that drove growth in a $5.3 billion business. When Lesnard isn’t launching industry-changing innovations or engaging in outdoor activities, he’s spending time with his wife and three children in Denver.
The athletic wear industry is changing. FUTURELIGHT has set a high bar for others to follow. Not only is the product tailored to meet the exact needs of professionals and amateurs alike, but its focus on sustainability sends a message that The North Face has a vested interest in protecting the environment. The future looks bright for The North Face with Steve Lesnard now on board. We can only wait to see what the future has in store for the company.