Continued innovation is as crucial as ever. Brands with a long history of success are not guaranteed to continue that success through inertia. How can product leaders develop products for an iconic brand? The North Face Global CMO & VP of Product Creation Steve Lesnard shared his thoughts on developing products with a purpose and pinpointing the purpose of a particular product.

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On what makes a great product

Steve’s time at Nike gave him deep insight into great products, and he said great products have  “a sticky experience, that consumers will go back to on a regular basis.”

“I think for me, it always starts with the product creation side of things and I always first look at the purpose of the product, what is the role of that product? Does it solve a problem? Or does it improve a consumer experience? If you start there, and you have something that is very clear, it creates a really powerful foundation to work from. Is it going to enable people to do things better or more in the future?”

On making products with a purpose

Steve said that his team at Nike looked to what their customers needed and designed products to provide that. He’s especially proud of the Nike Plus app and community.

“We had identified a real need for motivation and a need for tracking, and it allowed Nike to provide the customers with a customized experience. We knew how fast they were running, when they were running, what type of terrain with their pace, to provide the right level of support for them along the way. So that was a real game changer in the industry; that was one of the very first running apps that really bridged community, physical, and digital in a pretty exciting way.”

As athletes themselves, Steve’s team chose to align their efforts with their customers’ needs and wants to create products with a purpose. “The insight was recognizing that a lot of runners run with music…. But when we launched that product, it was actually illegal to run with music in a race. You would be disqualified. And we picked the choice of following consumers and what their need was, and today you can run with music if you want to.”

On what makes a great product manager

“The first one is that they are experts in their field. And that means they know their consumers, they know the competitive landscape, and they have a clear vision about a problem they’re trying to solve.”

In addition to vision, great product managers are great team players, because teams are essential to successful projects and developing products with a purpose. “You have to rely on so many people’s expertise and passion to do that. So they’re their team leaders, they’re people you want to work with, and who inspire you.”

On what makes great marketing or product marketing 

Steve said great product marketing is about finding the right way to tell the story, to talk about the DNA and the personality of the product. Having passionate team members who know their customers and can speak to their customers is invaluable in developing products with a purpose.

“That’s why I always start with the inspiration. What was it designed for? Because again, I believe that great product marketers are great storytellers, and they let the product do the talking, or set the stage for the product to shine. That to me is what makes great product marketing.”

About the host
Patrick Blute Transfix, Product Marketing Lead

I am the Product Marketing Lead for Transfix, a leading transportation solutions provider, combining tech and a best-in-class carrier network to reshape the future of freight. I am also a host for Product Talk helping bring product leaders together to answer the question: "What makes a great product?"

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