Creating a north star for our skiing / snowboarding lifestyle brand project.

Executive Summary | Abstract | TL;DR
We outline all the work we did to arrive at a brand strategy for the ski / snowboard lifestyle. A strategy the best position for success, whereas a plan is the list of steps to get to strategic position.

We research our customer through talking to them and consuming their media. We find they value time on the slopes, apres-ski, and nature. We spot an opportunity where sweating from skiing is keeping them from confidently socializing afterward, because they are often damp and their hair is unkempt. We write the brand promise: Codename: Champagne Powder is going to keep people clean, dry and smelling good through a suite of personal care products so people can spend all day on the slopes and be fresh for apres-ski.

We use a ‘use case scenario’ to see what products with what features would fulfill our brand promise. We then take what we learned and formulate strategies for the marketing, distribution, promotion, graphics, packaging, and pricing of our products.

This is the Part 6 of our Lifestyle Brand Series where we explore how brands become associated with aspirational lifestyles. Read Part 1 to understand what is a lifestyle brandPart 2 on Beats by Dre., Part 3 on DC Shoes, Part 4 on Arc’teryx, and Part 5 on what those brands have in common.

Previously in the lifestyle brand series, we have picked apart Beats, DC Shoes and Arc’teryx to tease out what strategies made successful lifestyle brands. I don’t know about you, but I am eager to start getting my hands dirty and make one of these lifestyle brands from scratch. It just seems fun and fulfilling, so let’s do this!

“Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.”
-Sun Tzu 

Hold on! If we just dive into the creative, we are just going to spend a lot of time not necessarily getting anywhere. We need a strategy and plan. We will formulate the strategy here, and the plan in Part 7.

What is the difference between a strategy and a plan? A strategy describes the position with the highest probability of success, and a plan is how you intend to get from where you are to that strategic position.

Researching the Values Of Our Customers

Connecting with our market, so their values become our values.

We encourage you to read part 5 of the lifestyle brand series, but in case you missed it, we used our case studies of Beats by Dre, DC Shoes, and Arc’teryx to determine a list of steps to create a lifestyle brand. The first two steps will bring us to our strategy.

Step one is: determine the values of the people in the lifestyle. To do that you need to connect with the people of the lifestyle you are targetting, and sus out what they value.

You do not need to be a psychologist to do this; it is easier than it sounds. People who engage in a lifestyle are so passionate about it that they can quickly talk about why they have chosen that lifestyle. They typically have sacrificed in parts of their lives to seek what they value in this lifestyle. They usually have a firm understanding of what they are moving toward. It also helps if you are part of the lifestyle yourself.

The people we are trying to connect with using our lifestyle brand is people who love skiing and snowboarding. We chose this group because I am a lapsed skier. My father had me in skis slightly after I could walk and I continued until my mid-20s;  my father and I traveled all over North Ameria on ski strips. Financial and time pressures mean I have only been skiing a few times in the last few years, but it is something I plan on getting back to and introduce my son as well. He is walking now, so I guess it’s time!

The difference between a lifestyle skier and me is that they are willing to sacrifice time and money from other parts of their lives to fuel their passion for the slopes. Evan Hill is a skier who gave up a corporate job after graduating from university to become a wildland firefighter in the summer, so he was open to ski all winter; he also talks at length in a documentary my Joshua Landon about pinching pennies all year to afford the equipment, lift passes and lodging. I connected with people like Evan by reaching out to passionate skier and snowboarders I know and looking for their stories on blogs, podcasts, and YouTube.

Things skiers / snowboarders value:

  • Number of days on the slopes.
  • On slope socializing.
  • Apres-ski (after mountain parties / hangouts)
  • Good conditions / Snow quality
  • Good gear.
  • The immersive experience / Scenery.
  • Exhilaration from speed, tricks, and challenging runs.
  • Nature.

Developing a Brand Promise.

Making a promise to our customers to connect them to what they value.

Step two is: align the brand’s values with your customers through a strong mission statement. You’ll remember that we defined a formula for this step:

Brand Promise Formula
(brand) is going to ____________________(remove barrier) through __________________(product) so people can ____________________(object / behaviour / status the customer values).

So we need to define our brand name, the barrier we are going to remove, what our product / service is and the customer values we are unlocking for our customers. That seems like a tough list, but if you are anything like us, they may have become self evident in your research process to determine the values.

It is okay if you already have a successful product and are working backward to understand how it is connecting with people in a particular lifestyle. We are starting fresh in our case.

It is also okay to redefine these once you are a little further down the process from here. That is called a pivot, and completely acceptable. So try not to feel pacified by choosing the perfect mission statement. This is a fluid process.

Here are our variables:

  • Brand: Codename: Champagne Powder (for now, until Part 8)
  • Removing Barrier: Keeping people clean, dry and smelling good.
  • Product: Suite of personal care products.
  • Customer value: Spend all day on the slopes and be fresh for apres-ski.

If we plug these into our mission statement formula:

Brand Promise
Codename: Champagne Powder is going to keep people clean, dry and smelling good through a suite of personal care products so people can spend all day on the slopes and be fresh for apres-ski.

Our mission statement tells us what we need to accomplish, but a strategy is about what position we have to be in to have the best shot at accomplishing that mission. The question we need to ask to have a true strategy is: where do we need to be, what skills do we need to have and assets do we need to possess to have our best chance at achieving our mission?

Thankfully, the many of the statements in the strategy are derivative of the mission statement. We can pull words directly from the mission statement. We can also pull words and themes from our list of customer values.

Using a Use Case Scenario

A tool to see how products could fulfill the brand promise in action.

A use case scenario is an exercise you can do to get a better sense of what your product or service needs to be to accomplish its mission. A use case scenario is where you imagine someone using your product and document the steps. Product features will become self-evident so you can make a list of them as you move through the exercise. Use case scenarios are simple and extremely powerful.

If you cannot imagine the steps yourself, you can talk through a typical day with someone in the lifestyle. Better yet, you can observe them in their day and use of similar products and document the process.

Use Case Scenario
Jeanette, or Big J as he fellow snow bums like to call her, is 21 years old and works as a sales associate in an oceanside tourist shop in the summer so she can board all winter. She longs for snowboarding in the offseason and watches tricks from pro snowboarders on YouTube and Instagram. She is in Lake Louise this winter and spends most of her time on the slopes.

Jeanette arrives at the hill in her 2006 Volvo wagon, and grabs her board and her boot bag and trudges across the snowy parking lot. She smells the fresh snow through the cold, dry air. Jeanette skips the ticketing lodge because she has a season pass. She drops her board off at the rack and enters the relative warmth of the lodge. She makes her way to the locker room.

There is an available spot on a bench Jeanette snags. She unzips her bag, takes out her snowboard boots, and rifles around for her toiletries bag hoping it isn’t crushed by her snowboard boots. She finds it and lays it out with her goggles, neck warmer, mitts and toque. She takes off her jacket, but she needs to keep on her fleece and base layer as not to waste time and expose herself to the entire lodge. She takes the antiperspirant and applies it to her armpits by threading her arm through the neck hole of her sweater and base layer. She sprays the aerosol drying compound onto her torso through her neck hole up from her waist and sprays it into her mitts for good measure.

Big J spends most of the morning immersed in nature, boarding by herself in Lake Louise’s ‘Back Bowls,’ but returns to the ‘Front Side’ where she finds some fellow boarders she knows. They decided to get lunch together. Over lunch, they tell her about a dance with a ski club that night, at the base of the mountain. Jeanette decides she is going to attend.

Jeanette finishes her day on the slopes, and comes down to the lodge and finds her bag in the locker where she left it. She takes off her mitts, toque, neck warmer and jacket in that order. She realizes that her fleece and base layer are not as moist as she would expect; the drying compound and antiperspirant must have done their jobs.

She grabs her toiletries bag and heads to a bathroom. Her hair is oily and noncompliant from being in a sweaty beanie all day, so she uses the dry shampoo in the washroom and combs it out. She reapplies the antiperspirant and finally applies the scent. It reminds her of the smell of fresh snow, like all of the other products. She gets herself ready and changes into jeans and a fresh sweater she had stashed in her bag for just this occasion.

Jeanette celebrates the season with her old and new friends in the bar of the lodge. She is confident and feels put together. One person comments that she doesn’t look like she spent the day on the slopes; she laughs, but ultimately takes it as a compliment.

What we learned.

– Most of the disposable income of our market does towards skiing / snowboarding and supporting products, which our product would be included in.

– Skiers and boarders are all ages, but the people in need of this product are mostly young adults, with some being middle-aged

– Boarders are influenced by pros with a strong social media presence.

– We find our customers at ski resorts.

– We should promote in and around ski mountains, towns and resorts.

– Need different his and her scents, or unisex scent.

– Skiers and boarders value function over form.

– Packaging durable enough to handle a boot bag.

– Maybe have a protective case.

– If not, anything aerosol needs to have a protective cap, as not to spray in a bag.

– Compact, to take up less bag space.

– They should be light, and not add to the weight of the bag.

– Emulate the smell of fresh snow.

– Compact antiperspirant.

– Aerosol drying spray.

– Need a dry shampoo.

– Ideally, our products would stand up to sub-zero temperatures, but they do spend most of the time in warm lodges.

– Our market enjoys nature, and our products should be sustainable.

– Naturally sourced ingredients would be preferred by our market.

– Packaging should use post-consumer recycled materials and be recyclable themselves.

– Need a hairbrush in the kit.

– The emotional benefit of the product is confidence.

– Our product allows skiers like Jeanette to care-freely enjoy both the slopes and the nightlife

So now we have a picture of a person who has a product that fulfills our brand promise. And we have a list of attributes about her and the product. Those are the building block for our strategy.

Finally, the Strategy

Taking all that we have learned and putting it together clearly and concisely.

Now we can take all of the details we have learned by going through our research, our brand promise and our use case scenario and string it together in strategies for the marketing, distribution, promotion, graphics, packaging, and pricing of our products.

Remember, all of this is to define where we are best positioned to deliver on our brand promise to as many people as we can.

Market strategy.
Our primary market is composed of 18-30 year old men and women who ski / snowboard daily and socialize at mountain resorts. Our secondary market is composed of 18-70 people who ski / snowboard occasionally. Our tertiary market is composed of adults who may or may not ski, but would like strong personal care products and look with admiration living the ski lifestyle.

Distribution strategy.
Our product will be distributed to our primary and secondary markets through retailers at ski resorts and pharmacies in towns with high winter tourism. Our product will be distributed to our tertiary market through pharmacies. Direct to consumer e-commerce will distribute to all markets.

Promotion strategy.
 Our products will be promoted through influencers in the ski-snowboard lifestyle. We will promote in the ski lodge. Our promotion will be geographically limited to ski resorts and towns and limited to slightly before and during the ski season. We will make our product as visible as possible in retail, as it is a new segment that customers are not aware of

Graphics strategy.
We need to have graphics that connect with skiers / snowboarders and are perceived as clean and fresh. Graphics should focus on the confident and carefree enjoyment of skiing, snowboarding and nightlife.

Product strategy.
We need products that smell good to skiers / snowboarders, and keep them clean and dry while exercising in their winter attire. Our suite of personal care products needs to include a clinical strength antiperspirant, an aerosol drying spray, a dry shampoo, a hair gel, and a fragrance. The products should have a consistent unisex scent, or his / her scents that emulate the smell of fresh snow. Secondary products include a hair brush and carrying case durable enough to protect the products in a boot bag. All product should use naturally sourced ingredients where possible and have no effect on the earth after use.

Packaging strategy.
Our products need to be applicable in a ski lodge with limited access to washrooms and bathrooms. The products need to be compact. Packaging needs to be durable. Aerosols should not have any chance of discharging in a bag. Packaging should use post-consumer recycled material and be recyclable after use.

Pricing strategy.
Our products will be at a premium price point warranted by their capabilities and niche market. They will never be discounted. A gift set of the entire line will be slightly cheaper than the product individually and include the carrying case for free.

Conclusion and Next Steps.

Admiring how far we have come and the daunting work ahead.

So we see now where we need to be to execute on the promise of this brand. This will be invaluable to communicate to all the specialist we will need to work with to bring us to that position; we will need the help of designers, chemists, ad buyers, distributors, and many others. But our strategy will act as a north star: a destination so all of those people in different positions will be moving in the right direction.

Next is where we outline a plan of all of the steps that need to take us from where we are (nowhere!) to a place to put us in the position our strategy outlines.