The Story Behind L.L.Bean's Brand Revitalization
L.L.Bean is an iconic 100-plus year-old retail brand. With that comes inherent benefits, including strong brand awareness and consumer trust. However, that legacy also comes with its challenges. Namely, keeping a 107-year-old brand relevant is a dynamic challenge. Consumer behavior is shifting and brands must be able to keep up with those changes, whether it's their product assortment, marketing, order distribution, among other things.
In a session yesterday at eTail East in Boston, Chris McDonough, chief sales and brand officer of L.L.Bean, detailed how the company is reimagining itself to better serve a modern, younger, more digital-savvy customer.
L.L.Bean undertook this project because the business was stagnating. In recent years sales growth had tapered off, the company had an aging customer file, and there were barriers to new customer acquisition. Furthermore, L.L.Bean's business was evolving. McDonough noted that over 50 percent of L.L.Bean's revenue is now generated from its e-commerce site, a shift from the traditional catalog mailer. E-commerce is the fastest growing part of L.L.Bean's business.
To start its brand revitalization project, L.L.Bean identified a new target customer: outdoor family enthusiasts. This customer is looking for products in which form follows function, is energized by the outdoors, identifies family together time as the best time. To better understand its customers, L.L.Bean conducted deep customer journey mapping.
"We're wedded to that customer and how we target them," McDonough said. "We've empowered the whole organization to understand this. We're creating purposeful products, experiences, and a sense of belonging for that customer. Brand and product married together."
5 Strategic Imperatives to a Stronger Brand
McDonough identified five steps that L.L.Bean has taken in pursuit of its goal to revitalize the brand for future growth. They include the following:
- Show customers we value them.
- Lead customers to products they will love.
- Guide customers to the right size and fit.
- Ensure customers can get the products they want.
- Make it easy for customers to interact with the brand.
The Role of Creative in L.L.Bean's Brand Refresh
In addition to addressing its new target customer and product assortment, L.L.Bean wanted to refresh its marketing of the brand, particularly the creative. This was done with a new brand manifesto: a commitment to the outdoors.
"We need to be celebrate differentiated product, but also need to build emotional connectivity," noted McDonough.
L.L.Bean has proliferated the number of marketing channels it participates in, as well as developed new partnerships that align with its commitment to being a brand that celebrates the outdoors. For example, L.L.Bean partnered with the National Park Foundation. Boosted by a $3 million commitment from L.L.Bean, the partnership will raise awareness about park experiences to match all interests, highlighting lesser-known national park sites across the country.
L.L.Bean's marketing campaigns have an omnichannel reach through multiple channels, including digital, physical, experiential, packaging, print, social media, and others. As for the content itself, it revolves around a common theme: to get consumers excited to enjoy the outdoors.
"We’re willing to be bold, make mistakes, and learn from them," McDonough said. "It's great to work on a 170-year-old brand that’s always willing to reinvest itself."
McDonough concluded his presentation by sharing with the audience the key takeaways L.L.Bean has gleaned from its brand refresh. He noted that these learnings can be leveraged to iterate and improve upon what currently has been put in place.
Connect and inspire the whole organization. For L.L.Bean, this meant ensuring all employees were aligned on the brand's new vision, and their role in helping it come to fruition.
Be laser-focused on product and customer experience. As McDonough noted, form follows function with L.L.Bean's product, and a better understanding of the brand's target customer will enable the company to provide them with improved experiences.
Be bold and disruptive in creative and media execution. L.L.Bean has begun testing new marketing channels, is delivering a refined message for a younger customer, and is willing to make mistakes — as long as it can learn from them.
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