Invest time to truly understand your people such as your team and employees — Think about what they want and how do they want it.
Be open to feedback — Criticism and opinions helps the brand and team members improve for the better and helps growth.
Never stop learning — Seek out resources internally or externally to help expand your knowledge and explore new things.
As a part of our series called “5 Things You Need To Know To Create A Very Successful Lifestyle Brand”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Ron Stoupa, Senior Vice President — Chief Marketing Officer at Michaels.
Ron is responsible for transforming the marketing function through customer-centric strategies including advertising, social media, direct marketing, segmentation, category content and CRM principles.
Most recently, Ron was the Chief Customer Officer for Independent Pet Partners. Prior to that, he held various marketing leadership roles for companies such as ConAgra Foods, Bass Pro Shops, The Pep Boys, Inc., Sports Authority and Gander Mountain.
Ron holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln. He also earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a bit about your “childhood backstory”?
I’m the Chief Marketing Officer at Michaels, responsible for transforming the marketing function through customer-centric strategies including advertising, public relations, social media, direct marketing, segmentation, category content and CRM principles. Previously, I was the Chief Customer Officer at Independent Pet Partners. I have a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln and a MBA from the University of Texas at Austin. I live in Fort Worth, Texas with my wife, two daughters and two golden doodles. In my free time I enjoy fishing, skiing, and spending time with my family.
Can you tell us the story of what led you to this particular career path?
I’ve always had a passion for brand development throughout my career. It’s important to find and work at companies that value people, employees and customers, and supports their passions.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Back when I was an intern, we were coordinating a visit of the executive leadership team and my job was to pick them up and take them to their first appointment but I didn’t confirm the airport. I assumed the airport and it ended up being at the wrong one. The lesson here is communication is key. Retail is all about details!
Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin. The book is takes war lessons and applies them to the business world — which changed the way I lead my employees and engage with my peers. What stuck with me most from the book was: A leader is ultimately responsible for their employees. It’s important to build a team strategically and focus on objectives. It’s not what you preach, it’s what you tolerate. A leader must believe in a mission and show the importance of teamwork and check your ego!
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Life isn’t really complicated — we most likely make it that way. I follow the KISS principle — “Keep things simple!”
How do you define a Lifestyle Brand? How is a Lifestyle Brand different from a normal, typical brand?
My definition is humanization because customers feel like they can connect with a brand on a personal level and know they are customizing content specifically for them and their community. Lifestyle brands really understand their customers’ wants and needs, and will meet them when and where they are, if it’s either through social platforms or in-store. What differentiates lifestyle brands to a typical brand is unique content and imagery that represents the brand as a whole so when a customer sees specific colors or an aesthetic image on social, they will think of a brand they know of associated with those specific themes.
What are the benefits of creating a lifestyle brand?
The benefits include building a sense of community for others, a trusted go-to resource within your area of expertise and the ability to connect with others on a mutual shared interest.
In your opinion, what is an example of a company that has done a fantastic job building a believable and beloved Lifestyle Brand? What specifically impresses you? What can one do to replicate that?
Bass Pro Shops — their entire focus is adventure and sharing that passion with others. A passion-driven approach will go a long way when you are building a brand. Anyone who is a professional or casual about the outdoors, can enter their store and they are welcomed, educated and inspired by employees. The stores are successful because they curate the assortment and shopping experience for a specific area and know their audience.
The brand has a great mix of “retail-tainment” and ads — rooted in the love of outdoors. They know their audience and lean into their passions in a compelling and inspiring way. The main reason why I joined Michaels is because we offer a similar unique shopping experience and also serve passionate shoppers (planners, cricut, bakers). Foundationally, customer love & brand experience is similar!
Let’s imagine that someone reading this interview has an idea for a lifestyle brand that they would like to develop. What are the first few steps that you would recommend that they take?
The first steps would include finding your passion, being authentic and studying the space. Then identify what you can bring to the space or problem you can resolve. Continue to stay curious throughout growth.
What are your “5 Things You Need To Know To Create A Very Successful Lifestyle Brand” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)
- Invest time to truly understand your people such as your team and employees — Think about what they want and how do they want it.
- Be open to feedback — Criticism and opinions helps the brand and team members improve for the better and helps growth.
- Never stop learning — Seek out resources internally or externally to help expand your knowledge and explore new things.
- Take (smart) chances — Some of the best opportunities come out of taking chances that have risks. You will never know if you don’t take them.
- Stay true to why you started — Continue to stay humble throughout your growth and development.
If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
Focus on the people. Make sure to take care of each other and everything else will fall into place. You can’t just focus on the numbers. Do right by providing training, education, and motivation for your team and peers. Follow the golden rule — treat others how you want to be treated, which includes helping people take care of themselves and loved ones.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
I would say Santa Claus. He himself is a brand that everyone recognizes, has efficient time management, spot on logistics, is world renowned, and loved by all. He has the marketing & operations answers I need!
Can you share your ideas about how to create a lifestyle brand that people really love and are ‘crazy about’?
It’s important to identify your target audience and understand what they’re passionate about. If you can lean into their passions and offer unique experiences for them then that’s a great way to get customers passionate about your brand in return. At Michaels, we have various types of customers and makers that we have to cater unique experiences to and we’re always keeping their passions and needs at the forefront of our minds when considering any new developments.
What are the common mistakes you have seen people make when they start a lifestyle brand? What can be done to avoid those errors?
As a lifestyle brand you have to be willing to evolve over time and adapt to better serve your customer base. I’ve witnessed some brands be reluctant to change. With that said, it’s important to adapt to your audiences’ needs while also being authentic to the brand. I’ve seen brands that believe rebranding is the key to become more modern, but they do it in a way that loses the authenticity of the overall brand which has a negative impact instead.
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this