In conversation with

Lawrence Stafford

Community Brand Manager at Finisterre

Introduction

Introduction

Few British brands have harnessed the power of community like Cornish surf company Finisterre. This is a brand that depends as much on its culture of sustainability as it does an uncompromising approach to quality. Not to mention its commitment to those who share their love of the sea.

At the helm of both brand and community is Lawrence Stafford. An ambassador of sorts, Lawrence is as recognised in their cliff top workshop at Wheal Kitty in St Agnes as he is any of their store locations across London, Bristol, Brighton, Exeter and Edinburgh. Perhaps more importantly, he’s likely to be found at sea – morning, noon and night – living, breathing (and surfing) the brand’s ethos of people, environment and product.

We caught up with Lawrence and asked him a few questions on why brand building relies on community, the campaigns that hero Finisterre’s customer, and how the brand stays true to its principle of sustainability.

Question and Answer

Brands are quick to jump on a wider social or environmental message, often using it as a vehicle to simply sell their product. What makes Finisterre’s mission unique and authentic?

It’s in our DNA. In that sense, it’s all we’ve ever known.

Our founding commitments ring truer and more importantly now than ever. These guiding values of People, Environment, Product direct every decision – top to bottom – throughout the business. From our team here at HQ to our supply chains and relationships around the world.

Further still, we’re now legally obliged to work this way – as part of B Corp and using business as a force for good.

That said, it’s important to recognise that those ‘jumping on’ will eventually (hopefully) come around in full. This is not for the short-term, that it’s the future if we want one.

The environment and sustainability is at the core of Finisterre’s product messaging – how do you weave this story into the brand’s content?

We consider ourselves on the forefront of product innovation. Working with fabrics, materials and processes that push the envelope of what’s possible. Showcasing these stories and the product insights is key to informing the right decisions when buying new products.

When someone is seeking fit-for-purpose clothing, they need to know it’s going to hold up. That’s it’s going to last and that it’s been made the right way. Making the connection between people and product – real people, out there putting it through its paces, sharing their experiences and inspiring others to forge their own.

We always talk about making the customer the hero – can you tell us about a particular campaign where Finisterre has done that?

A great example is our Nieuwland Works Wetsuit Tester Programmes. Notoriously difficult to design and essential to get right, wetsuits facilitate more time spent in the water. With that in mind, and it being our first foray into neoprene, we wanted to get it right first time.

That meant working with our community of cold water people and build it from the ground up. Comprising of a rigorous application process, weekly intel updates, Facebook Groups and tester camps – we prototyped and developed a wetsuit around the needs and critique of our most loyal users.

Beyond that, this is something we champion daily through the business. Our customers and supporters are the lifeblood of Finisterre. From the full houses at our in-store events to the people on the phone with our customer service teams – our customers inform what we do so we can better facilitate their adventures.

How would you describe Finisterre’s tone of voice? How does the brand’s tone reflect its internal culture and values?

Transparent.

From what you hear/read online or in film, to the conversations you may have in our stores – it’s no different to if you were to find yourself in the kitchen in the office at HQ. We’re here to inspire a love of the sea so we might better protect it together. When that’s the mission, it serves us best to be honest and real. There’s no time for BS.

How do you keep the culture consistent as your team grows?

With new additions to the team, we quite literally throw them in the deep end – more than one or two employees will tell you a tale of having jumped off a rock stack into the cold Atlantic below. There’s nothing quite like it when it comes to immersing yourself in the culture. Those shared experiences soon make you feel part of the family and the shared task at hand.

What other brands in the space do you admire for how they’ve attached a lifestyle to their brand?

Arvin Goods – taking the everyday basics and turning it on its head with regards to more considered construction; celebrating all things counter culture and alternative living at the same time. And of course Patagonia – I’d be lying to myself if I didn’t include them. They’re great inspiration to us all – leading the charge for environmental, social and political brand agendas.

Finisterre’s marketing strategy is as much about creating a community as it is about telling its story and spreading its message. What are your three pieces of advice to build a community around a brand?

– Build it with them, not for them.
– Authenticity is everything.
– Ground swell effect. A positive disturbance will travel great distances without losing energy.

If Finisterre was to go on a surf trip, which other brands would it go with and why?

We’ve got our trips pretty well oiled: a small, agile crew leaving little to no trace. That said, it would be good to take one of the bigger brands with a bigger influence still, so we might better show them the natural world and fragility of our oceans. And a foodie brand who could help with the catering.

Lawrence's Storylist

Books

  1. Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming
  2. Salar The Salmon by Henry Williamson
  3. Surviving The Future by David Fleming
  4. Wilderness Essays by John Muir

Magazines

  1. Huck Magazine
  2. The Beam
  3. Nat Geo
  4. Oceanographic Magazine

Newsletters

  1. The Finisterre Broadcast

Podcasts

  1. Spaceship Earth
  2. Looking Sideways
  3. The Beam Podcast
  4. Guardian In Focus

Digital Platforms

  1. The Finisterre Broadcast
  2. Medium
  3. New Scientist
  4. Monocle
  5. Shift
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