- Tech Insights
Richard Ezra, Lion Brand Yarn's Chief Marketing Officer, works tirelessly to ensure the brand's legacy continues as a fifth-generation, family-owned business and one of the world's most innovative knitting and craft yarn marketers and distributors in the United States and other countries. Lion Brand yarns and accessories are sold online at craft specialty chains, discount chains, and independent shops. More than 80 different types of yarn are available for purchase on LionBrand.com.
The pandemic has made Ezra realize that he must approach his team with a heightened sense of empathy, recognizing that employees have lives, families, and struggles. He adds, "we have to be much more cognizant of this fact, especially as it becomes harder to separate work and personal lives."
Ezra attributes one factor to his success: the people around him, especially his executive team, David Blumenthal, the company’s owner, former CEO, current Chairman and Board Member; Chris Mills, President & CEO; and Adam Blumenthal, Lion Brand’s VP of Brand/Product Development and Digital. “Team empowerment is a big part of our development efforts,” said Ezra. We challenge the team to take risks and incorporate key areas into annual goals.” In citing his biggest overall accomplishment, Ezra says it's been the evolution of the marketing department into a strategic partner and thought leader within the industry. "This is truly due to the personnel we have brought on that has allowed us to make this transition over the past five years," he says.
No idea is a bad one—brainstorming is a welcome tool at Lion Brand. Ezra points to the launch of "Hue+Me," a blogger-inspired yarn program that exploded across the social landscape. He considers this initiative one of his proudest moments. The idea came from a team member. The program helped serve as a launching pad in assisting employees in building confidence and being more proactive. "My role was to remove obstacles and ignite the company and our retailers into embracing this concept," says Ezra.
"Marketing is embedded in every department, and the sharing of ideas and cross-functional leadership is very important," Ezra says. Applying that teamwork philosophy to JOANN Fabrics and Crafts, he collaborates with several departments, helping with promotional cadence, social media initiatives, and PR campaigns. That kind of assistance has been amplified by the pandemic, as most of Lion Brand's retail partners have needed them to become true strategic partners in helping them move their products. "We are increasingly being asked to offer solutions," adds Ezra. We also just launched our virtual showroom to give our customers and retailers a better way to connect with our content in a virtual setting.
Ezra has built an authentic connection with his customers. He has done this by making partnerships with organizations and causes that resonate with craftsmen and by meeting them where they are. He was instrumental in establishing Lion Brand's relationship with “Knit the Rainbow,” a New York-based charity that crafts handmade clothing for homeless LGBTQ+ youth.
It is part of a successful strategy of meaningfully connecting the brand to the culture of those who use the product. "We treat all our customers like family members," says Ezra. That means we support them no matter what the situation. We constantly remind ourselves of what our products mean to our customers.
Lion Brand's collaboration with Vanna White resulted in more than $2 million in donations to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. Knitting and crocheting have been linked to improved mental health, and Lion Brand has recently collaborated with the non-profit Mental Health America on several related programs. We help create memories, from a crochet blanket for a newborn baby that gets passed down from one generation to the next to a knit sweater for an ill friend in her favorite color. "’ Create a More Colorful, Connected, Comfortable, and Caring World’" is our mission, and we are committed to it,” he says.
As part of his advice to aspiring business owners, Ezra emphasizes that they should never lose sight of their core mission to be successful in the market. He advises keeping an open-door policy and listening to employees, even if they don't say what you want to hear.
To sum up, Ezra says that they will keep their current business model, but they will support scaling up and adding more content through the growing number of ways customers can interact with them, such as the metaverse, etc.
Chief Marketing Officer
Lion Brand Yarn
Founded in 1878 in New York City, Lion Brand Yarn Company is a fifth-generation, family-owned and operated business. We are devoted to inspiring and educating knitters and crocheters around the world with quality yarns. Lion Brand offers a wide range of yarns in fibers from 100% cashmere to wool and wool blends to premium acrylics. Our website offers over 7,500 free patterns, how-tos, and ideas that elevate the yarn crafting experience.