Written by James D. Roumeliotis
If you go to a Porsche dealer they will talk to you about racing pedigree and performance, road-holding abilities – after which they will tell you about reliability and other attributes. This is all music to your ears as you seek to belong to that existence when it comes to the car you desire. It surely doesn’t sound as if the experience will be a mere commute from point A to B each time you drive a Porsche.
When a consumer makes a purchase of certain brands, the behavior and choices define the expression of a certain taste – of a personal identity. It makes the statement, “This is who and what I am.” It is a combination of a number of emotional factors including social status, self-worth assessment and emotional aspirations. A number of the most important emotional benefits of a product declare the expression, “It suits my lifestyle”.
What does the lifestyle brand imply – why does it matter?
Not every brand can be a lifestyle brand regardless if it strives to portray it. A company can define itself as a lifestyle brand when its products promote a certain lifestyle. However, lifestyle branding is more than just promoting a way of life; it is a product or service that provides consumers with an emotional attachment to a particular lifestyle. In return, companies can reap financial benefits by developing and sustaining an emotional and long-term bond with the consumer – thus a high profit margin is one of the reasons to become a lifestyle brand. Established lifestyle brands can also launch new products at a cheaper cost to the company due to the strength of the existing brand name; as it offers instant endorsement of new products which does away for the necessity for expensive promotion and advertising costs.
Building a lifestyle brand – making a connection with the consumer
Generally speaking, a brand that is designed for a lifestyle should have a much higher emotional value to consumers than one based on features like cost or benefits alone.
There are companies that become a lifestyle brand by expanding their product line with several products associated with a culture or group – or as marketing guru Seth Godin labels as a “tribe”. Examples include Harley Davidson selling branded merchandise to its customers and Calvin Klein licensing its name to a perfume line called EUPHORIA. Other successful lifestyle brands include Polo by Ralph Lauren and Abercrombie & Fitch amongst others.
In the electronics and computer industries, it is uncommon to have lifestyle products. However, Apple has done the unconventional by becoming a lifestyle brand after it expanded its market share into the music industry – initially through its iPod digital music player along with its ubiquitous white headphones which became a fashion accessory by some, as well as, some would argue, a prestigious possession. Later the iPhone and iPad were introduced, respectively, which had a very strong following to the point of obsession with many of its customers.
Lifestyle brands have gained an increased share of the luxury market such as BMW, Armani, W Hotels, Louis Vuitton and Rolex – just to name a few. These have given way to consumers to buy products that they associate with a “luxurious life”. They are essentially a status symbol.
Methods to reach a target audience require an integrated marketing/communication strategy including:
- Experiential Marketing
- Grassroots marketing
- Promotional tours
- Sponsorships of lifestyle events relevant to your products & services
- Lifestyle marketing on the Web – engaging with consumers lives online
- Viral video marketing
- Social media/networking (blogs, chat rooms & message boards) – “Interactive” is key
- Mobile phone media, text messaging & applications
The cons – not every brand can represent a lifestyle
New research from the Kellogg School finds that the strategy of traditional brands to reposition themselves as a “lifestyle” brand may fail in order to connect to their customers on a more personal level. “The open vistas of lifestyle branding are an illusion,” said Alexander Chernev, lead author of the study and associate professor of marketing at Kellogg. “By switching to lifestyle positioning, brands might be trading the traditional in-category competition for even fiercer cross-category competition.” “Now they have to compete not only with their direct rivals but also with brands from unrelated categories,” Chernev added. “Focusing on lifestyle puts brands like Gillette, Abercrombie & Fitch, Harley-Davidson, Starbucks, Apple, and Facebook in direct competition with one another.”
The study reveals how brands serve as a means of self-expression along with the limitations of expressing a consumer’s identity through brands. Moreover, the study uncovers customers’ desire for self-expression through brands is finite.
In summation – putting it all in perspective
Forward-thinking brands are those which will continue to develop creative ideas and solutions that will allow people to interact with each other and explore, as well as share creative opportunities. Moreover, those same brands will make it a strategic priority to add pleasure into the lives of their consumers.
To be sure, there are many excellent examples of lifestyle branding. A further notable one is with “hotel as lifestyle” creator Ian Schrager. Since the 70’s, as entrepreneur, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Ian Schrager Company, he has achieved international recognition for concepts that have revolutionized both the entertainment and hospitality industries.
His passionate commitment to the modern lifestyle has been expressed through a series of pioneering concepts: The hotel as home away from home, the hotel as theater, “cheap chic”, “lobby socializing”, the indoor/outdoor lobby, the urban resort, and the urban spa. His keen instincts for the mood and feel of popular culture were honed during the 70’s and 80’s, when he and his late business partner, Steve Rubell, created Studio 54 and Palladium. Rubell and Schrager soon turned their attention to the hotel business opening Morgans Hotel in 1984, introducing the concept of the “boutique hotel” to the world – which continues to be equally popular today.
The goal of a lifestyle brand is to become a way that people can utilize it to relate to one another. Those brands are an attempt to sell an identity, or an image, rather than a product and what it actually does.
About James Roumeliotis