What is Your Lifestyle Brand?

Yup. That picture is one of my mom and dad. We were on a boat fishing with my Uncle Iver in the Florida Keys. We spent most of our winters in Florida when I was little. It was great to be sent to Florida with a stack of homework, truly. I felt lucky. My family lived their lifestyle brand pretty authentically. And through this period of time it was the most happy, productive, successful period of my family’s life.

According to our beloved Wiki

A lifestyle brand is a brand that attempts to embody the values and aspirations of a group or culture for purposes of marketing.

(Did you know, that since its beginnings in 2001, Wikipedia has amassed an archive of 18 million entries in about 279 languages and is one of the 10 most popular websites on the Internet?)

My father was a lifestyle brand walking around in shoes. My dad was on a journey to become a self made man. He needed part time jobs to get through Harvard. He washed dishes and managed a weekend dance band. He went to our cousins’ home in Boston for meals frequently. My Aunt Mary said he would come and act like he had not eaten in a week. And honestly, I don’t think he had. He always told me through Harvard he was so poor and often hungry that peanut butter was all he often had to eat. Needless to say, while I love peanut butter to this day, my dad would never eat it when I was growing up.

Theodore C Argiris, top row third from the right

My dad was a straight A law student and at the top of his class.  He went from the Cook County State’s Attorney Office into private practice. He went on to build a very successful criminal law practice at 180 N LaSalle Street in downtown Chicago.

They say Theodore C. Argiris never lost a case. They say he was asked to become the next Attorney General for the State of Illinois and passed it up. Despite the fact that my dad was well known and a very active participant in Chicago politics, in the end, he was a very private man.

So I find the Wiki’s reply to be rather interesting. Honestly my family taught me how to live- no really how to be- a lifestyle brand. My dad was the Hero. He embodied the archetype. He overcame the odds and fought his fight to live what he believed was a good proper life. And rightfully so, he earned the right to freely come and go as he pleased as he was highly respected by the judges in the courtroom he served, his clients, colleagues and peers.

And the rest of my extended family only further deepened the values and beliefs I learned from my dad.

Menu from my Uncle George's Ham n'Egger restaurant

My Uncle George loved to cook so he opened a breakfast place in the Loop called the Ham n’Egger on Randolph Street. My dad use to stop there on his way to work. On Saturday’s I went with him to the office and had breakfast at my Uncle’s diner. The place was always packed.

My Uncle Tom loved fruits and vegetables. So he started to build the Argires Produce brand.  In Chicago, if you go to a Cubs game, vendors sell their peanuts outside of the gate. And you can find their brand name in grocery stores too.

Van C. Argiris in his office circa 1969

And my Uncle Van- he ran his own commercial real estate brokerage firm. He created a lot of the urban sprawl out by where I now live. I remember when it was miles and miles of fields and my Uncle Van had something to do- for better or worse- with changing it. I remember as a little girl driving into the Loop with my Dad and seeing Van C Argiris Real Estate billboards, always in orange and black, along the way.

Everyone in my family was using their creativity and living life, well, artfully. Their creativity was alive and working. They were living their lives through what they imagined and dreamed. And it was working very fluidly- not always easily- but growing and thriving organically.

When you authentically live the “brand” there is no marketing to do. It flows and grows naturally.

And as a result, niche businesses creatively can produce enough business to allow life to have continuous flow. But to get this result, the lifestyle business we start must be very well aligned with the sleeping giant most of us need to awaken- our big big gift- our genius. When it is, we are inspired to toil and in the end that which we do with brilliance, passion and intent, financially rewards us.

But the definition of a lifestyle brand to me has never been about scalability, but instead maximizing life’s ENJOYABILITY- and making enough money to be able to do what you want to do with the time you have been given on this earth.  This has been my story since the age of 17, really.

I started building my lifestyle brand because I love the clarinet. I wanted to perform and have opportunities to travel to play. And much to my surprise my business took off and grew far faster than I imagined. And actually that was my first lesson. I had never really thought too much about my business plan. It happened organically. It was only later I realized I needed to really prune it back and change the direction. It cost me a good 10 years where my business was growing and I wasn’t.

For me a lifestyle brand has always been about exploring my identity. And yet for a period of time I stopped doing that because I was told by consultants and experts that a business is not suppose to be a personal reflection of my individual values and beliefs because it might offend or alienate someone. That was the 90’s. And I would probably still be there today if it had not been for a wake up call sent from God. He roused my sleeping giant back up and gave me the courage to, again, believe in who I am and who I can become and rebuild my lifestyle brand accordingly.

Now my clarinet shop takes 15 hours a week and supports my family. It did even last year when my husband was out of work. And it has given me the time to create, to play, to think and invest into my ideas here at ETA and with The Institute as well. I have made my own luck and it keeps working.

So what about scalability?

How can you scale a lifestyle brand?

The Wiki does have it right at the most basic level. The only way to scale a lifestyle brand is to purposely refer to existing groups or subcultures.

According to Wiki, think Abercrombie & Fitch.  A&F has created a lifestyle brand based on a preppy, young Ivy League lifestyle. Their retail outlets reflect this lifestyle through their store environment, store associates who serve as models for their lifestyle brand, and their black and white photographs featuring young people living the “Abercrombie lifestyle”.

Pure marketing.

And there are other flavors of lifestyle branding. When you think of Victoria Secret you think of national identity. Victoria’s Secret purposely evoked the English upper class in its initial branding efforts, while Louis Vuitton continues to draw on the opulent tradition of the French aristocracy.

Or think Burton who has built its lifestyle brand on the snowboarding subculture or Quiksilver who has done the same thing with the surfing community.

Do these lifestyle brands reflect an identity that’s authentic and true?

I believe there is an awakening happening in our world right now and someone is knocking on your front door, right now, offering each of us a new kind of scalable opportunity. The authentic kind.

Where in life do you want to grow and how can you leverage your big gift to get you there? And do you really know where your big gift lives? How can you organically build a brand that holds meaning to you and touches the lives of others? It’s time to reveal who you are and what your big gift- your genius can do. Inside of you lives your lifestyle brand. Open your front door. It’s waiting for you.


About Lisa Canning

“Vowels are to words what creativity is to the world~ basic and necessary.”

Lisa Canning is the founder of IAEOU, the Institute for Arts Entrepreneurship (IAE) and Entrepreneur the Arts.

What motivates you to explore your creativity? Follow me @IAEOU


My first Midwest Band & Orchestra Conference in Chicago, IL circa 1984
Legendary jazz musician Eddie Daniels giving an up close and personal master class in my store. I picked out all of Eddie's clarinets for years.
Florida Keys with Mom and Dad.

What is Your Lifestyle Brand?

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