Why the Best Lifestyle Brands Get Personal
Here’s Why the Best Lifestyle Brands Get Personal
A truly great brand is more than a business or a product. It speaks to who you are, and how you want the world to perceive you. It’s a part of your personality and a proud reflection of self. “We use brands to validate ourselves,” says media expert Laurence Vincent. “A lot of our consumption activities are becoming more sacred because we attach meaning to them. We want our brands to stand for something.”
Attaching a philosophy that consumers identify with and aspire to is a holy grail for businesses.
An obvious brand that everyone knows and many identify passionately with, is Apple. Undeniably successful, every Apple product, down to its ubiquitous white headphones, have became a fashion accessory and a status symbol. For them, it’s not just about products. It’s about Thinking Different. It’s about being on the cutting edge of design and a part of the Steve Jobs cult of cool.
“When we rebrand a company at Network9, we create a brand concept that even the people working there can aspire to. For Apple, if you don’t “think different”, go work for Bill Gates.”, says Carmen, Chief Network9-er. No one in the office could recall the Microsoft tagline. We had to Google it. Ouch. (It’s “Be What’s Next.” Not bad, actually.)
Here are a few lifestyle brands that get personal and get it right:
1. Whole Foods
When you hear the name Whole Foods, what do you think?
Most likely, healthy, green, environmentally conscious, upper-class, highly-educated, and usually, liberal. Whole Foods is sometimes nicknamed “Whole Paycheck” and was featured in the book Stuff White People Like. CEO Bob Mackey said recently that the key variable in deciding where to put the new stores is the number of college graduates within a sixteen-minute drive.
Pinterest embodies personal lifestyles
Pinterest is on everyone’s lips these days, and the way Whole Foods leverages Pinterest sums up its status as a lifestyle brand. What’s amazing about Whole Foods’ use of Pinterest is that within their 22 boards, you’d be hard-pressed to find an actual Whole Foods product. “I began with our core value and worked from there,” says John Bepko, who manages the page. His approach was more lifestyle-based than product-based. “We’re about so much more than just natural and organic foods, so the boards that I wanted to create needed to represent the varied lifestyles of our brand and of our customers,” he explains. Whole Foods’ boards include “Super HOT Kitchens,” and boards about gardening and eco-friendly technology.
To make a lasting connection, the goal is not to promote the shampoos, strawberries and steaks that are sold in the actual stores but to communicate the lifestyle that the Whole Foods team aspires to. That’s lifestyle branding in action. And it’s working.
It’s easy being green.
Harley-Davidson has been an icon of leather-clad bikers since 1903. The brand personifies rebellion, freedom and the open road. It is downright COOL. Their vehicles and their customers are ingrained with the Harley lifestyle. “Everything we say and do is focused on the lifestyle,” says CEO Keith Wandell.
Brand love makes for repeat customers
That lifestyle includes Harley-sponsored riding events like Million Mile Monday and rallies around the world like the Rider’s Edge New Rider Course to attract new customers. Harley-Davidson also shows that the loyalty that lifestyle brands inspire translates into profits as fans often rush to purchase the latest version of a product. Harley-Davidson says 2/3 of its motorcycle purchasers are repeat buyers, just like 74% of iPad buyers were already Mac owners. “People who buy one of our products buy another, and sometimes they’ll even buy the same product again,” says Wandell.
Wandell points out that lifestyle branding can be effective, regardless of whether consumers actually live the lifestyle the brand represents. “Many people have never been on a motorcycle in their life own Harley-Davidson t-shirts,” he says. “The same way that millions of people walk around in [surf and beach clothier] Quiksilver clothes but they’ve never been on a surfboard, or they live in a landlocked state.”
For many, Harley-Davidson’s distinctly American merchandise hits upon an important part of the lifestyle brand: aspiration. If you buy a Harley leather jacket, you can feel like a rebel — without actually having to live like one. This is why this top lifestyle brand gets personal.
Another marketer fulfilling people’s aspirations of wealth and elegance? Ralph Lauren, one of the world’s biggest personal brands.
Flagship Ralph Lauren retail stores in New York, Paris, Milan, Moscow, and London feature lavish exterior architecture and interior design that exude luxury and privilege. “Most people who buy the brand are not part of that life, but they certainly identify with it, and hope for it,” says Lauren himself. “That’s the reason it has such great loyalty. You walk into the store, and it’s almost a theme park around that lifestyle.”
Lifestyle branding isn’t just about a creative ad. For Ralph Lauren, the store itself is an important part of delivering the lifestyle. “When you go into a Ralph Lauren boutique, you are entering his lifestyle and visions of his lifestyle that you can participate in,” says Pamela Dinzinger, consultant for luxury goods.
“It’s not the Gap. It transports you, for the time you’re there, into a different way of living.”
Research shows that lifestyle brands like Ralph Lauren, J. Crew, and Kate Spade inspire loyalty by being a style editor that essentially make customers’ choices for them. Instead of the shopper having to do the work in defining their style, they attach themselves to a brand that reflects their style. That brand then creates merchandise that represents that lifestyle. That’s part of the reason you see so many people dressed head-to-toe in J. Crew or Ralph Lauren. They do the hard stuff for you. Think “Martha”, and you immediately think of style, her signature blue-green color, and a lifestyle that changed the image of being a homemaker forever.
So marketers, follow Harley-Davidson’s lead and “grab life by the bars.” Get personal. Be yourself and others like you will join you.