Lifestyle brands have become media companies. By providing valuable content experiences, they grow audiences and advertise at a profit. Learn the lifestyle branding ideology with this 7 Step Guide!
THE COMMON SENSE GUIDE TO
Table of Contents
WHAT IS A LIFESTYLE BRAND?
Is there even such a thing as a "lifestyle brand"? According to Google's featured snippet a lifestyle brand is "...a brand that attempts to embody the values, aspirations, interests, attitudes, or opinions of a group or a culture for marketing purposes." Based on this definition, you could place almost any company into this category. Furthermore, following the rise of social media and the popularity of online influencers, businesses in every industry have made efforts to become "lifestyle focused" in order to position their products favorably with a target audience. So... Is everyone a lifestyle brand, or is this a unique category? More importantly perhaps, is this a viable business strategy in 2020? Yes, almost every business are in one way attempting to become one, but only a select few have mastered the formula. So, what do successful lifestyle businesses have in common?
1. They Build Audiences
The best lifestyle companies in the world would not be so without the communities that support them. For example, Red Bull spent years building audiences of like minded people. From their founding, Red Bull strategically built an audience of action sports athletes/fans, adventures, and thrill seekers. They began with grass-root efforts such as organizing local extreme sports events. Red Bull scaled their audiences with the creation of magazines, championship sports events, and a TV channel. The one commonality - the audience. The most interesting part of this approach was that Red Bull's audience members may never buy a can of their energy drink. Yet, there are millions of fans who love ALMOST everything Red Bull.
Check out how Red Bull continues to build an audience using Instagram:
2. They Fuel Aspiration
We all have hopes and dreams. Put simply, our lives have been shaped by these goals. Whether we want to admit it or not, how we consume products and services is closely related to these aspirations. Lifestyle brands, that begin by building audiences, often do around common dreams and aspirations. MVMT Watches, one of the most successful direct-to-consumer lifestyle brands of the last five years, is a company that fuels aspiration through their insanely well crafted social media feeds. Everyone of their posts fuels the idea of travel and taking on the unknown - a common lifestyle theme of young people in the digital age. As a like minded individual myself, I followed MVMT to view their content far before I ever purchased a watch. Their content drew me in, and eventually the product itself fit my lifestyle.
Check out MVMT in action on Instagram fueling the adventure and wanderlust that make their social media so popular:
3. They're Content Masters
The two companies mentioned above, Red Bull and MVMT, are masters of content marketing. In order to build audiences of potential customers, each company provides consistent and relevant content. In other words, lifestyle brands consistently bring value to their audience. This could be in the form of inspiration, education, or entertainment. Red Bull's content marketing efforts are wide spread from their social media, magazine, blog, TV channel, sponsored events, and more. Each channel provides a unique value to their viewers all under the Red Bull brand name. MVMT is no different, as they consistently bring value via their social media channels. With inspirational posts, beautiful photography, and relevant collaborations, MVMT always provides a seed of value to any casual viewer.
Watch how Red Bull captivates their audience on YouTube:
4. They're Value Focused
Lifestyle brands provide relevant value beyond that of their product/service. Whether it be inspiration, education, or entertainment, they utilize every available channel to accomplish this goal. The formula is rather simple if you think of it like this: providing relevant content (value) builds an audience of likeminded individuals (lifestyle focused) a well-defined audience aligned with the right product/service drives revenue. HubSpot is a perfect example of a lifestyle company that provides value to build an audience and drive revenue. HubSpot provides marketing software used by many types of businesses. Although they service a large audience, their brand is focused on one niche user or "lifestyle" known as internet marketers. To provide value and build an audience of internet marketers, HubSpot invests in many content marketing efforts. One of their most successful efforts is HubSpot Academy a free online school that educates marketers and even provides industry recognized certifications. HubSpot Academy has built a massive audience of internet marketers who may or may not already be HubSpot users. Whether or not they are customers is irrelevant. The value provided by HubSpot leaves a lasting impact on each audience member. By taking a class, an internet marketers unique lifestyle becomes more closely aligned to the HubSpot brand. When the time comes for them to be a decision maker they are that much more likely to become a paying customer.
5. They Market At A Profit
The world of marketing is changing, the days of renting attention are coming to an end. Consumer-minded companies now seek to build lifestyle focused audiences that provide perpetual marketing value. In essence, most businesses are making strides to become media companies - whether they know it or not. Watch companies are becoming entertainers, marketing companies are becoming online publications, energy drink companies are becoming extreme sports syndicates. With every unique audience created comes the opportunity for optimization outside of selling your product or service. Primarily via sponsorships, even those from competitors, allow these companies to market at a profit.
LEARN THE LIFESTYLE BUSINESS MODEL
Nowadays, everyone wants to be a lifestyle business. Due to the rise of the internet, consumers are more connected to brands than ever before. Also, there are more product options to fulfill consumers needs. Thus, it is ever important that companies build brands that identify with an audience on a personal level. This means that most modern companies will become lifestyle brands in one way or another. In order to build a successful lifestyle business you must commit to the business model. This means that your businesses key players understand product audience fit, are able to name one common lifestyle audience, agree upon scope of value creation, can establish content channels, identify paths to optimization, and execute on agreed upon initiatives.
1. Understand Product Audience Fit
Building a successful lifestyle business begins with audience. Therefore, it is imperative that your audience members are likely users of your product or service. For example, if you build an audience of children, but your business sells home-insurance, its unlikely you will sell anything to this audience. Red Bull, one of the most successful lifestyle businesses ever, knew early on that action and adventure seekers are likely to consume energy drinks. MVMT watches, another uber-successful lifestyle brand, knew that younger travelers are in need of affordable watches. HubSpot, a marketing company focused on those with a marketers lifestyle, knew that marketers utilize the same type of software that they engineer. Start by understanding who your product provides value for and begin to isolate that lifestyle audience.
2. Name One Common Lifestyle
Now that you understand your market, pinpoint one lifestyle audience (market) that best aligns with your product. HubSpot, provides a great example of narrowing in on one lifestyle audience. HubSpot, offers marketing software useful to almost any business with an online presence. Early on, HubSpot attempted to build multiple audiences based on different industries. This proved to be a complicated and labor intensive approach as each business type requires its own unique messaging. So, instead of trying to build many audiences, HubSpot pivoted and decided to focus on one common lifestyle: marketers. By focusing on this unique lifestyle, they could speak to the most qualified member of each organization. This person was also, in many cases, the decision maker in the organization when it came to implementing a software like HubSpot.
As HubSpot puts it, find an audience that is big enough to grow and small enough to delight.
3. Agree On Scope Of Value Creation
Lifestyle businesses create value for an audience (market) of like-minded individuals. In order to build such an audience, your organization must provide value first with a product/service itself then beyond with your content initiatives. This means understanding that your business is much more than a company that sells x, y, or z. It's important that everyone in your organization understand the value you create, how you create it, and where you create it. Think of your common lifestyle audience and each way that your business could provide them value. Each strategic value initiative should have a two-way value relationship with each part of your organization. The Walt Disney Company did a masterful job illustrating this organizational structure in a 1957 diagram on value relationships. You can see the drawing in the image below. Notice that their core business, theatrical films, interconnects with each strategic value proposition and each connects with the next. Create a similar diagram that displays the scope of your organizations value creation and make sure your business participants agree.
4. Establish Content Channels
Lifestyle businesses grow audiences by providing relevant content through one or more channels. From the more traditional like print to the many modern digital channels your options can be overwhelming. First determine where your lifestyle audience consumes information then begin to think about what valuable experiences they are searching for. At this stage you want to make sure you are marrying content with context. Are you reaching the correct audience with relevant content offers? Younger organizations should find one channel to be their focus and expand as organizational assets become available. To name a few examples, HubSpot has done wonders with their blog and online academy, MVMT grew their business almost entirely through Instagram, and Red Bull did so via a combination of channels beginning with in person events. Once you determine the best channel to provide value build a minimally viable audience and begin to test different value propositions.
In 2018, Digital Information World, determined the most used social media platforms by 16-64 year olds. The graphic below should give you an idea of where you might want to start building an audience if social is your target.
5. Locate Paths To Monetization
Businesses are in business to make money. Yes, those in tune to the world in 2020 want to provide unique value, enhance customer lives, and make a positive social impact. Yet without monetization a business will not live long enough to accomplish such goals. The first level of monetization is the sale of your product or service at a profit. Beyond your core product or service is where things get interesting. Any content (media) you decide to create can and will provide further opportunity for optimization. Say you develop an industry recognized magazine; yes, you could give this away for free, but you might find that your audience prefer to pay for a more inclusive version. Say you grow a massive audience on YouTube, YouTube will pay you to run advertisements over your videos. Say you organize an industry-leading conference for your lifestyle audience, your paid sponsorship opportunities are endless. Red Bull, was so successful with this model that they established their own in-house media company Red Bull Media House. They now have profitable media endeavors from social, print, TV, to sporting events. The best part is that this all helps to push their brand forward and sell more energy drinks, but if they don't their operations are still profitable.
6. Execute On Initiatives
Assuming you have developed a viable product or service, you are ready to use what you've learned and take action. There is no set-in-stone method to implement the above concepts. How you go about this is entirely up to you. The most important thing is recognizing that the lifestyle approach is a new way of thinking about marketing. It's a strategic business model that will require time and effort to implement. It's an emphasis on owned media and a shift away from one way conversations found in traditional advertising. It's a commitment to understanding your audience on a more personal level and providing real value to that audience. It's a model that can and should lead to multiple profitable channels outside of your traditional product offering. Now that you have mastered the ideology - it's time to execute. Whether you are an established business, or a roaring start-up, it's important that everyone understands this ideology and is able to execute on it.
GROWING AN AUDIENCE
Before you can harness the full potential of lifestyle branding you must build an audience. There is no magic formula to attracting audience members, but there are a number of fundamental practices that will set you up for success. By leading with value, knowing your audience's aspirations, starting small, being consistent, collaborating often, and topping it off with a bit of empathy, you can ignite the next hypergrowth lifestyle audience.
1. Lead With Value
Lifestyle marketing is a form of pull marketing. It is a way of content marketing around one common lifestyle audience. If you bring value to the table the audience will come. Make sure that every piece of content released brings special value to your audience. Make sure that the value is clearly stated and that your audience themselves find it valuable.
2. Know Your Audiences Aspirations
You will gain and retain an audiences attention by providing relevant value. Determining what value to provide is aided by understanding your audiences aspirations. Red Bull knew its audience aspired to become action sports athletes. MVMT knew that its audience aspired to travel the world. HubSpot knew its audience aspired to be better marketers. In each case the company understood what their audience aspired to become. This allowed them to not only identify an audience, but also know what content types to begin producing.
3. Start With One Channel
As to not spread yourself thin, it's best practice to choose one place to begin building an audience. Think about all the possible places you could implement content. Today, most brands build audiences online. This could be via a blog, YouTube channel, or social media feed. Once you have established and grown a audience in one place, it will be much easier to duplicate the process elsewhere.
4. Be Consistent
You have to show up for your audience. Without providing a source of consistent value, it's unlikely that your presence will have the ability to resonate with viewers long enough to gain their trust. Determine a content schedule; whether it be blog or Instagram posts find a consistent posting schedule and stick to it.
One of the easiest ways to increase exposure is collaborating with other creators. Begin by identifying creators that provide value to your target audience or those similar. There are creators/influencers in every industry so it shouldn't be hard to find people to work with. Those with large audiences will almost always require payment for collaboration, but smaller accounts might be open to free collaborations and usually have more engaged audiences.
6. Put Yourself In Their Shoes
Ideally, you are the type of person who would buy your product. That is why you started your company, or work for such an organization after all. Now think like a member of your audience. Think about whether you would find your content valuable. Ask your audience whether they find it valuable. Look at comments, articles, blogs and other opinions in your industry. If at any point you make the connection that your content is not valuable, begin to plan an itteration towards a more valuable experience.
DEVELOPING A PRODUCT OR SERVICE
1. Begin With Audience
Chances are you either have an idea for a product/service or you need help getting there. No matter your predicament, it will serve you well to identify a number of passionate and engaged lifestyle audiences first. This is essentially the same as identifying a viable market, but without knowing what to sell them. Think of it this way - if you know that an audience exists, and that they are successfully influenced to spend their money via one channel or another, it's as simple as identifying another common problem to solve for them. Let's say you identified an audience of solar panel owners, what do they have in common? Well, they own solar panels of course. Further than that though, these people have maintenance needs in order to upkeep their panels. Now, you begin a service that cleans and maintains panels for this existing audience. This is a random example, but I think you get the point. This way, you know an audience is there, and you don't have to go about creating an audience for your invention that may or may not exist.
2. Any Product/Service Fits
The great thing about the lifestyle marketing ideology is that almost any viable product or service can leverage its benefits. The key is that there is a specific group of people whom you can provide value to, that adhere to a specific lifestyle audience, and that are more likely to buy your product. If you are pre-product development it might serve you well to start this process in reverse. Find an existing passionate and engaged audience, and narrow down their common issues or needs. Is there a solution (product) that fits? If the answer is yes, you are ready to begin leveraging the lifestyle ideology.
3. Be Specific, But Not To Specific
Be specific when matching your product with an audience, but not such that outreach becomes over strenuous. HubSpot, illustrated this issue perfectly with early product/audience struggles. HubSpot, knew that it had developed a product useful for many types of businesses. Thus, initially HubSpot targeted many specific business niches. Eventually, HubSpot developed many fragmented audiences that required more individualized messaging. The result was more divided and less engaged audiences. So, HubSpot decided to iterate its product/audience fit and target the one "lifestyle" that their customers had in common: marketers. By making this change, HubSpot made the most of product audience fit. Sometimes a product is perfect, but audience fit needs adjustment. While sometimes an audience is perfect, but the product needs adjustment. This is a delicate relationship that should be considered throughout product development.
4. Involve Audience Members In The Process
Give customers what they want. This is as cliche as it comes. Yet, a surprising amount of entrepreneurs fail to involve their target audience in product development discussions. Read comments and engage in conversations online. Consider setting up a comment thread on your website so that early users can make constructive comments. Arrange a meetup of your ideal audience and ask for honest feedback. This way you will learn first hand what your audience finds valuable. This will help to guide product development and your future content initiatives.
Use Your Product, Consume Your Content
Be your best customer. Be your average customer. Be your worst customer. This points to the heart of the entrepreneurs most unreliable characteristic - objectivity. We all fall in love with our work and are sometimes unwilling to accept when we are wrong. The best product developers dismiss subjectivity and view their efforts through many lenses. Think this way about your product and the content you develop to build your lifestyle audience. What do you love? What do you hate? In the end, you will have a say in what your product or service looks like. In the meantime, be honest and see where you are lead.
CREATING MEMORABLE CONTENT
In today's digital world there are endless content options. It has become harder than ever to be noticed, and a magnitude more difficult to be remembered. So, how do you create content that puts your brand front of mind, and ensures that your message is remembered? It is easier than you might think as you can craft memorable content in two steps. First, start with why - then think S.U.C.C.E.S.
1. Start With Why
"People don't buy what you sell, they buy why you do it." - Simon Sinek. This quote should be a guiding principal for any content creator. Why are you passionate about this lifestyle audience? What drives you to create this content? Write down your story and trace back steps that lead you to where you are today. Chances are there is an apparent yet less than obvious reason why. Embrace this story and let it guide you in your content creation.
2. Think S.U.C.C.E.S
Made to Stick by Chip & Dan Heath is a must read book for anyone seeking to become a better communicator. Authors, brothers Dan and Chip, introduce the S.U.C.C.E.S acronym for communicating memorable information. The acronym stands for: Simple, Unexpected, Concrete, Credible, Emotional, Story.
First off, keep it simple. Humans tend to have a hard time keeping it simple. We succumb to the curse of knowledge; a phenomenon where our own knowledge hurts our ability to communicate in simple terms. Imagine you knew nothing about your message - what phrasing would get through to you? Ask yourself why, and once you have an answer ask yourself why again. This is called "getting to the core" and leads to a much simpler message.
Unexpectedness is the next key principle. Think back to when something unexpected happened to you; I bet this memory is clear and easy to draw on. Over the course of human history, our brains have become ever efficient machines. With it, we have become very good at predicting our day-to-day lives. Over time, much of our lives fall into the non-memorable "predictable" category. When an unexpected occurrence breaks our brains guessing apparatus very clear memories result.
Next, be concrete. This principle is demonstrated in the power of analogies. Complex abstract ideas reframed as concrete analogies are understood and remembered more clearly. Again, don't assume that your audience operates on the same level of understanding as you. Draw on common knowledge and be as concrete as you can.
There is a brief moment when all listeners decide to listen or ignore you. Whether they find you credible is often the determining factor. You often see companies attempt to gain credibility using large statistics and claims. Yet, there is a more memorable way to do so. In his timeless classic "New York, New York" Frank Sinatra said, "In old New York if I can make it there. I can make it anywhere." What Sinatra is saying is that if he can accomplish one feat he will gain instant credibility. Marketing example's are Icy Hot's commercials with Shaquel O'neal. Shaq states that if Icy Hot can aide his aches and pains it can fix yours too. Marry concrete accomplishments with the credibility they provide listeners.
Listeners don't remember what you said, but they remember how you made them feel. Making an emotional connection with your audience is key to crafting memorable messages. Be an open book with your personal journey. The emotions that you have felt on your journey are the same that will resonate with your audience. Refrain from over generalizing and using statistics. Instead, tell specific use case stories that tell the tale of your customer.
Finally is story. Stories are how we communicate the human experience - they are the content that make up our memory banks. The most memorable messages use the S.U.C.C.E.S formula to a tee. Think of your message as a simple-unexpected-concrete, credible-emotional story.
3. Wrapping It All Up
It didn't take long to to begin noticing the power of the S.U.C.C.E.S model. Shortly after reading Chip & Dan's book I was attending a "minute to pitch it" event. Twenty or so early stage companies had the opportunity to pitch their vision before a row of judges. Most of the pitches followed a predictable structure; the problem, the solution (product) and the plan. One shattered this structure and provided the most memorable pitch of the group. The founder began by talking about why he started his business - Conbody. He said, "While I was in prison serving seven years on drug charges..." Hold up, what did he say? At this moment, the room gave out a collective gasp. "...I lost 70 pounds and helped 20 inmates loose over 1,000 pounds." Thus, his personal training business based on prison style workouts was born. What was so unique about his pitch was that it followed all the S.U.C.C.E.S principles. It was simple. It was wildly unexpected. It was concrete as we could all imagine what he experienced. It was credible, as he was the living proof! It was emotional. Finally, it was all wrapped into one compelling story. I am writing 6 months after the event and it remains one of my clearest memories of the last year.
Building Alliances With Influencers
Synonymous with the rise of lifestyle brands has been the ascent of internet influencers. As businesses cater to specific lifestyle audiences so do popular internet personalities. Therefore, it's important for your lifestyle brand to identify and partner with influencers who represent your lifestyle audience. This is a way to stay true to your audience and build your own following.
1. Start Small
The temptation will always be to shoot for the stars. Nothing is wrong with it, in-fact it's encouraged. If you have the pull to partner with a million-plus follower influencer than do it! Remember that when it comes to partnering with influencers starting small is okay. As a matter of fact, it will often yield a better return. Large influencers are hard to communicate with, demand more money for partnerships, and oftentimes have less engaged followers. Smaller influencers, or micro-influencers, are more affordable while providing a more engaged audience. Look around your local area to find those who fit the bill. You can also run a quick Google search for "influencer marketing tools". There are many free online tools that will allow you to filter through social media influencers and find the perfect fit.
2. Be Consistently Authentic
Ensure you have brand guidelines, and that you know what your business stands for. This will ensure that a system is in place that guides influencer partnership decisions. Be consistently authentic and on-brand. This means sometimes deciding not to parter with someone you might otherwise admire. Influencers are people and with people come liability. Thus, deciding who to partner with can make or break your brand image. Once you have determined these guidelines, make sure they are communicated with the influencer when it is time to do business. Any contractual agreements should outline an appropriate code of conduct.
3. Build Relationships
Build relationships, don't just try to do business. Influencers are popular on social media for many reasons; including, they enjoy being social. Once you have found a few micro influencers that align with your lifestyle audience, reach out to them in a friendly way and begin to build a relationship. At first this might be simply asking to collaborate on a project, asking a thoughtful question, or commenting on a recent post. Smaller influencers have time to communicate with their followers and will oftentimes strike up a conversation with you. Remember Gary Vaynerchuck's philosophy, "Give, give, give, ask." Try to brainstorm different ways you could be valuable to the influencer by leveraging your current standing. Giving value will always yield value in return.
4. Barter When Possible
This is pointed towards younger companies that aren't able to afford paying influencers in cash. Yet, even if you are a cash-rich organization it might boost your bottom line to remember the age old practice of bartering. There is likely a way to provide influencers with free products or services in exchange for their alliance in promoting your brand. Be creative - there are endless many ways to provide free value and any one could be leveraged in this situation.
2. Solve Problems Digitally
It's a digital world. Smartphones have become the intellectual crutch that we lean on in times of uncertainty, intrigue, or simply boredom. When we need to know the answer to a question we ask Google. When we want to learn more we find an expert on YouTube. When we want to know what someone stands for we find them on Instagram. We are constantly solving micro problems with the use of smartphones. Those unconscious moments spent solving problems are a lifestyle marketers dream. Everything we do online hints at who we are, what we stand for, and what lifestyles we identify with. Master lifestyle creators identify common problems and solve them at scale. All while building trust with an audience of future prospects.
3. Don't Underestimate Print and Copywriting
Although most content will be distributed digitally, it's important to remember traditional mediums such as print. Books and magazines can be great ways to solve problems for your audience. The written word is as powerful as ever and copy can be your competitive edge in an competitive marketplace. Content should be created with this in mind.