Lifestyle Branding Redefined (Is there such a thing as a lifestyle brand?)
In the age of social media we throw around the phrases "lifestyle brand" or "lifestyle marketing." I thought a lifestyle brand was a company that existed to fuel aspiration. Think of travel and adventure brands for example. After doing some research, I noticed that lifestyle branding is a far-less-specific definition. Google, says they are companies that attempts to embody the interests, ambitions, and culture of a group of people for marketing purposes. By that definition "lifestyle brand" is synonymous with "brand" or "company." So, I saw the opportunity, and set out with the goal of redefining what it means to be a lifestyle brand in 2020. Now, I have created the Definitive Guide to Lifestyle Branding a ten-step guide to implementing the following ideology.
I immediately found that...
Based on my research, lifestyle brands do four things better than their competition. (as you'll notice, any company can excel at these)
1.) They leverage data to identify unique audiences
The 21st century has brought with it abundant customer data. With data has come the ability to identify specific audiences based on behaviors, interests, and demographics. Lifestyle brands marry knowledge of their customers with online data sources to grow audiences. The result are "lifestyle audiences" that represent a specific niche consumer that is likely to buy a product or service. This could be any niche audience and is not limited to the stereotypical lifestyle adventure brand.
So you're saying...
Thats right, lifestyle brands know their audience and seek them out wherever they can find them!
2.) They don't limit value creation
Lifestyle brands stop at nothing to provide value. In other words, they are master content marketers. A great example is Red Bull. We all know them as a company that sells funky-tasting energy drinks; but what less people know is that energy drinks are only a small part of their business. Red Bull identified a niche audience of thrill seekers (those likely to enjoy energy drinks), and began providing value in every way possible. They sponsored athletes, organized events, launched a magazine, grew a YouTube channel, and created a TV channel. Yes, these channels were branded, but the goal was not to directly sell energy drinks. The goal was to provide value to their audience with nothing in return. Over time Red Bull grew massive audiences of people who may or may not have ever bought a can of Red Bull. The result is Red Bull media house: a full service media agency that brands and markets the Red Bull brand at a PROFIT.
It acts against traditional business logic to give away so much for free, but thats what it means to be a lifestyle brand. They know their audience and they care about them enough to provide value with nothing in return. One of my idols Gary Vaynerchuck said, "Give, give, give, give and then ask for something in return." This is how business of the future will succeed and they will do so under the label - lifestyle brand.
3.) They use an array of tools to build owned audiences
Perhaps the most unique characteristic of lifestyle brands are they own their audiences. Owned media is any channel a company exercises complete control over. The internet has provided ample opportunity to build marketable (owned) audiences online. Done are the days of monopolistic media gatekeepers holding your business's messaging hostage. Great lifestyle companies find an audience, determine a scope of value creation, and skillfully build their audiences on platforms they own. Whether it be in person, online, or via print they own their audience.
4.) They market at a profit
Pinnacle lifestyle brands become media enterprises themselves. Owned audiences will provide opportunities not only to market their products, but to sell media space to other companies if they choose. Interestingly enough, some companies end up selling media space to their competitors! This way the company is branding, marketing its products, and doing it at a profit. Marketing cost centers no more, a profitable business segment at last!
Lifestyle organizations are the quintessential 21st century business. They leverage data to identify audiences, provide endless value with content, and skillfully build marketable owned audiences. Beware though of jumping headfirst into the lifestyle ideology. Entrepreneur Magazine provides a vivid glimpse into struggles at GoPro and what can go wrong when the lifestyle process fails. Similar to Red Bull, GoPro identified an audience of thrill seekers. Their cameras were immediately popular and their content was second to none. The next step, much as it was for Red Bull, was to make the leap to a full production media enterprise. GoPro poured billions of dollars into this endeavor and failed miserably. Worst of all, it seemed GoPro forgot who its audience was and what they valued. This is a warning to all who hope the lifestyle ideology is a quick organization fix. I have identified the most important aspects of the process and provided them free in my Definitive Guide to Lifestyle Branding. With this guide you will be able to make an organizational shift or found your own lifestyle business!