Creating a lifestyle brand
Most people aspire to their ideal lifestyle. From the avid collector who fills their living or working space with the things they love, to someone who is happy in a room with only a floormat, cup of tea and a good book, the things we surround ourselves with say a lot about our values and help us define who we are.
Understanding your customers lifestyle and aspirations is the basis for creating a lifestyle brand. It can be challenging work, but in the end, it makes other marketing and merchandising concerns like pricing easier because it supports perceived product value. Lifestyle branding and marketing suggest to the consumer how a product or service may bring beauty and contentment, enjoyment, simplicity, or better health to their lives. By portraying the product in the context of the consumer’s life, or the one to which they aspire, the lifestyle brand narrative taps into the emotional factors that effect buying decisions.
We’re fortunate to be living in a time when creating a lifestyle brand has never been easier, thanks to the advent of social media. We can efficiently tell our story, reach consumers and engage them with thought provoking and inspiring ideas. However, in a recent article in Forbes, Alexander Chernev an associate professor of marketing at the Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University warned that social media, particularly Facebook™, can actually undermine the power of a lifestyle brand. He asserts that Facebook enables a wide variety of self-expression, which can weaken the relationship between a lifestyle brand and how followers identify themselves and their own lifestyles.
In the end it all comes down to basic psychology. Human beings make decisions based on a mix of objective logic and emotions. The more any brand can engage the consumer on all levels, the better chance it has to succeed in the marketplace.
Lifestyle Branding Case Studies.
I’ve been creating and enhancing lifestyle brands since 1996. Here are a few examples:
Aireagal and Ancurragh
Aireagal, a direct marketer of Irish apparel and gifts, took its name from a nearby mountain in County Donegal, Ireland. When I arrived on the scene, as the company’s new Creative Director, Aireagal’s lifestyle brand development was well underway. The merchandisers found exquisitely crafted goods from across Ireland. Much of the products the company offered in its attractive catalogs were hand-made the traditional way by small companies and individual artisans. The wool used to hand-knit sweaters or weave herringbone fabric for coats and caps was spun nearby from sheep shorn just down the road.
Ireland itself, of course, is a nation with its own brand. Known for castles, cottages, green fields dotted with sheep, breathtaking coast, quant villages, ancient celtic and druid ruins, the tragedy of the Potato Famine, pubs and music, “Brand Ireland” is powerfully evocative. The Aireagal brand narrative was all about an escape to a place where people have struggled yet endured amidst a beautiful landscape to emerge in the 21st century with their cultural heritage largely intact and now represented in the products the company offered. So we told the story by photographing models on location across the county. Then we hired a published Irish poet to add her prose to the copy. Sales met expectation and the company was off to a very good start. Unfortunately, corporate funding fell through at the wrong moment and the company was forced to close its doors, only to emerge a few years later as a business cooperative called, Ancurragh.
For this new venture, I provided creative consultation. My research showed that while the products still had strong demand across the globe, if they were to have any staying power, the brand would need to emerge as somewhat less nostalgic, and appeal to a younger demographic. I provided creative direction that still leveraged the “Irish mystique” as the backdrop but presented products in a “hipper” way. I also encouraged merchandizers to sources fashion that infused more contemporary and playful accents into the traditional Irish look.
I recommended developing an Irish heritage brand, much like the currently popular British heritage brands. A well known photographer was hired. The products sold well, but once again, funding for the company fell through leading to its demise. While both companies failed due to funding shortages, both are test case examples of how lifestyle brands are developed.
Kid Galaxy’s first inception was as a direct marketer of high-quality, low-to-no-tech toys and playthings. We created a lifestyle brand targeting middle to upper income parents and grandparents who valued traditional well-made toys that promoted imaginative play. The products were sold primarily through the company’s direct-mail catalog titled, “Just Pretend”. As the lead creative, I developed a brand narrative using photography that depicted children lost in their imaginary play world seemingly oblivious to the camera. In some cases we created stage sets with backdrops. In others the child might be sitting under an apple tree after reading a good book, viewing their costumed selves in a bathroom mirror or counting halloween candy on a front porch step. We created and portrayed situations most adults can identify with, having experienced them in their own lives…safe moments that triggered nostalgia and their desires to provide the children in their lives with same sense of security and happiness.