Lifestyle Branding

July 8, 2017

Eric Small

The term “lifestyle brand” has become a popular buzz word in the past few years in the world of business. Many companies are trying to capitalize on this current trend with mixed results. There are a few characteristics that are present in all the most successful lifestyle brands. We’ve found that the best examples of this business type create culture, are honest, and interact with their audience.

A Brief History of Modern Lifestyle Brands

The current trend of lifestyle brands in modern time can be traced back to the 80’s in action sports such as surfing and skateboarding. Individuals within those cultures were always creating content, whether that be products, zines, music, or styles, which molded and shaped them with a huge degree of influence by the communities that participated. Through tech advances that made avenues of communication easier, culture was more easily spread geographically creating larger networks of culture. To use the skateboard/surf example, things like MTV, Thrasher magazine, and of course, the internet, skyrocketed the growth of this culture from something that was primarily California-based into a nationwide phenomenon.

With the spread of easy access communication channels, more of these types of niche cultures began popping up and growing, expanding from skateboarding and surfing into a wide variety of interests including snowboarding, BMX, other action sports, yoga, fitness, food culture, streetwear, travel, camping, hiking, health, wellness, and even service-based lifestyles such as Airbnb or Uber.

Lifestyle cultures are so attractive to individuals because they offer something to identify with, the promise of inclusion, and a blueprint to style their own life after. Business is attracted to these cultures because they are providing easy ways to achieve the lifestyles that people are identifying with and participating in. By getting a lifestyle culture to adopt a brand, a business is essentially hiring the best street team ever; trendsetting brand loyalists spreading approval-stamped ideas via word-of-mouth for free.

Creating Culture

People that subscribe to a lifestyle or culture are sensitive to new additions to it. They have their finger on the pulse and communicate with their friends that share the same lifestyle goals. The bond of lifestyle makes for an adversity to outsiders. Trust must be earned, and the best way to earn it is to become a part of the culture and create for it. Use your product, let others try it, give it away, talk about it, embrace other aspects of the lifestyle, go to events, make friends, get their feedback, make your product better, and repeat. Show that you care and soon enough, others will too. As these types of cultures grow, different aspects begin to grow out of them. Things like music and art end up getting wrapped up into the lifestyle and are largely introduced by participants of the culture, and just like anything else within that culture, are either gradually adopted into it, or are rejected from it. To go back to our skateboarding example, country music wouldn’t have added to the skater image as much as punk rock did.

Honesty and Transparency – Be the Culture You are Selling.

As lifestyle brands are marketing to the individuals that participate in a culture, it is extremely important to be honest. Participants in a culture are living the lifestyle that brands are trying to sell to them. This gives these individuals the ability to sniff out a brand that is just trying to sell product rather than add to the lifestyle. The most effective way to be genuine is to live the lifestyle and become a participant and contributor to that culture. Creation comes out of necessity, and many lifestyle brands developed to fill a need that mainstream society and business ignored. This element of creation and innovation means that everything doesn’t need to be polished and perfect, just personal. These cultures have an intrinsic desire to create and add to themselves, and this often manifests itself through handmade or small run products that will either disappear, or be adopted by the participants of the culture and then explode in size.

Communication is Key

Interacting with the audience is paramount in establishing credibility and being successful as a lifestyle brand. You can’t be a part of a group if you sit silently in the corner. Creating an emotional tie with an individual that you are trying to sell a product or service to can be difficult because of an initial resistance to being told to buy something by a stranger. If you are in the group, your word carries more weight. The best lifestyle brands are living the lifestyle themselves. For brands that are trying to break into the culture, do things to get accepted into it. Create content that isn’t constantly beating people over the head to buy, buy, buy. Don’t just examine the lifestyle culture, throw yourself into it. Show off some cool photos, write interesting articles, be present, tell a good story, and eventually you might prove that you are a part of the scene. Make friends with people living the lifestyle. The most important and most effective way of getting products into the hands of your audience is by word of mouth, and the best word of mouth comes from your friends.

Creating Culture – Some Tips

At this point, we’ve explained a lot about lifestyle cultures and how brands interact with them, but we’ve only scratched the surface on actionable steps to get noticed. First, you need to have a product or service that is compatible with the lifestyle you’re seeking to embody. Without this, its pretty tough to become a brand that will be adopted by a lifestyle culture. Once you have this, there are some easy ways to start making your brand known. A lot of the focus should be on communication and becoming part of the group. Go to your audience. Talk with them. Learn how they might use your product. Connect on social media. Connect in person. Take photos. Great photography works wonders for any brand, so document the culture, your process and how people interact with your brand. Write articles. Get your audience involved in your business. Reach out to others with influence in the culture and work with them. The most important thing is to be honest, transparent, and participate.

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