So You Think You’re a Lifestyle Brand?

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It seems as though everyone wants to be a “lifestyle” brand. Yet the reality is, not every brand can play that role for the consumer—and that’s not a bad thing. With so many lifestyle brands vying for a place in the consumers heart, it’s understandable to want to try and fit in there somewhere too. But alas, a brands strength is found in telling the story that only they can tell, which in some cases may be a story about a loftier ambition, or even about functionality.

You’re probably quite familiar with lifestyle brands — they’re the Whole Foods, GoPros and Nikes of the world. They bring consumers closer to their brand by focusing the consumer’s attention around ‘real life’ aspirations and an exploration of their individuality. It’s a method of building a brand that has significant appeal because, if done right, can be very successful.

Along with lifestyle brands, are purposeful ones. They don’t focus on how the consumer’s LIFE should be, but how the WORLD should be. Brands like Patagonia, King Authur Flour, and Ben & Jerry’s (all B-Corps) are great examples of brands that combine a passion for their products with a perspective about the  world view. When consumer’s buy into a purposeful brand, they recognize the brand’s loftier ambitions and want to support them with dollars as opposed to aspiring to a particular lifestyle that is supported by the companies product. Being a baker or a lover of ice cream may not necessarily align your lifestyle with the goals of the brand you purchased from.

But the brands that can possibly garner the most allegiance — are the functional ones. They try to fill a real need as completely as possible. We all have these brands in our lives but may not always acknowledge them. Functional brands take pride in products and services, and consider quality and value to be their aspiration. For example, REI could be considered a functional brand because people associate them with the experience of receiving products and services that help support their lifestyle. REI isn’t what the consumer’s life revolves around, they play a supporting role. Crest toothpaste is a functional brand because they want you to focus on brushing your teeth and taking care of your smile. Functional brands know you have better things to do than think about brand devotion before you go to bed or go for a hike.

The consumer of today is living life surrounded by lifestyle brands. And they only have so much brain space to be loyal to a few. So there’s potential for success for a purposeful or functional brand by not asking a lot of the consumer and allowing them to make their own choices about how to direct their lives or simply feel good about them. Where on one hand a lifestyle brand needs you to remain committed to their lifestyle ideals or your  love affair with them is over—functional and purposeful brands build more durable relationships because they pressure us less about how we live.

So instead of immediately thinking that you need to be a lifestyle brand to be successful, analyze your brands focus and what drives it forward, think about how that proposition will effect your audience, and see if your approach is better suited to being purposefully or functionally connected to the consumer. There’s no wrong position unless you’re trying to be a brand that you’re not.


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