Close your eyes and think of your favorite brand. Maybe it’s that athletic company that’s inspired you since you were a kid. Or maybe it’s that makeup brand that you’ve purchased religiously since high school. Chances are if you thought of a brand you’re attached to, it took lifestyle marketing to get you there. And as a marketer, this is the type of loyalty you want to instill in your customers.
What is lifestyle marketing?
Lifestyle marketing is a marketing technique that positions the product or service to possess ideals, aspirations, and aesthetics that the target audience identifies with. In layman’s terms, it means that brands marketed in this way are a way of life for their audience. They are immersive, encapsulate their customers’ ideas or values, and fit seamlessly into the consumer’s life.
Lifestyle marketing goes beyond the product or service being sold––it’s selling an ideal. Think of Nike. Sure, they started with and continue to sell athletic shoes. But what makes them a lifestyle brand is their empowerment of the athlete inside everyone. Nike and its products are a way of life for its fans (I mean, you don’t see a diehard Nike fan with Adidas on. Ever. ). They eat, live, breathe, and sweat the brand’s ideals.
What makes marketing these brands even more special is the idea that “specific foods, products, and apparel can help us to connect more with our ideal version of ourselves.” When you’re marketing to these higher level needs for a consumer, you’re in a whole new playing field.
Lifestyle marketing criteria
If only branding were as simple as having a checklist to mark off when you meet certain criteria. Unfortunately, many brands that set out to be in the lifestyle category can miss the mark by not doing their due diligence and research. But you can avoid that but doing the following:
- Define your market: The first step to effective lifestyle marketing is deeply understanding your market. And, yes, we mean having a basic idea of demographics and psychographics. But dig deeper. What habits, skills, and hobbies do your audience members have? Why would they be interested in your brand for the long term? Do you know what or who inspires them and what their goals are? Lifestyle brands “dissect every aspect of their audience until they know exactly what makes them tick.”
- Know where your audience gets their information: It’s hardly worth marketing to your audience if you don’t know where to find them. Or even what they’re looking for. Where your audience gets their information might depend on age, financial status, relationship status, etc. Are they on social or watching TV more? Do they drive around and look at billboards? Are they using popular apps? From here, you can figure out which channels make the most sense for your brand.
- Position your brand for success: Brand positioning is essential, especially in the digital age. Positioning takes into account your audience and their habits. It also means you’ve done your research about the brand itself (and your competitors) and how what you offer is unique and valuable. Plus, “brand positioning strategies are directly linked to consumer loyalty, consumer-based brand equity and the willingness to purchase the brand.” All of which can contribute to a successful lifestyle brand.
Why lifestyle marketing matters
The average person might not think about why a brand makes sense with specific audiences or what creates brand loyalty. But you, being savvy, know that creating a brand as immersive as a lifestyle brand takes time. Lifestyle marketing matters because these brands are deeply ingrained in an audience’s psyche. They are also starting to fill the void of failing institutional structures (think low church attendance and marriage rates down)––types of “shared systems of any kind that help us make sense of the world.” In other words, as these institutional structures fall, something needs to feel the void. In this case, it’s certain brands creating meaning in our lives––which is a huge responsibility for marketers.
Not to mention that lifestyle brands are “loyalty-inspiring” and consistently earn the respect of consumers. In doing so, they are also meeting their customer’s needs and helping them to not only fill a void but to self-actualize as well. And, from a marketing perspective, lifestyle marketing is very effective and “works on a much deeper level than traditional advertising.”
How to do it effectively
Becoming a lifestyle brand may be something you do consciously or unconsciously. But lifestyle marketing is a conscious choice that you need to make early on. The process can take years of careful cultivation, authenticity, transparency, and some very intentional marketing choices. After all, “the lifestyle you’re trying to sell needs to be embedded throughout your whole identity.” Here are a few steps that can help push you in the right direction.
Step 1: Live your brand story
We talk a lot about your brand story because it’s so important. For lifestyle brands, customers are looking for a product or service to give them their goal lifestyle. That means your narrative should be one “that convinces your customers that your company resonates with their ultimate version of themselves.” But this isn’t just about telling your audience what they want to hear. You have to be authentic about it. Lifestyle marketing works because these brands (and their marketers) genuinely believe and are passionate about what they’re offering. Whether that’s a community, achieving personal fitness goals, or living a natural life. Oh yeah, and be consistent.
Step 2: Build your following
This step can only happen if you’ve done your homework for lifestyle marketing criteria. Namely, have you defined, understood, and immersed yourself in your audience? Once you’ve done that, you can work on building a solid and loyal following. One way to do this is with regular, consistent, and engaging social posts. Experiential content on your social helps to “[formulate] a more connected and engaged relationship with consumers.” Another way to do this is with editorial content (think: magazines) and other touchpoints where your ideal audience already is. And keep it fun. Lifestyle brands are touting a #goal life, right?
Step 3: Offer something invaluable
This step is admittedly a little more ambiguous, and it will change depending on what type of brand you’re marketing. But offering something invaluable does not necessarily mean that you are marketing the latest and greatest invention. It means that your product or service provides value to consumers, preferably in a way that is fresh, inviting, and convenient. This could be turning an existing concept into a new trend. Like the many wellness or exercise brands that capitalized on the ‘white space’ (i.e. the previously untapped needs) in the industry to create a new perspective. Think Peloton or Soul Cycle. Or perhaps your brand is a culture creator like WeWork that took a mundane concept and “created a community of like-minded entrepreneurs.” But whether your brand is working with a forgotten category or one very much alive, the idea is to offer something that your audience doesn’t want to live without.
Step 4: Incorporate your brand everywhere
Repetition, repetition, repetition. We’re not suggesting that you nag your audience and pressure them to adopt your lifestyle brand. That defeats the purpose of authenticity. But you should think about how you can integrate “your product into multiple aspects of the lives of a niche audience.” For example, offering them value on social, continuing the conversation after they’ve purchased your product, and showing genuine interest in their lives. When you build a relationship with your customers, you can incorporate your brand in more ways than one. The end goal here is to make the purchase just one of the many steps in their brand journey with you.
Examples to follow
We wouldn’t be Savy without offering a few incredible examples to get our point across. These lifestyle brands have embedded themselves fully with their respective audiences. They and their marketing strategies are, in a word, goals.
Marks and Spencer
Marks and Spencer has established itself fully in the luxury category. Through consistent marketing, they have “convince[d] their customers that they can enjoy a better standard of living when they buy from them.” From their iconic logo to quality product and customer experience, M&S offers something invaluable to consumers: delivering “‘special moments’ to the marketplace.” The distinctly British brand has spent centuries cultivating and growing its audience while keeping up with current trends. They offer not only a lifestyle but a community.
The motorcycle manufacturer became a lifestyle brand with its cult following and adventurer identity. Despite being a fairly divisive brand (you either love it or hate it), Harley Davidson has stayed relevant and has even become an iconic piece of American culture. The brand has seamlessly woven itself into multiple aspects of its niche audience’s lives. Think of any Harley Davidson owner you know. They likely not only have a bike (or two) but all their gear, apparel, and maybe even tattoos come from the brand as well. And “the automaker has remained relevant through the decades – acquiring an eclectic bunch of fans and riders, ranging from soccer moms to post-ironic hipsters.” Those in its cult following live the lifestyle seriously.
On the opposite end of the spectrum is Burt’s Bees. Which has marketed itself as a lifestyle brand for those wanting to live a natural and healthy life. Yet they also fit firmly in the luxury product category and boast high quality, natural ingredients. Their brand story has remained consistent, and the brand itself lives its mission of being sustainable and natural. Its audience purchases the products to show “the world that [they] care about natural products, but [they’re] also devoted to protecting the environment.”
Brands as a way of life
It’s true that “the brands you align yourself with increasingly become extensions of who you are.” When pursuing lifestyle marketing, that is your goal. For your customers to feel as if your brand gets them. That it is fully supportive of their goals and that it offers something valuable they want to be part of. Lifestyle brands are a way of life, which means you are appealing to senses, values, and ideals. The end goal for your brand? Keep them coming back for more.