Are you a fashion marketer, beauty marketer or senior executive setting your sights on lifestyle-brand status?
As I comb daily through WWD for the latest and greatest in leisure, lifestyle and beauty marketing and branding, I’m struck by a recurring theme – or should I say dream. It seems like every high-end consumer brand – from Kate Spade New York and Michael Kors – to Coach, Tom Ford, Giorgio Armani and Aerin Lauder (of esteemed Estee Lauder) are setting their sites (figuratively and literally) on becoming full-fledged lifestyle brands to expand their customer franchises as well as to meet their financial ambitions (and demands).
So What Does it Mean to be a Lifestyle Brand?
First we need to embrace the concept of a lifestyle brand to better understand the dynamics of this trend, especially among top fashion icons and beauty brands. A lifestyle brand attempts to personify the values and aspirations of a group or subculture for purposes of creating a more loyal, engaged and active fan base. We all have our own identity that defines who we are and reflects our personal choices, experiences, background and aspirations. And when we purchase certain brands, it is a decision that expresses our personal identity through the eyes of the brand. Essentially, we are saying that this brand “embodies who I am (or want to be) and my current (or desired) lifestyle”.
In today’s hyper-competitive world of fashion and beauty, many top brands are extending beyond their original product categories – as they understand that they are really selling a defining image and lifestyle (e.g. Burberry embodies iconic elegance with authentic, British chic spirit; while Victoria Secret brings beauty and fantasy into every woman’s life in a sexy and sophisticated way) – and we buy into this “lifestyle” and what it represents.
Can Every Brand Become a Lifestyle Brand?
Attempting to position your brand as a lifestyle brand expands your competitive frame (as well as the resources necessary to support this expansion) as you extend across more categories. So the brand and the story it tells has to be larger (and relevant), authentic (delivering against the high expectations customers have of it) and provide a genuine emotional attachment to a particular lifestyle, therefore creating an enduring bond with your customers. For successful lifestyle brands like Ralph Lauren and Kate Spade, the financial benefits are significant, not only in customer loyalty and continuity of demand but greater ease in launching new products due to the inherent endorsement and trust of the lifestyle brand.
Building Lifestyle Brand Affinity
Aerin Lauder serves as a great example of an emerging lifestyle brand that transcends the boundaries of her family’s classic beauty business. Her range embodies her passion for beauty, fashion, entertaining and decorating and her sophisticated yet simple modern sensibility appeals to women on the go and in the know. The breadth of her offering is vast yet everything reflects her personal sense of style as well as her own life, with the goal of “decorating the consumer from head to toe and her house from floor to ceiling.” And the results to date are impressive, with key retailers like Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue and Bergdorf Goodman giving high marks to her fresh approach –– attracting new and younger customers to her fold.
For businesses desiring lifestyle brand status, even Aerin Lauder followed some key steps that serve as good lessons learned:
• One category at a time. Create a strong foundation, grow relevance and credibility and then build on it. Kate Spade started her lifestyle brand by creating a strong reputation in handbags and then evolved into new categories from there…from ready-to-wear, fashion accessories and tech accessories to jewelry, shoes, beauty and home.
• Deliver authenticity. Your brand should be based on a defined heritage, capability and well-defined set of values, a la Ralph Lauren. It also needs to deliver against the high expectations that customers have of it.
• Demonstrate authority in your space. Top lifestyle brands today are blogging, creating how-to videos, writing articles, and more. With a passionate and active fan base, take the opportunity to socialize your brand to spark meaningful connections, tap into the emotional bond with your audiences and drive deeper (and more profitable) relationships.
• Create a coherent style. Since being a lifestyle brand means transcending multiple categories, it is key to establish a strong umbrella identity that captures all the brand has to offer. As with Aerin Lauder, she created a new modern sensibility that was built on her signature elegance and understated beauty. Everything she does adheres to this style.
Establishing, and more importantly, growing a great lifestyle brand takes commitment, financial backing and vision. Will you be the next great lifestyle brand?