This is the second in a series of articles exploring the rise of lifestyle brands. You can read the first article here.
So perhaps you came across my first article in this series, and it convinced you to explore what it takes to become a lifestyle brand. However, like many CX and marketing leaders, you might be skeptical: Lifestyle brands just happen organically, right? They are just a magical alchemy of having the right customers with a common set of beliefs rally around the right products at the right time.
This article will take you through three concrete steps companies need to take to transition from a product-led company to a lifestyle brand. The goal is to show you that it can happen through careful planning and execution.
What Are Lifestyle Brands, Again?
First, a quick recap. As I explained in the first article, lifestyle brands are defined by the strength and fervor of the customer communities around them. However, instead of rallying around a product or set of products, lifestyle brands rally around a purpose and mission.
Through relentless advocacy of that mission — and in building customer communities of like-minded individuals — lifestyle brands are better able to retain and attract more customers, charge more for their products than competitors and navigate their ways through turbulent economic conditions (or so I argue). Notable examples of lifestyle brands include YETI, Black Rifle Coffee, Patagonia, and Barstool Sports.
Related Article: Only Brands With Purpose Can Achieve Lifestyle Brand Status
Going From Product-Led Company to Lifestyle Brand
To make the transition from product-led company to lifestyle brand, there is one prerequisite: You must have at least one truly excellent first product or set of products that will draw and maintain initial customers.
For YETI, it was their notoriously durable coolers that kept liquid cool for insane periods of time.
For Barstool Sports — regardless of whether you agree with their political and social stances — it was personality-driven blog content hyper targeted to the “bro” culture.
For A24, perhaps the only movie studio that is also a lifestyle brand, it was early films like Spring Breakers which drew critical praise.
YETI, Barstool Sports and A24 have pretty much nothing in common when it comes to their beliefs or mission. However, they all made the same conscious choice after finding initial success: pursue a product roadmap that aligns with brand purpose, as opposed to attempting to retrofit a brand around an expanding set of similar products.
This is a subtle, but important difference in product strategy. Most companies will attempt to take their product expertise and apply it to new adjacent products. A company known for great T-Shirts will make a polo, for example.
The Action Steps to Lifestyle Status
Yet one of Barstool Sports first forays outside of blog content wasn’t podcasts or films, it was their infamous “Blackout Party Tour” event series, which, as you can imagine given its name, further steeped the brand in the “bro” lifestyle.
To cultivate their outdoors image, YETI began making products like outdoor chairs, sleeping bag blankets and even dog beds. Even A24 has pursued an unorthodox filmography strategy: it experienced initial success with outlandish satires on youth culture with Spring Breakers and The Bling Ring, but quickly moved into high-concept Sci-FI films and thrillers with Under the Skin and Enemy. A24 made the conscious decision to become a production company not known for a genre, but instead for the film fanatic lifestyle.
Related Article: Why Strategy Is Not an Option in Content Marketing
Content to Align Around Brand Purpose
Lifestyle brands must invest heavily in content that helps their customers engage in the brand’s purpose. I would argue that if you aren’t also well known as a content factory, then you’re not successfully executing a lifestyle brand strategy.
YETI has a podcast, a short film production wing and an entire content series focused on their customer ambassadors. A24 sells screenplay books and fans can subscribe to a monthly magazine featuring special editors such as Jonah Hill.
One of my favorite examples of this comes from cocktail company Haus. They are squarely focused on the casual, laid-back and in-home drinking lifestyle that may be attractive to older millennials, and they have curated playlists that you can find on Spotify that are designed to facilitate those exact types of social get togethers. They are making it easier to literally bring their lifestyle to your living room.
Wearing the Brand Loud and Proud
Finally, merchandise and gear are the trademarks of the lifestyle brand. If you are able to make an ROI off of bumper stickers, you know you’ve made it. Look at YETI’s site, or Barstool Sports. If you were completely unfamiliar with their products, you could easily be forgiven in thinking that they are first and foremost an apparel company. Apparel provides fans of the brand with the opportunity to proudly and publicly display their allegiance to that brand’s purpose and mission. It allows them to tell the world what they believe in and who they are in a quick and efficient manner. My favorite recent example of this is electric truck company Rivian’s “Forever” line of T-Shirts. As the tagline says, “A tee to celebrate our shared vision is to keep the planet intact for our kids’ kids’ kids.”
Hopefully the preceding paragraphs will provide you with some inspiration if you also are thinking of pursuing a lifestyle brand strategy. None of these tactics, however, will matter if you aren’t willing to take a stand and display a set of beliefs. As a lifestyle brand, you won’t be able to appeal to all consumers. You might even generate some “haters.”
But by offering a wide array of products all devoted to a lifestyle and investing in high quality content and merchandise, you will go a long way in cultivating a rabid and loyal customer base that would be the envy of your more traditional-minded competitors.