Tag Archives: lifestyle brand

Lifestyle Branding: Engagement and the Total Experience

By James D. Roumeliotis

How Is Technology Helping Fashion Lifestyle Brands Connect To Their Human  Side

When you visit your local Porsche dealership be prepared to engage.
Staff will talk to you about the total experience. This will invariably
include discussing the firm’s racing pedigree and performance. In your
mind, you will be able to feel the steering wheel, smell the leather seats,
and hear the roar of the engine. This car represents to you an exclusive
club and you desire to be part of the privileged few. The brand also added its own private race tracks in several parts of the world for its customers to have exhilarating moments testing various models. Clearly, one does
not buy a Porsche simply to go from point A to point B. In practice, you
might use this care to commute to work, but this is not the incentive
to purchase a piece of automobile and racing history.

Porsche is clearly a brand with authenticity and heritage. The principles shaping the consumer’s buying behavior go beyond intention.
There is a sense of engagement in fulfilling a dream. It can be to make
a social status statement or a personal style choice. Whatever it is, it
is not an unconscious choice. The codifiers are clear: This is who I am,
and what I believe in. Ultimately, it can also articulate your sense of
self-worth and your emotional aspirations.

The most important emotional benefit in my view is that a product
of this caliber and class expresses itself when the consumer can declare,
“It suits my lifestyle.”

Lifestyle Brands Matter
Not every brand is a lifestyle brand regardless of whether it strives to
portray itself as such. A company can define itself as a lifestyle brand
when its products promote more than a product with key benefits and
attributes. Note however that lifestyle branding is more than just promoting “a way of life”. It is a product or service that provides consumers with an emotional attachment to the lifestyle of the brand. Think
of Ralph Lauren and you can readily see it is not about the clothes. It
becomes an attachment like Porsche to an exclusive club in which you
can be a member through emotional identification through use of the
products in question.

Savvy companies understand these principles and look to keep
the customer engaged. By doing so, they clearly forge the sort of long
term relationships, which become the envy of their designated sector.
Financial benefits clearly follow, but the raison d’être of the firm must
back up its promotion for this to work effectively. One reason so many
firms want to enter the lifestyle arena is profitability and high profit
margins. Established brands can tap economies of scale when they
launch new products at a cheaper cost to the firm. Surplus revenue can
then be channeled into extensive advertising and promotion costs.

Building a Lifestyle Brand
Generally speaking, a brand that is designed for the lifestyle segment
should have more emotional value to consumers. Features, cost, and
benefits do play a role but by themselves they would be insignificant.
There are companies that become a lifestyle brand by tying their
product ranges to a distinctive culture or group. Marketing guru, Seth
Godin labels this with the key word as a “tribe”. A classic case is Harley
Davidson, who sells branded merchandise to customers whether or
not they own one of the firm’s motorcycles. Other
key lifestyle brands include Nike, Wholefoods, Red Bull, Hackett, Hermes, and Louis Vuitton among others.

In the electronics and computer industries, it is uncommon to have
lifestyle products. However, Apple has broken this “glass ceiling” by its
unconventionality with products which come with its seamless eco-system. Even its ubiquitous white headphones have become a fashion accessory and, some would even argue, a status symbol. The people who follow Apple
and its “lifestyle” are clearly all obsessed in a way that the firm intended
when it embarked on this well-thought-through strategy.

Lifestyle brands have clearly impacted on luxury brand management.
The usual suspects such as BMW, Armani, W Hotels, and Rolex — just
to name a few, have fostered commitment and loyalty with their promotional campaigns. These have given consumers an “associate” status
with all that is glamorous. Just think of Daniel Craig and James Bond.
Sales at Omega thrive on this “Bond engagement”.

The methods to reach a target audience require an integrated marketing/communication strategy. They clearly require taking into consideration and harmonizing the following aspects:
• Experiential Marketing;
• Grassroots marketing;
• Promotional tours;
• Sponsorship of lifestyle events;
• Lifestyle marketing on the Web: think Facebook;
• Viral video marketing;
• Social media/networking (blogs, chat rooms & message boards);
• “Interactive” is key;
• Mobile phone media, text messaging & applications.

Not Every Brand Can be a “Lifestyle”
New research from Kellogg at Northwestern finds that the strategy of
traditional brands to reposition themselves as a “lifestyle” brand may
fail. The reason is not rocket science: they simply fail to “bond” with
their customer base. “The open vistas of lifestyle branding are an illusion,” said Alexander Chernev, lead author of the study and Associate Professor of Marketing at Kellogg. “By switching to lifestyle positioning, brands might be
trading the traditional in-category competition for even fiercer cross-category competition. Now they have to compete not only with their
direct rivals but also with brands from unrelated categories.”

The study reveals how brands serve as a means of self-expression
along with the limitations of expressing a consumer’s identity through
brands. Moreover, the study uncovers customers’ desire for self-expression through brands is finite.

Why Do Some Lifestyle Brands Become A Way Of Life?Fabrik Brands
Credit: Fabrik Brands

In Perspective
Forward-thinking brands are those which will continue to develop creative ideas and solutions that will allow people to interact with each
other and explore, as well as share creative opportunities. Moreover,
those same brands will make it a strategic priority to add pleasure into
the lives of their consumers.

To be sure, there are many excellent examples of lifestyle branding. Just examine the “hotel as lifestyle” creator, Ian Schrager. Since the
1970’s, as an entrepreneur, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of
Ian Schrager Company, he has achieved international recognition for
concepts that have revolutionized both the entertainment and hospitality industries.

His passionate commitment to the modern lifestyle has been
expressed through a series of pioneering concepts:
The hotel is no longer just a place to sleep. It is portrayed as your
home away from home. This allows hotels to act like theater. Think of
the boutique hotel or “cheap chic”, “lobby socializing”, the resort, or
the spa.

His keen instincts for the mood and feel of popular culture were
honed during the 1970s and 1980s, when he and his late business
partner, Steve Rubell, created Studio 54 and Palladium. In 1984, they
turned their attention to Morgan’s Hotel and introduced the concept
of “boutique hotel” to the world, which is today one the hottest segments in hospitality.

The goal of a lifestyle brand is to get people to relate to one another
through a “concept brand.” These brands successfully sell identity, image
and status rather than a “product-service” in the traditional meaning of
the term.

If they are successful in capturing their audience, then they become
legends in their own right. If you examine the published photographic testament to “Il Pelicano” in Tuscany you will understand perfectly the meaning of the lifestyle branding spirit.

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The Cult Brand: Providing an exceptional experience to the point of total customer devotion

by James D. Roumeliotis

harley-brand-tattoo

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There are brands that tout their virtues of their products and/or services with a religious fervor. A “cult” brand is a product or service with a strong loyal customer following, whereby their clients are fanatical about their products or services to the point where their lifestyle revolves around those popular brands. This level of fanaticism also makes those devout followers unsolicited brand ambassadors.

Cult brand examples with customer aficionados include Apple, BMW, Porsche, Fox News, Lulumemon, Zappos, Oprah, Harley Davidson and Starbucks to name a few. As with Starbucks, it offers a superior product and experience that some people would go out of their way, by driving by less expensive alternative coffee shops, to pay for Starbucks’s pricier cup of coffee.

More than just a product or service, it is a lifestyle

Generally speaking, brands that are designed for a lifestyle should have a much higher emotional value to consumers than ones based on features like cost or benefits alone.

Call it “hype” or give it any other label, cult brands are a unique breed which create and are given plenty of attention. Their brand value is also much higher than their closest competitors. They have achieved a special connection with consumers through their distinctive appeal.

Unlike religious or similar type cult following, the cult brand is considered “benign” or a “benign cult” since it satisfies a need and desire in a positive and harmless manner. Some brand loyalists have gone as far as having their beloved brand tattooed on their body.

A brand is considered as a “cult” brand if the following aspects are present:

  1. Customers receive more than a product and/or service ─ they experience a lifestyle;
  2. Brand devotees firmly believe there are no substitutes for their beloved brand;
  3. Customers feel a sense of ownership with the brand;
  4. Loyalty is prolonged over time compared to brands which are considered fads and unsustainable in the long-term;
  5. An extraordinary degree of customer loyalty exists.

Ingredients of a cult brand: using psychology, identity and a sense of belonging

It is not enough for brands to spend plenty of money on glorified advertising. Any company with an adequate budget can do that. The essential challenge is to utilize an approach that makes people to want to embrace a product and/or service that people would enjoy making it part of their life, as well as identity and belonging.

Brand cult status is an emotional component of the brand but it is not as simple to achieve. As per The Cult Branding Company, a brand consultancy firm, there are seven rules of cult brands this author stands behind ─ and are as follows:

Rule #1 – Differentiate: To achieve a special connection with consumers, the brand should have a distinctive allure and be unconventional in a good sense.

Rule #2 – Be Courageous: Cult Brands are successful because they are unlike their competitors. They possess their own personality, DNA and rules. They are also passionate about their offerings and their customers for whom they exist in the first place.

Rule #3 – Promote a Lifestyle: The goal of a lifestyle brand is to get people to relate to one another through a “concept brand.” These brands successfully sell identity, image and status rather than merely a “product-service” in the traditional sense of the term.

Rule #4 – Listen to Your Customers: Focus on serving your customers’ desires by being customer-centric. Encourage feedback and utilize it as an opportunity to form ideas, and provide solutions that establish and retain loyalty.

Rule #5 – Support Customer Communities: Cult Brands build effective and sustainable relationships with their customers by developing and supporting a customer community which allows users, partners, and company employees to share information, answer questions, post problems, and discuss ideas about product enhancements and best practices in real time. Cult brands also gather their loyalists by organizing occasional social events to ignite additional enthusiasm for the brand.

Rule #6 – Be Open, Inviting and Inclusive: Cult Brands do not discriminate in terms of age, race or sexual preference. As such, everyone who believes in the brand’s mission is welcome.

Rule #7 – Promote Personal Freedom: For most, the Abraham Maslow hierarchy of needs pyramid includes elements of self-esteem and self-actualization. As such, a well-regarded brand will express this as much by promoting freedom which is essential in expressing one’s own unique identity and worldview without fear of consequences.

brand-loyalty-2

In the end: Achieving the highest level of emotional connection via brand advocacy

Cult brands have a fanatical customer base. A culture is created around the brand based on consumers of a niche group. From there, the brand evangelists spread the message and enlist more followers.

When consumers are treated with honesty and delighted by a brand experience, they begin to bond emotionally with the brand. They become brand loyalists and advocates – buying the brand more often and recommending it to others. This behavior serves to build the brand’s reputation. This approach is priceless – even though it may take longer to take positive effect.

That said, innovative products, exceptional services, the total customer experience and the lifestyle which comes with being associated with the brand are what truly makes a cult brand exceptional from competing brands. The key objective is to create a relationship of trust. The world’s powerful brands establish trust and friendship with their customers. They develop emotional capital, and gain passion. This is what makes them great, thus “cult” brands.

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