When Nike inked a deal with Michael Jordan — one of the biggest sports star on the planet — something incredible happened in the marketing world. Sports figures (and their enviable lifestyles) have been used to selling shoes before, but after the Air Jordan came out, and with the success of Michael Jordan’s stellar rookie year, Nike’s sales skyrocketed because everyone wanted to “be like Mike.”
Nike knew that working with an up-and-coming basketball star was going to be worth their return on investment for their branding and sales. The success was mostly due to people’s perception of Nike shoes. They believed that the shoes were helping Jordan to be great at basketball and wanted the same to happen to them. Air Jordans have since become a cultural phenomenon, and sneakerheads are willing to pay a high price for them, steadily returning on Nike’s original investment. In recognition of the Air Jordan deal, many companies have risen to meteoric status by leaning on sports figures or other brand ambassadors to help them establish and maintain their brand visibility. With the integration of social media, lifestyle branding efforts can be more personalized and effective.
Red Bull, GoPro, and Harley Davidson are all successful brands that have deployed lifestyle branding — extending their brand beyond their products and integrating it to be synonymous with a lifestyle. Lifestyle branding can be time-consuming and tricky to pull off successfully if it is not done correctly. So, what is lifestyle branding and how can you implement it into your marketing efforts? Read below to find out.
What is Lifestyle Branding?
While regular brands direct their marketing from the outside in, lifestyle branding does the opposite. In ordinary marketing, you may cater to an audience of an upcoming event, trying to make your brand visible for this short period of time. Lifestyle branding, however, makes sure that the product, or the brand, is the event. For instance, Coca-Cola might try to bring their products to a skateboarding event, but they will be hard-pressed to outshine Red Bull in that extreme sports event, as Red Bull sponsors it. Furthermore, Red Bull has been sponsoring skateboarding events for quite some time now. Red Bull even sponsors the athletes in the event.
Here, Coke is going to have a tough time gaining exposure throughout the skateboarding community. Since Red Bull has taken the time and effort to integrate their brand into the culture of skateboarding (and other extreme sports), they are now a part of the culture. They have been well respected and endorsed by deep-rooted, highly celebrated figures of the extreme sports world for years. When thinking of Red Bull, the energy drink comes to mind. However, what they have done for extreme sports and their significance in the culture is equally acknowledged by many. Especially, the younger generations understand Red Bull’s significance, wanting to be sponsored by the company.
Matt Biolos, the surfer behind Lost Surfboards and a major contributor to surfing since the ‘90s, was asked the secret to his board sales and quality. Biolos responded:
“Longevity is almost always based on building a solid base, then remaining valid by staying creative and consistent. It’s much easier to remain in a solid position than it is to get there. Once you get there, it actually requires less work. This is true in almost any profession.
That said, for Lost Surfboards, and myself, in particular, it means staying in touch with the upcoming and current surfers, continuing to surf and be involved in the global surf culture and scene, and focusing on a tightly run and streamlined business that can roll through the bumps in the road.”
Lifestyle branding aims to transcend past just being a product. Instead, it aims to make the product a part of the community and culture of its audience. This integration not only perpetuates marketing strategies but also develops a strong customer loyalty factor as the brand becomes less of a physical element and more of an emotionally attached aspect of the culture.
How to Successfully Create a Lifestyle Brand
Creating a lifestyle brand can be tricky. In many cases, it takes years to cultivate your brand and integrate it into a culture. Furthermore, if done incorrectly, your branding can fail as a result of being seen as “disingenuous”. This is the essence of lifestyle branding — to build your branding with genuine care in regards to your audience and their culture. If the culture is your brand itself, then your brand should care more about its members.
To create a lifestyle brand, it is evident that your audience and their culture must be analyzed thoroughly. This won’t be a problem if your brand is helping to shape the culture. However, when taking your first steps into building a lifestyle brand, you will need to conduct an extensive market research to get a firm handle of the culture that you are trying to embrace. This market research will help you to integrate into the culture more comfortably. As ASU states, a research analyst should know about “answering questions about consumers: who they are, what they want, why they want it and how much they’re willing to pay for it. Determining answers to these questions serve the overall goal of driving a business’ profitability and sustainability through increased sales, more effective marketing, and stronger customer loyalty.”
Your product and brand need to address the pain points of your audience. In some instances, brands haven’t addressed the concerns of the younger generation. This is your opportunity to give the younger audience exactly what they want while helping to form the culture. A startup company can find success in understanding their product and brand, knowing what it can do for their audience, and designing a cultural experience around the product to root it into an audience’s culture.
Take LaCroix for example. Sparkling water is nothing new, but LaCroix has blown all the other sparkling water brands out of the water by understanding their audience and creating a cultural experience for them. The audience has marked the company as a healthy alternative to soda without artificial sweeteners, sodium, or calories. This speaks to healthy-minded members of the younger generation. To further connect to their audience, LaCroix has enlisted celebrities for endorsements, along with hiring millennials as part of the company. LaCroix has rooted itself into this culture while helping to shape it a bit as well. LaCroix is just one example of a young company knowing it’s audience and their culture to build very strong brand loyalty.
Examples of Lifestyle Branding
Lifestyle branding depends largely on the brand ambassadors. That being said, many sports brands have had success in lifestyle branding. Sports stars are the ideal endorsers because, in the sports world, people want to be like the greats. The #ThisGirlCan movement has been a significant movement for the women who want to get fit because it relates to the regular women by doing just that — highlighting the ordinary woman. This movement doesn’t use shirtless men with 6-pack abs, and it also doesn’t buy into the branding and products that create impossible standards for women.
Sour Patch Kids, the popular candy, has found itself in the good graces of musicians by constructing buildings for them to rest their head while they are on tour, free of charge. Musicians have even shot music videos at these locations (Brooklyn, and Austin, TX). Lodging for touring musicians is vital to their touring experience, and if it’s free, then that’s even better. Sour Patch Kids realizes this, and in return, have seen social media success from the musicians who have stayed there — thanking them for their generosity and as a result, endorsing the brand.
Many successful examples of lifestyle branding come from a genuine understanding of what a brand can do for their audience like going an extra mile for them (such as constructing buildings for touring musicians). The audience recognizes and appreciates such gestures, connecting you to the culture while building customer loyalty.
Lifestyle branding may be time-consuming in the sense that it takes a while to establish your brand in a community. However, the level of customer loyalty makes lifestyle branding too big to fail. Sometimes, sports brands back an athlete who turns out to be a dud. Even if such brand ambassador fails, the brand will survive, as it has been and will continue to be part of the culture. Lifestyle branding can be well worth your investment if done correctly, and with the information above, you now understand how to carry it out successfully.
Avery T. Phillips is a freelance human being with too much to say. She loves nature and examining human interactions with the world. Comment or tweet her @a_taylorian with any questions or suggestions.