Can’t Buy Me (Brand) Love

woman laying in hammock

Today, there are no ‘lifestyle brands’, only brands that successfully understand their customer’s ‘lifestyle’ and find ways to connect with them on their terms in order to provide value beyond the brands’ products and services. Consumers want what they want when they want it. They expect more, they are impatient and they value brands that take the time to understand and support their lives and beliefs.

The celebrated ‘lifestyle brands’ of yesterday, such as Rolex or Abercrombie & Fitch, marketed their products to embody the interests and attitudes of an attractive niche group that was aspirational for the rest of the population. These brands hoped to capitalize on our desire to be affiliated with said groups or lifestyles, to attract a high number of people and ultimately to become a recognised social phenomenon.

These brands bought or borrowed from the lifestyles they were trying to emulate through expensive sponsorships, celebrity endorsements, and big budget ad campaigns. Today, the secret is to add to those lifestyles. To truly succeed, brands need to immerse themselves in their customers’ lives and deliver a meaningful experience. They need to identify what their customers care about and focus on the moments that are need driven – need to learn, grow, discover, engage. Tesla, for example, doesn’t try to sell you another premium car with the promise of a luxurious lifestyle. The company is building its brand on solving a mobility question. Airbnb makes traveling a more meaningful, valuable experience. Both of these are modern lifestyle brands.

In order to succeed, brands can no longer rely on old habits or old branding models. We are moving away from emotionalizing and “love branding” towards creating brands that provide utility and value to customers. And traditional models of brand building such as mindshare branding and purpose branding are often not equipped to foster the growth and innovation required.

Vivaldi Partners has long established the need and value of understanding the 1440 minutes of consumers’ days in order to create a brand strategy that will have impact during the few minutes during which consumers are engaged with the brand. The team of Vivaldi Fifth Season, Vivaldi’s creative arm, shares this perspective.

When implementing your brand strategy, focus on three things:

  1. Don’t just be amazing, be amazingly useful – Great design is not enough. Creative solutions need to transform the experiences that people will have of the brand, taking into account their context, their needs and the alternative workarounds that are available to them. Successful brands have insight into their customer’s lives to help reframe pain-points and generate creative solutions that are more effective than those that already exist, whether this is done through product design, tradeshow booth design or even a corporate identity refresh.
  1. Bid farewell to differentiation, and be distinctive – Differentiation has been drilled into every marketer as the holy grail, but that was before our world became awash with 33 types of cavity-preventing, smile-whitening, mint-tasting toothpaste. In crowded and mature categories, distinctiveness is key. Brands need customers to quickly notice, recognize, and recall their brand over others. Distinctive assets are particularly important in retail environments because competitors are in the same visual field. As with all of Vivaldi Fifth Season’s design decisions, packaging changes are developed with the consumer in mind. It’s not just about how a brand pack differs from others – it is about how the packaging will entice the buyer to pick it up amongst a sea of competitors.
  1. Build social currency and facilitate the dialogue, even if it isn’t about you – The social media/crowd culture generation thrives on community and real interactions. They might not care about what your brand has to say but they value connections. So if your brand can’t directly solve a consumer need, play the facilitator and connect them to people who can. This is not a time for the ego-centric. It’s all about the lifestyle that you are serving.

If you want to be a lifestyle brand, understanding your customers and creating value for their lifestyle is a prerequisite to all creative implementation decisions. Take a page from the LEGO playbook: focus on what truly matters when developing your brand strategy, so that your creative implementation can focus on making your brand truly a lifestyle brand.