4 Companies that Transformed into Lifestyle Brands
When lifestyle brands sell a product or a service, their marketing isn’t really about what they’re selling, it’s about the lifestyle their consumers aspire to. It aims to evoke certain feelings and creates a community. Not trying to sell is actually a very effective way to sell.
Why are lifestyle brands so effective?
Lifestyle brands have a deep, intrinsic understanding of their target audience: their aspirations, values, needs, desires, and hopes. They know what their audience wants, what makes them tick, and they know the experiences, things, people, and places that inspire them. This is not just demographic data (although they know that too), it’s not just about creating personas, it’s truly understanding your audience’s emotional triggers.
These brands are also great story-tellers. They don’t tell their customers their shoes are great, they show their customers the life they could have if they wear their shoes. Lifestyle brands draw their customers in, creating a community of like-minded people who are part of something bigger than a product purchase.
Lifestyle brands also tend to innovate, and are agile and flexible. This helps them stay a step ahead, be on top of trends in their industry (and even drive them), and blaze a trail their customers want to follow.
So how does a company transform itself into a lifestyle brand? We look at four brands that have transformed their company into a lifestyle brand for their customers to aspire to.
When it comes to nutrition and food brands, consumers increasingly want to buy into a company that represents their lifestyle, special dietary requirements, and philosophy. This could be anything from vegan or gluten-free to organic or ketogenic – or simply people who love to cook certain types of food.
Whole30 is a book that paved the way for a whole nutrition movement – for 30 days, you eat only whole foods, eliminating sugar, alcohol, grains, legumes, soy, and dairy. On paper this sounds like a super-strict regime, but the approach Whole30 takes is not to focus on what you can’t eat, but on how you can create delicious meals that just contain whole foods. They are educating their audience and building a community in which this audience shares recipes and encouragement. They have real people talking about how great the Whole30 plan is and how their lives have changed, and they are willing to help others like them.
How did they do this? By using social media and influencer marketing very effectively. Their Instagram page has over 800,000 followers, with Facebook not far behind that. Over four million posts have been tagged #whole30. Their content game is also on point. A lot of the content is available without having to buy the book because it makes it easier for their audience to share. This in turn encourages others to get started. Of course, images of mouth-watering meals are hard to resist.
Whole30’s co-founder, Melissa Hartwig, says, “Our posts don’t feature rich 20-somethings in their underwear. They are real people sharing their non-scale victories.” Whole30 is relatable, has users who are supportive and encouraging to each other, and demonstrates real results. This is a lifestyle many millions of people aspire to.
Airbnb began in 2008 when Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia let out three inflatable mattresses in their apartment to help cover the rent. This idea proved so popular that they recognized a need, and a niche, for cost-effective travel that is much more based on local experience and a personal touch. Airbnb’s goal is not simply to provide a platform for people to share or rent houses, but for users to belong to a trusted community of people who share the same values and want a true local experience in a home.
Airbnb is a lifestyle brand because it is implacably linked to the experience of travel and jet setting, it doesn’t just provide a place to stay. They partner with like-minded brands to provide experiences outside their core purpose, but which their users can identify with and aspire to.
Across all digital platforms and in their quarterly magazine, Airbnb is less about the homes you’ll stay in and more about the lifestyle you’ll enjoy in the places you visit and the people you’ll meet. They use video content extensively, not to showcase their most amazing (read: expensive) properties, but to highlight the experiences you can have in your chosen destination. There are almost always people in their videos – people who are experiencing what their audience aspires to experience.
This brand knows their audience intimately. The search function on their website works on keywords, yes, but also on contextual information about your location. They are gathering information on what people in your area are also searching for so they can figure out what you are likely to be searching for – and they can deliver that to you quickly.
Airbnb is now starting to develop original shows with the aim of creating long-term loyalty from their users and inspiring people to travel – making a dream holiday become a reality. Essentially, Airbnb are crafting the optimum lifestyle brand experience.
Goodlife Fitness, a successful Canadian fitness chain founded in 1979, started out using the stereotypical gym membership sales technique – pressurizing potential members into purchase and forceful selling. Alongside pictures and videos of ridiculously beautiful, fit people, these tactics worked for a long time.
However, these days those pictures and videos alone are enough to put people off going to the gym. They’re not real, authentic or honest. Most people now want to go to the gym to get healthy and strong, both physically and mentally. Of course, there’s always an element of wanting to look good, we can’t deny that, but we don’t want to see astoundingly trim people barely breaking a sweat, we want to see real people who share the same reasons as us for going to the gym.
Realizing this, Goodlife started to feature ‘real’ people in their marketing campaigns. People their audience recognized as someone they could potentially become, creating aspiration and inspiring their target market. Since their first campaign, they have developed this theme to tell the stories of members of all shapes and sizes, of how they have transformed their lives and how they stay motivated. This in turn motivates potential members as they recognize themselves in these people. They are real, honest, and authentic, a world away from the seemingly unattainable bodies and insincere rhetoric of days gone by.
Alongside this, Goodlife also create great content for their blog, encompassing not just posts about exercise, but informative, useful, and relevant posts about nutrition, motivation, lifestyle, and mindfulness.
Goodlife is now the largest fitness chain in Canada.
I’m willing to bet that 99% of people reading this article have owned a pair of Converse at some point in their life. After a fairly humble beginning in 1908 as a galoshes manufacturer, Converse started making athletic shoes and when basketball player Charles “Chuck” Taylor became an ambassador for the company in 1923, a new brand was born. During the Second World War, Converse made rubberized footwear and outerwear for the military, and from the fifties to the eighties, Converse increased in popularity – but were so reliant on the Chuck Taylor brand that they eventually lost their appeal and sales declined. Declaring bankruptcy in the early 2000s, they were bought out by Nike.
And that’s when they transformed into a lifestyle brand. One of the unique aspects of Converse is their cross-generational appeal. They successfully target a diverse audience, whether they’re a skateboarding millennial, a wealthy 40-something into high-end fashion, and everyone in between.
How do they do it? Storytelling is a major component. Their blog is packed with a wide variety of content, including interviews, video, and celebrations of their fans. They don’t use major calls to action so it doesn’t feel like a sales push, and it’s massively shareable. The same goes for their social platforms. Here, they use a similar style of content but they also use social advertising that more specifically targets a particular generation.
Converse also put their customers front and center, showcasing their experiences and placing an emphasis on user-generated content. They use celebrities and influencers to connect more with the younger generation and leverage their heritage and history to connect with the older generation. Across all their customers, the landmark appeal is to the individual – Converse fits into your style, whatever that may be.
When do you know you’ve become a lifestyle brand?
While no brand can afford to be complacent, a lifestyle brand can call itself that when there is less emphasis on selling their product or service and more on the lifestyle they offer. Think of Nike, Apple, Rolex, Aston Martin, and Burberry. They may not even be the best at what they do, and their audience probably doesn’t buy their products that frequently, but they do buy into the lifestyle these brands portray and are part of their communities.
Check out our marketing for lifestyle brands resource for more content on all aspects of lifestyle brands, or call us if you’d like to chat through how LimeLight Marketing can support your business in transforming into a lifestyle brand.