This post is from a byline published in Mediapost
In a meeting last month, the brand manager from a CPG brand at a Fortune 100 company said he did not think his customers would talk eagerly about his brand because it is not a “lifestyle brand.” This is a common concern and hurdle for CPG marketers. The brands they envy are part of the consumer’s everyday life, and, therefore, consumers reference the brands in daily conversations.
What is a lifestyle brand exactly? A lifestyle brand is a brand that attempts to embody the interests, attitudes and opinions of a group or a culture. Lifestyle brands command unshakeable brand loyalty. Loyalty breeds trust and delivers economies of scale. Lifestyle brands can launch new products more efficiently due to the strength of the brand’s reputation.
But how does a seemingly less “talkable” CPG brand reap the benefits that major lifestyle brands enjoy? CPG marketers are aware of the importance of consumer conversation. More than 77% of people are more likely to purchase a new product when learning about it from friends or family.
Think about successful lifestyle brands: Nike, Harley Davidson, Ralph Lauren, and the obvious, Apple. I think we can all agree it’s more than just selling a product.
These brands are part of their customers’ everyday lives. The people who love them directly endorse them, and indirectly drive purchase by representing the lifestyle the brand embodies.
A recent post from Microsoft for Work blog noted that successful brands embody their customers’ interests and ideas, creating one-of-a-kind communities. It’s a way for businesses to penetrate their customers’ (and would be customers’) day-to-day conversations in a positive way. Some of the examples cited are Starbucks’ backing of music and movie projects to become a trusted curator of arts, or companies like Lululemon, which turns stores into local hangouts and provides free in-store yoga classes. These brands are telling bigger stories about their products by aligning themselves with things that matter to their consumer’s everyday life.
An important step that lifestyle brands take is to build a cult-like following from an enormous amount of advocates. Developing a documented and dedicated advocacy and influencer strategy is a step any brand can use to align itself with a certain lifestyle.
Target Advocates and Influencers Who Embody the Lifestyle
When it comes to building a lifestyle brand through the customers who best represent you, context almost always outweighs content. One of the first steps is to find the people who mirror the brand’s desired lifestyle. Give those advocates a reason to care, and show them how your brand can fit into their lifestyle. Carefully select, screen and qualify your advocates to make sure they’re in lock step. Qualifying your advocates can be done through scanning social data as well as inviting consumers to complete surveys to identify desired psychographics and behavioral habits.
Push Stories, Not Product Reviews
As we talked about earlier, lifestyle brands don’t focus on selling a product. When leveraging advocates, give them an opportunity to tell a story about your brand. Offer provocative prompts. For example, a permanent marker brand may not push advocates to talk about the effectiveness of product features, but instead, ask people to show how the markers help satisfy their desire to be organized, such as showing off a newly arranged craft closet in a photo posted on Instagram or Pinterest.
Repurpose Advocate Content in Brand Assets
One of the easiest ways to get consumers to talk about your brand is to give them something to make your vision, mission and purpose clear and public. Consumers who believe in your brand and what it stands for will naturally start talking about it. You can then leverage this user-generated content across brand assets to help authentically reinforce the message that you are a lifestyle brand, not just any old consumer packaged good.
Becoming a lifestyle brand is not an easy thing to do. Not every brand is destined to a be one, but every brand can leverage some of the tips and effective methods of lifestyle brands, and be confident that their brand can spark conversation among consumers.
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Photo by Richard Clyborne of Music Strive