Lifestyle brands have existed for a very, very long time. From Tiffany & Co, Pepsi and Coca Cola from the 1800s; CHANEL, Adidas, Mercedes Benz and Audi in the early 1900s to Calvin Klein in the late 1900s, all of these brands are part of the same lifestyle heritage.

The existence of lifestyle branding hasn’t changed. What has changed, however, is the role that lifestyle brands have played in our lives over time.

Early lifestyle brands made you buy so that you could be like them. You used a certain perfume in order to be part of a certain society.

Image result for marilyn monroe chanel number 5
In the late 20th century through to today, things took a dramatic shift. Our goal posts began to evaporate and glass ceilings began to shatter.

New lifestyle brands like Apple and Nike allowed us to self-organize around ideals of our own choosing, regardless of our lot in life. We could find our tribes and rally around the aspirations that stirred us.

Lifestyle went mainstream and was not limited to a certain vertical such as fashion. It now covered everything from fashion to finance. We moved brands to be vehicles of self-labeling to vehicles of self-expression.

We could think that this is it but we would be wrong. The consumer is changing again.

Successful brands are built in the future market.

Consumers are becoming more and more sophisticated in the brand vernacular, and more demanding of the brand value they pay a premium for.

I may not be a CEO but I work from Commonground because I believe I am a disruptor.

We used to want to belong but this is slowly but surely changing to want to make a difference. The lifestyle realm is undergoing a transition from aspiration to something with more substance.

We’re moving from self-expression to self-discovery.

USP used to be the deal of the day. So was design aesthetics and creating buzz. Now it’s about the consumer that’s seeking new centers of meaning in their lives, and accordingly will seek out brands that help them discover who they are in the process.

We’ve gone from wanting to shout from rooftops to wanting to be at peace with your inner self.

Lifestyle brands today need to create a path that even your consumers don’t realize they are heading towards. Sounds complicated? It kind of is.

Start having a conversation.
A lot of brands falter from the very beginning because they don’t understand what a lifestyle brand actually is. Brands are used to talk a lot and not listen. Now you need to listen more than talk.

Forget the aesthetics or aspirations.If you want to be a lifestyle brand, you need a rock solid understanding of the values that you want to explore with your consumer.

Keep in mind you can’t effectively explore company values like “transparency” or “honesty” or “social responsibility”… the common items listed in company’s mission statement.

The values worth exploring are the ones that help your user move down the self-discovery path.

Values sound provocative, revealing, and you either really care or you really don’t because as a consumer, you immediately know if that value will get you to someplace deeper within yourself.

It used to be aspirational: Maybelline: “Maybe she’s born with it. Maybe it’s Maybelline.”

Now it’s “The thrill of vulnerability in an unforgiving world.”

Lifestyle brands insert themselves into the important life moments of their users. Specifically, those life moments that echo the brand’s guiding beliefs and the values they’re working to explore.

Image result for honest company advertising

Emulation vs. empowerment.
If we’re moving from self-expression to self-discovery, then we’re also moving from emulation to empowerment.

In other words, purely “aspirational brands” will decline.

Many companies have beautiful and tight visual branding that signals something to aspire to, but not much more than that. We see them everywhere — clothing, food, tech, entertainment — but as consumers, we’re overwhelmed with this kind of two-dimensional branding that it has started to become redundant.

We will eventually reach a point where users won’t care about attaining a prescribed lifestyle nearly as much as they will care about being enabled to create the deeper lifestyle they want.

Is your brand giving your users the tools to attain something bigger?

People need to know that if they are investing in so much intangible brand value and giving themselves over to such a demanding (but rewarding) self-discovery experience, there is someone on the other side of it all that is just as committed.

Unlike B2B and non-lifestyle B2C brands, lifestyle brands across the board need to showcase a real person that’s driving the vision and innovation in the company.

Your consumers don’t need a relationship with the founder specifically, but they need the comfort of knowing they aren’t being cheated by some flashy marketing gimmicks and a savvy art department.

The best companies are the ones led by CEOs who have their own personal brands. They’re influencers in their own realm who are one or two steps ahead of the company brand that they are building.

Gwyneth Paltrow’s personal brand (as exemplified through her life) is like Goop on steroids, and Elon Musk’s personal brand of being a rebel futurist is arguably leagues ahead of Tesla’s.

When a founder’s personal brand is further into the future than the company they are building, it demonstrates a real devotion to a larger belief.

It also gives avid users — the ones who spend the most and thirst for deeper engagement — a direction to point their attention in.

You don’t need to be a celebrity CEO, but you do need to be creating spheres of influence through content, social or in your physical network. You need a strong point of view that perhaps would be too heavy handed for your company, but can comfortably be explored by you as an individual.

Take your big idea and use your personal brand to push it further. Don’t be afraid to draw a line in the sand and show which side you fall on.

If you’re the CEO, people need to be able to find you, understand you, and make you part of the story.

The lifestyle consumer is changing. Your brand should, too.

The next generation fo winners in this space already see that we’re moving from Lifestyle 1.0 of graphics and clever taglines to Lifestyle 2.0 of conversation, empowerment and accountability.

As we move from self-expression to self-discovery, you need to be positioned as a brand that can guide users deeper into themselves.

It’s a riskier strategy that will take more time and money. But it’s the only strategy that will win the long game.

Originally written by Jasmine Bina for medium.com