Lifestyle branding

It’s a recurring trend, and in today’s hyper-competitive world of branding, many are jumping on the bandwagon with a common goal: to become the next mega “lifestyle brand.” 

Although I carry admiration for those who have pulled off this monumental task, there are two sides to every sword, and this one requires some razor-sharp strategic planning. On one side, it’s no secret you will enjoy the fruits of your labor if indeed you hit the bull’s-eye; however, on the opposite side it’s important to know the lifestyle branding waters are getting heavily polluted, and dare I say many companies are dangerously close to drowning because they swam before learning how to float!

Let’s take a look at what may be involved if you are tasked with researching the possibility of laying the groundwork to establish your own lifestyle branding. And at the end I will invite you to chime in and share who you personally feel has implemented a remarkably successful and well-strategized lifestyle brand.

First, let’s take a cue from a few brands such as Coach, Armani, DKNY, Kate Spade, Martha Stuart, Coca-Cola and Estee Lauder, who are tempting so many to enter the lifestyle brand trend zone. Many companies today are setting their sights (figuratively and literally) on becoming the next success story because, simply put, if it can be done at your company, franchises and licenses will flourish, as will the financial ambitions of your pencil pushers.

Do you have a core?

With hospitality in mind, your assessment of whether this trend is right for your company will require much more than the industry’s common goal of impeccable service, offering amazing amenities or popping up cleverly appointed public spaces. In order to sell a defined image or brand, your organization will need to be crystal clear about what your corporate DNA is and what the overall spirit, heartbeat and niche of your organization is in the eyes of your best customers.

Think about your heritage and what precisely and specifically has put you on the map. One example from outside of hospitality is Burberry, a brand that has exploded from fashion into the lifestyle segment. Burberry spent years establishing a “British chic core” that recently has been its own trend and one desired by the masses. In fact, the fascination over “anything British” is still flourishing at retail, and as a side note, the British trend was thriving well before Prince George entered our lives, and Burberry had a lot to do with this.

Another prime example of a company doing an excellent job at projecting a crystal-clear image is Victoria’s Secret; in fact, it would be challenging to find someone who doesn’t know Victoria’s Secret is all about sass, beauty, sexiness and a hint of fantasy.

Beyond needing a solid core and identity, a financial base is also crucial to pull off the monumental task of transitioning into becoming a lifestyle brand. Also, successful hotel branding not only needs to “tell a story,” it needs to be larger than life, extremely relevant and carry an emotional attachment in order for guests to bond to your brand. And this task alone will take an army to pull off. (A well-orchestrated one to boot!)

The timeline

Let me preface this next section about the timing of reaching the finish line with one word: never! Multiple phases later, outside of your core product, you will constantly reinvent and expand. It’s the nature of embarking on the heavyweight champion of branding campaigns, and like yoga, your core will be your inner strength in expanding and creating desire for your offering.

Like the art of breathing and posing simultaneously, this trend isn’t something you turn on or off via a switch or set aside Friday at 5 and return to it Monday morning. Development of anything never happens overnight, and the task of spearheading a lifestyle brand will actually become your own lifestyle, so extreme patience and undefined devotion with the acceptance of never having an idle moment is a mandated virtue.

Specific ideas

What follows is an overview of several hotel venues along with a partial list of related recommendations for each category needed to position a hotel as a lifestyle brand. (Please keep in mind these are limited and brief examples.)

  • Rooms will need to be unique and current in design, equipped with technical edge and project an inviting, fresh and spotless impression. The ongoing pulse of “memorable” guestroom experiences must be obvious.
  • Bathrooms must be spa-like with a contemporary feel and include memorable amenities, both in the product itself and packaging.
  • Local connections will need to be in play, such as featuring talent and/or products from entertainment, art, fashion and culinary.
  • Service is expected to be exceptional; however, your employees will now become brand ambassadors, so it’s vital they also complement your heritage and core. I revert to the example of the appearance standards at Disney, where the classic and friendly look is in no shape or form a coincidence!
  • Show you are reducing negative effects on the environment. For example, offer parking spots for hybrid vehicles and natural décor elements such as cork or bamboo, and eliminate plastic beverage containers including those used for water and coffee upstairs and in the lobby.
  • Whether at corporate or an individual property, factoring in an upper-management leadership role from outside the traditional hospitality trenches will be crucial. Sourcing talent from retail, fashion, beauty or entertainment — where lifestyle branding is thriving — is crucial in establishing your own culture that eventually can be branded.

Seek mentors

For many of the reasons above, I am also an admirer of the younger talent pool, especially Aerin Lauder and Ivanka Trump, when it comes to lifestyle branding. Both are slowly taking their classic family businesses and tapping into their customers from head to toe, including their homes from floor to ceiling. It’s why key retailers like Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue and Bergdorf Goodman are buying into their fresh approaches and attracting new customers at a time when all three retailers were slipping in the mass appeal department as their customer base and demographics matured.

Golden rule of thumb

Taking a cue from the pros in fashion, potential newcomers on the lifestyle brand circuit must exhibit “extreme patience” so they do not venture into their product expansion too soon. Fashion Designer Kate Spade is the perfect example, as her empire was built from several decades focused strictly on handbags. Tory Burch, another fashion designer, began her empire with a diligent focus on an iconic ballet slipper before expanding.

I’ve shared quite a bit that may have you pondering and hopefully a few tips that can be borrowed to assist with your own brand-related projects regardless of how big or small.

Until next week, I leave you with a simple question: Who or what do you feel is moments away from being the next successful lifestyle brand, and why?