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Monday, April 29, 2019

A Higher Marketing

Last week, I delved into the very hip marketing efforts of creating a “lifestyle brand” for your product or service. This New York Times headline made me laugh out loud: “When is a Burrito More than Just a Burrito? When It’s a Lifestyle.” Lifestyle burritos. Who knew?

If you’re late on the scene of lifestyle branding, Wikipedia has a profusion of background to read up on. To help our discussion, here’s the definition they provide:

“Lifestyle brands operate from the idea that each individual has an identity based on their choices, experiences, and background (e.g. ethnicity, social class, subculture, nationality, etc.). Lifestyle brands focus on evoking emotional connections between a consumer and that consumer's desire to affiliate him or herself with a group.”

This pursuit of branding for goods and services is very hot in marketing. Not everyone buys into it. Say, for example, Jeff Swystun. Jeff simply defines his business role this way: “I write. And I brand.”

Since he’s on top of the topic, I read with interest his article from 2016 titled, “A Brand is Not a Way of Life: The Fallacy of Lifestyle Brands.” What? Is this not heresy?! A dissident within the marketing guru cult?

His resistance in a sentence is summed up by saying, “It seems any brand can be a lifestyle brand. The definition is exceedingly generous and preposterously vague.” And he adds, “In fact, I think every brand believes they are a lifestyle brand in some way.”

Since I am an Apple aficionado (iPhone, iPad, MacBook Air), I appreciated Jeff’s observation that “Apple never claims to be anything.” They’ve decided that their customers will identify them in their own way. Because Apple dominates personal technologies, they’re labeled a “lifestyle brand.”

Jeff’s thinking is so juicy he’s fun to quote. Note this perception: “Lifestyle branding breaks down because it assumes a rational human would actually make a brand a way of life…Then there are the brand owners. Most pursue the lifestyle brand strategy not to influence or connect with the consumer but rather because it seems like a really cool strategy.”

In his article, he cites a piece in The Motley Fool by Rich Duprey. Rich challenged Burger King’s efforts to be a lifestyle brand. He concluded that their marketing jive proves it’s a company that has “nothing left to offer.” Dupree calls Burger King’s efforts “delusional.”

My overall take on lifestyle marketing is twofold. One, it’s fickle. Our tastes change. We’re not the product of what we wear, own, or eat. As time passes, our lifestyle finds other connecting points. Second, let’s not kid ourselves. The marketing game is all about making money. Even the so-called noble efforts of helping the poor with socks or shoes or whatever, still lines the pockets of the company’s founders. If that were not the goal, the company would keep quiet about its giving.

God’s perspective on developing the right lifestyle isn’t based on what’s hip or popular. In fact, the apostle Paul states, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2, ESV)

John the apostle teaches it this way. “Do not love this world nor the things it offers you…For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world. And this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave. But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever.” (1 John 2:15-17, NLT)

Good luck trying to market that lifestyle. Better have a higher calling.

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