Fostering Devoted Communities Is a Necessity for Lifestyle Brands

Not enough marketers are making an effort to know their consumers

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The unicorn of brand success is when a prosaic product rises above its workday use and becomes a lifestyle brand.

A can of deodorant representing the cool kid ready for sex is Axe. Or when your basic drugstore lip balm conveys sustainability and luxury, that’s Burt’s Bees. Both followed a playbook to get from boring to meaningful.

Lifestyle brands foster unshakeable brand loyalty because of the emotional connection they create with consumers. Research shows that marketers plan to prioritize loyalty over customer acquisition in the future. While some brands may not be intuitively primed to be a full-fledged lifestyle brand, it’s safe to assume that every brand marketer should be incorporating elements of lifestyle marketing as a mainstay in their overall loyalty strategy.

Marketers are often stuck in a narrow pathway when building consumer relationships. Through extensive email databases or CRMs, most companies know what their customers buy, where they purchase and when. But few truly understand the why behind a customer’s motivations and, even more importantly, how to capitalize on those motivations to drive personalized engagement, meaningful loyalty and further acquisition through word-of-mouth. In fact, about 80% of consumer-facing companies don’t understand their customers beyond basic demographics and purchase history.

There seems to be a laundry list of items needed to create a successful lifestyle brand: niche audience, compelling brand story, aspirational messaging. However, there is a foundational component necessary. Without it, the entire lifestyle strategy flounders. It’s not a complicated secret. The core engine of any successful lifestyle brand is the real people who embody the brand’s messaging.

About 80% of consumer-facing companies don’t understand their customers beyond basic demographics and purchase history.

The community behind a lifestyle message is by far the most significant safeguard to losing market share. Without community, a brand set on capturing the hearts of customers because they feel an affinity toward what it means to them will sputter. Whether you’re looking to dip your toe in lifestyle marketing or jumping in fully, cultivating and nurturing that community should be step one.

A community strategy goes beyond a CRM database and is the perfect starting point for a lifestyle marketing approach. Here are four reasons why and how it happens.

Communities drive emotional storytelling

Lifestyle marketing requires brands to build a quiet passageway to salience. They must highlight their audience’s activities more noticeably than their product so they can form a powerful lifestyle connection. Consumers do the talking for the brand, influencing others. The brand becomes the background setting for engaging lifestyle discussion.

One of the most famous examples is a brand like Jeep, who embraces a people-powered purpose. When celebrating its 75th anniversary, instead of a carefully-tested market messaging the brand’s history, the company turned to its customers to share their favorite Jeep moments, culminating its “We don’t make Jeep. You do” tagline.

Communities exemplify authenticity

The story of how the brand fits into people’s lives is more authentic and compelling. It’s just plain hard for brands to be viewed as genuine. The secret behind a brand like La Croix’s rise is more than just a well-liked sparkling water brand. It’s become part of the story people tell about who they are. La Croix has developed fans among everyone from mommy bloggers to dieters to Los Angeles writers who all helped push LaCroix into stardom.

Communities signal who the brand is built for

Who the brand is for will be apparent when building the community behind the message. When thinking of a personal care product like soap, its audience couldn’t possibly be more ubiquitous. But when you think of Dove, the brand’s audience that comes to mind immediately is everyday women embracing their real beauty, perceived flaws and all.

Communities also offer marketers the opportunity to create personalized experiences that speak to us as individuals rather than an age, gender or household income spectrum.

Communities showcase brand values

Nearly two-thirds (63%) of consumers prefer to buy goods from companies that stand for a shared purpose that reflects their personal values and beliefs. And unsettlingly, 47% will leave a brand that lacks a purpose.

Brands that don’t communicate a higher purpose run a notable risk of defection by consumers. Exemplifying values is one of the unique parts of a community that simply cannot be duplicated in an email database, a points-driven loyalty program or social media fan pages.

Getting started

There are three key components a brand needs to provide when starting a community.

  • An owned destination for consumers to gather
  • A personalized engagement strategy
  • Meaningful community interaction

It’s important to remember that a community is not built in one day, but over time it is continuously shaped by the members of that community. The most significant step a brand can take is setting the background and building the foundation for the community to flourish. This, in turn, allows for open-ended opportunities to creatively engage with the brand and fosters a feedback loop between the brand, consumer and community at large.

The truth is that consumers today are wholly attuned to when they’re being sold. They demand strategies beyond the transactional marketing they’ve become accustomed to. Creating a community of real, everyday people is the ticket to beginning that journey.