Creating a lifestyle brand is catnip to marketers. Many brand teams find it irresistible to try to elevate and stretch their brands as far as they will go, occasionally losing sight of the actual consumer in the process.
Lifestyle branding gone awry can lead to a phenomenon that David Taylor coined as “Brand Ego Tripping.” Levi’s suits and Colgate Ready Meals are textbook cautionary tales of Brand Ego Tripping.
It has been fascinating to watch Taco Bell pursue a lifestyle brand strategy the last few years. They not only extended into consumer products and revamped their stores, they even launched a branded clothing line with Forever 21. Here’s how Taco Bell VP Deborah Brand framed it in a presentation recently:
“We’re … introducing the brand as a lifestyle brand and not just a fast food restaurant. People want to relate to your brand in a more authentic and holistic way versus just ‘you sell tacos.’ They want move from a transactional relationship to actually engaging in a relationship with you.”
I’ve heard several marketers talk recently about following the “Taco Bell” playbook. Yet what may work for Taco Bell may not be right for another brand. For every Taco Bell that finds success, there are many brands that fall into a Lifestyle Branding trap. In moving beyond “selling tacos,” lifestyle brands risk losing sight of the taco that brought people to the brand in the first place.
I’ve written about jeans maker Hiut Denim before, but I like their founding philosophy of “Do One Thing Well.” Here’s how they articulate it:
“We make jeans. That’s it. Nothing else. No distractions. Nothing to steal our focus. No kidding ourselves that we can be good at everything. No trying to conquer the whole world. We just do our best to conquer our bit of it.”
Here are a couple related cartoons I’ve drawn over the years:
“Lifestyle Brand” July 2013
“Master Brand” March 2014