The lifestyle brand trap: cartoon genius from Tom Fishburne

Tom Fishburne's latest bit of cartoon genius highlights the risk of trying to become a lifestyle brand. This leads to a focus on "higher order" emotional benefits, or sizzle, without any supporting product "sausage".

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As Tom rightly says, "The pursuit of becoming a lifestyle brand can also lead brands astray. It can give brands a false sense of confidence to stretch into other categories. It can cause brands to pay less attention to what really worked for consumers at the start. If they’re not careful, they risk diluting the brand." We summarise this problem as "brand ego tripping".

There are, unfortunately, plenty of brands who have fallen head first into the lifestyle brand trap:

1. Lifestyle brand lovers suggest Virgin is the ultimate lifestyle brand that can stretch into any category. In reality, the brand works best when it has combines service sausage with emotional sizzle. Virgin Airlines alone is c. 50% of the whole business. Telecoms and financial services have worked well. In contrast, many product launches have been relative flops (jeans, vodka, cola), as covered in this post.

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2. Apple
have recently spent millions of lifestyle advertising with the strapline "Designed in California", as I posted on here. In doing so, the brand is straying away from what made it famous, which was showcasing superbly designed products like the MacBook Air in an emotionally appealing way.

3. Landrover has gone on what feels to me like a brand ego trip by launching coffee, as I posted on here.

4. Mr and Mrs Smith, the boutique hotel guide have just launched a range of paint, with the rather tenuous brand linkage being colours inspired by travel (thanks to my mate Jason for this example).

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5. Simpton's Sausages
tried to stretch into pizza, led by Hugo the mis-guided marketing director, in the Where's the Sausage? book.

In contrast, many successful brands stay focused on the core. Tom uses a great example of Hiut Denim, with their philosophy called “Do One Thing Well“:

“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.”

In conclusion, as Tom says, "Not every brand can or should become a Ralph Lauren. It’s important that brands don’t lose sight of the product. Emotional benefits are shallow if there aren’t functional benefits to back them up." Well put Tom.