Marketing your lifestyle brand

Commerce is a sensory business at all times, but the requirement to engage a customer’s senses and emotional responses is heightened further for businesses hoping to position themselves as lifestyle brands. To that end, it’s more important than ever to get your story straight. However, as there is more to it, we’re going to look at, partially ignore and rearrange a piece of work from Shopify here titled How to build a brand in 7 steps (sorry Shopify). 

In that piece, lead writer Dayna Winter, expands upon the general four or five point process (typically something like: discovery, positioning, creative, activation) and gives the following:

  1. Research your target market
  2. Determine your brand’s voice and personality
  3. Choose your business name
  4. Write your brand story
  5. Create a brand style guide
  6. Design your logo and brand assets
  7. Apply your branding across your business

We can pretty much bucket these into the previously mentioned four points as follows: 1 = discovery, 2-5 = positioning, 6=creative, 7=activation, but the expanded middle section does help improve clarity (though it is for brand ‘creation’ so we’re going to ignore point 3).

Our rearranged list looks more like this:

  1. Research your target market (discovery)
  2. Get your story straight (positioning)
    1. Use this story to inform TOV
    2. Use this story to inform style guide
    3. Use this story to inform a logo refresh
  3. Nail down your creative (creative)
  4. Communicate loud and often (activation)

1. Research your target market

The discovery phase, as an established brand, should have taken place some time ago - but there is ample room to re-examine your research if you are looking to double-down on your brand’s ‘lifestyle’ credentials. While you may have previously focused on qual and quant research into underserved needs (what your target customer wants), it may be worth additional research into what your customer thinks - what is important to them, what do your products represent to them on a personal level, how can your brand better bridge the gap between the activity your product serves and ‘value’ in its philosophical sense?

I’m not going to teach your grandmother to undertake rigorous qualitative and quantitative research - you can find an excellent article on the importance of both here - but I will say that if you have the resources to do it, you should do it.

2. Get your story straight

You’ll excuse me, I hope, but I’m going to go way into the weeds on this. Storytelling is, I think, among the most powerful things a lifestyle brand can do, and getting this right will solve a lot of the issues that can arise around points 2, 4, 5 & 6 in Shopify’s seven point plan. 

Storytelling and the hero’s journey

Writers have, for hundreds of years and probably longer, delivered talks, lectures and papers on the structure of stories (a personal favourite is the simple shape of stories from Kurt Vonnegut), but probably the most famous (or infamous depending on how you feel about its role in inspiring the Star Wars franchise) is Joseph Campbell’s ‘hero’s journey’ from his 1949 text The Hero with a Thousand Faces. 

This is broken down into the following steps (updated by Vogler in 2007) which, Campbell posited, was a monomyth (a common narrative structure applicable to a large proportion of fantastical stories) that formed the basis of much historical myth and folklore.

While, as a storytelling and critical structure, Campbell’s framework has been the topic of much criticism, like many such writing ‘rules’ its importance is primarily as a loose scaffold that provides writers with something to either help structure their stories or against which they can consciously rebel.

Here I’m going to provide a couple of examples of how lifestyle brands can use this storytelling device to help craft their own brand story. Not every step will fit every story, sometimes steps happen out of sequence, but by using this framework, lifestyle brands can begin presenting their brand story in an engaging way that helps to properly reflect the brand’s relationship with the chosen lifestyle niche and communicate its values.


Patagonia is one of the most recognisable of all lifestyle brands - and ostensibly one of the most committed to its environmental principles. As you would expect for a brand of this nature and with a long history, the story is a rich one (though I had to find the page through a Google search rather than through the website).

While it doesn’t tick all the boxes, you can see here how the scaffolding provided could help to create a more narrative story.

Call to adventure

The call to adventure for Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard came in the form of an introduction to climbing at 14 which developed into an obsession that led, in turn, to crafting his own climbing equipment.

Yvon Chouinard (far right), Patagonia’s founder, got his start as a climber in 1953 as a 14-year-old member of the Southern California Falconry Club. One of the adult leaders, Don Prentice, taught the boys how to rappel down the cliffs to the falcon aeries. This simple lesson sparked a lifelong love of rock climbing in Yvon.

In 1957, Yvon went to a junkyard and bought a used coal-fired forge, a 138-pound anvil and some tongs and hammers, and started teaching himself how to blacksmith. Chouinard made his first pitons from an old harvester blade and tried them out with T.M. Herbert on early ascents of the Lost Arrow Chimney and the north face of Sentinel Rock in Yosemite.

Refusal of the call

Chouinard has always characterised himself as a ‘reluctant businessman’, and this can be seen in the ‘refusal of the call’ he and his partner made in 1970, when environmental consciousness overcame the profit motive and led to them withdrawing from production of a profitable product.

By 1970, Chouinard Equipment had become the largest supplier of climbing hardware in the United States. It had also become an environmental villain because its gear was damaging the rock. The same fragile cracks had to endure repeated hammering of pitons during both placement and removal, and the disfiguring was severe. Chouinard and Frost decided to minimise the piton business. This was to be the first big environmental step we would take over the years.

Meeting with the mentor

While this happened prior to their ‘refusal of the call’, the impact of Antoine de Saint Exupéry’s design principles on their later endeavours conforms to the ‘meeting with the mentor’ step - laying the ground for a driving principle of the business for decades to follow. 

In 1965, Yvon went into partnership with Tom Frost and started Chouinard Equipment. During the nine years that Frost and Chouinard were partners, they redesigned and improved almost every climbing tool to make them stronger, lighter, simpler and more functional. Their guiding design principle came from Antoine de Saint Exupéry, the French aviator: “In anything at all, perfection is finally attained not when there is no longer anything to add, but when there is no longer anything to take away, when a body has been stripped down to its nakedness.”

Crossing the threshold

Crossing the threshold, here, is their movement from a business with staff that were environmentally concerned to a business that prioritised those environmental concerns.

Patagonia was still a fairly small company when we started to devote time and money to the increasingly apparent environmental crisis. What we began to read—about global warming, the cutting and burning of tropical forests, the rapid loss of groundwater and topsoil, acid rain, the ruin of rivers and creeks from silting-over dams—reinforced what we saw with our eyes and smelled with our noses during our travels.

We began to make regular donations to smaller groups working to save or restore habitat rather than give the money to NGOs with big staffs, overheads and corporate connections. In 1986, we committed to donating 10 percent of profits each year to these groups. We later upped the ante to one percent of sales, profit or not. We have kept that commitment every year since. The formation of 1% for the Planet in 2002 made it easy for other companies to do the same.

Tests, Allies and Enemies

The big test for Patagonia was eventually, and for the second time, the results of their own success. Just as their success with pitons led to negative environmental impact and the company’s withdrawal from the market, their clothing lines, too, led to them becoming a ‘villain’ or ‘enemy’ and they were forced to ally with organic farmers to take their next steps in an environmentally conscious and sustainable way.

When we commissioned an independent environmental impact assessment of four of our most-used fabrics, cotton was surprisingly the biggest villain—and it didn’t have to be. Farmers had grown cotton organically for thousands of years. Only after World War II did the chemicals originally developed as nerve gases become available for commercial use, to eliminate the need for weeding fields by hand. After several trips to the San Joaquin Valley, where we smelled the selenium ponds and saw the lunar landscape of cotton fields, we asked ourselves a critical question: How could we continue to make products that laid waste to the earth this way?

Ordeal, Death and Rebirth

This step follows directly from the test faced previously. Though it would have been more profitable for them to maintain a mass-scale, industrially farmed supply of cotton, the brand chose to undergo the ordeal of creating a fully organic supply chain, the previous business model died and a new, sustainable Patagonia was born.

In the fall of 1994, we made the decision to take our cotton sportswear 100 percent organic by 1996. We had to go directly to the few farmers who had gone back to organic methods. And then we had to go to the ginners and spinners and persuade them to clean their equipment after running what would be for them very low quantities. We had to talk to the certifiers so that all the fiber could be traced back to the bale. We succeeded. Every Patagonia garment made of cotton in 1996 was organic and has been ever since—though we are beginning to experiment with recycled cotton.

The Road Back

Again, this step is slightly out of sequence - though here that choice is a narrative one. While one could equally well craft a solely business focused story where the recession became the ordeal and the ‘road back’ became their return to profitability, here I’ve made a narrative choice to centre the lifestyle aspect of the brand’s growth and so the road back becomes their recentring of Patagonia’s values rather than their financial recovery.

We began to grow at a rapid pace; at one point we made Inc. Magazine’s list of the fastest-growing privately held companies. That rapid growth came to a halt in 1991, when a recession crimped our sales and the bank called in our revolving loan. To pay off the debt, we had to lay off 20 percent of our work force—many of them friends and friends of friends. We had become dependent on growth we couldn’t sustain. Yvon took his top managers to Patagonia to reflect on the kind of business Patagonia should be.


This focus on the ‘lifestyle’ elements of the brand story, which elevates its ethical commitments, then allows us to frame the 2012 application for B-Corp status as a resurrection of what is the hero’s final form, changed by the adventure - Patagonia has, by this time become a lifestyle brand fully committed to its environmental and social principles. 

In January 2012, Patagonia became the first California company to become a benefit corporation—a legal framework that enables mission-driven companies like Patagonia to stay that way as they grow and change. We are also a Certified B Corporation. To qualify as a B Corp, a business must have an explicit social or environmental mission and a legally binding fiduciary responsibility to take into account the interests of workers, the community and the environment, as well as its shareholders. To maintain B Corp certification, we must update and verify our qualifications every three years.

Return with the Elixir

Not only is the hero changed by the adventure, but upon its completion, the adventure has supplied the hero with a cure for the ills of the ‘normal world’ they left when they embarked on their journey. In this case we can choose to represent Chouinard’s decision to channel proceeds from the business directly into environmental projects as just such a final stage of the journey.

September 14, 2022, the Earth becomes our only shareholder. Nearly 50 years after Yvon Chouinard began his experiment in responsible business, ownership of Patagonia is transferred to two new entities: Patagonia Purpose Trust and the nonprofit Holdfast Collective. Every dollar that is not reinvested into Patagonia will be distributed as dividends to protect the planet. “Instead of extracting value from nature and transforming it into wealth, we are using the wealth Patagonia creates to protect the source,” said Chouinard. “I am dead serious about saving this planet.”

Patagonia’s 50th Birthday message

This journey, and its completion, is summed up nicely by the message that currently leaps out from the footer on the brand’s website:

For our 50th year, we’re looking forward, not back, to life on Earth. Together, we can prioritize purpose over profit and protect this wondrous planet, our only home.

The image painted by ‘wondrous planet’, the message of ‘purpose over profit’, the mission of protection and the inclusivity of ‘together’ all form a part of their identity as an environmentally engaged lifestyle brand.

Summarised brand story

While it’s not perfect (I charge for that), the following is a 199 word summary of a 50 year journey (and a 3000+ word brand history on the Patagonia site), aided by the process of exploring this hero’s journey. While not a replacement for the longer historical piece, this is an exploration of narrative which can help to frame other aspects of brand communications - and which attempts to emphasise the ecologically focused lifestyle that lives at the core of the Patagonia brand:

Yvon Chouinard answered the call to adventure in 1953 at the age of 14, becoming enamoured with climbing. By the age of 17, he was crafting his own climbing equipment. By 23, he was in business with Tom Frost, revolutionising the design and construction of climbing tools and equipment.

The brand's commitment to its environmental principles was evident even at this stage, and the company, Chouinard Equipment, withdrew from a profitable line of pitons due to concerns about a product’s impact on the environment. 

During its 50 year history, Patagonia has transitioned from a business with environmentally concerned staff to one actively involved in environmental causes. Prioritising the planet over profit at several key moments, they have led the way for environmentally conscious firms. Faced with the negative environmental impact of cotton farming, Patagonia allied with organic farmers and pioneered efforts to use sustainable, organic cotton in their products before then committing to an entirely organic supply chain.

In 2012, Patagonia became a benefit corporation, solidifying their mission-driven commitment. The brand's transformation was completed in 2022 when they transferred ownership to Patagonia Purpose Trust and Holdfast Collective. With Earth as their only shareholder, Patagonia channels proceeds into environmental projects.


There are few brands in the history of tech more closely entwined with the life of their founder than Apple - or at least a hagiographic version of him as the ultra-focused design genius. However, despite Apple being a brand that has thrived on storytelling, the extracts I’ll be using below from its actual brand story come from the Library of Congress and various other sources rather than Apple.

Again, this is a framework rather than a concrete set of rules and the difference between the eventual summarised narrative here and your personal head-canon of the Apple story should reinforce the fact that there are many ways a brand can tell its story in an engaging way.

Call to adventure

This is the part of the Apple story that almost everyone knows - Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak saw the potential of the personal computer early and dropped out of college to pursue an ambition to ‘change the way people viewed computers’. In reality, the two met while working at Hewlett-Packard and there was already a strong interest and hobbyist community around personal and micro-computers, but here we see part of the self-mythologising of Jobs and the blurring of the lines between Jobs and Apple as the narrative around the brand forms even at this early stage.

Apple Computer, Inc. was founded on April 1, 1976, by college dropouts Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, who brought to the new company a vision of changing the way people viewed computers. Jobs and Wozniak wanted to make computers small enough for people to have them in their homes or offices. Simply put, they wanted a computer that was user-friendly.

Meeting with the mentor

This section is difficult - while the mythology around Jobs has permeated Apple as a brand, co-founder Steve Wozniak could arguably be named as the mentor - who was kicked out of school in 1969 for hacking the campus computer system, built computers as early as 1971 with his friend Bill Fernandez (who would later introduce him to Jobs), and without the engineering expertise of Wozniak, it’s unlikely Apple would have ever existed (early funds were raised from various joint ventures that relied heavily on Wozniak’s expertise).

However, there is another contender for this position which allows us to preserve at least a co-founder mythology of the brand:

In November 1976, Jobs and Wozniak received substantial funding from a then-semi-retired Intel product marketing manager and engineer named Mike Markkula.  At the request of Markkula, Wozniak resigned from his job at HP and became the vice president in charge of research and development at Apple.

Crossing the threshold

This is a relatively easy step to define, the emergence of Apple from the ‘ordinary world’ into the ‘special world’ comes with the release of the Apple I. 

Jobs and Wozniak started out building the Apple I in Jobs' garage and sold them without a monitor, keyboard, or casing (which they decided to add on in 1977). The Apple II revolutionized the computer industry with the introduction of the first-ever color graphics. Sales jumped from $7.8 million in 1978 to $117 million in 1980, the year Apple went public.

Tests, Allies and Enemies

The easiest, and probably the most familiar, early test for Apple comes with the exit of its two co-founders and the power struggle between John Sculley and Jobs that led to the latter’s initial exit from the business. 

Wozniak left Apple in 1983 due to a diminishing interest in the day-to-day running of Apple Computer. Jobs then hired PepsiCo's John Sculley to be president. However, this move backfired and after much controversy with Sculley, Jobs left in 1985 and went on to new and bigger things. He founded his own company NeXT Software and he also bought Pixar from George Lucas, which would later become a huge success in computer animation of such movies as Toy Story, A Bug's Life, Monsters, Inc., and Finding Nemo.


The first peak - what would be the midway ‘turning point’ in a traditional narrative - is the early success under Sculley, which Apple mythology attributes to work set in progress by Jobs, prior to Sculley’s stewardship.

Through the rest of the 1980s, Apple was still doing well and in 1990 it posted its highest profits yet. This was, however, mostly due to the plans that Jobs had already set in motion before he left, most notably his deal with a tiny company by the name of Adobe, creator of the Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF). Together the two companies created the phenomenon known as desktop publishing.

Ordeal, Death and Rebirth

As with much of Apple’s story, it’s difficult to disentangle the mythmaking from the fact, but there is little doubting the dramatic nature of Apple’s ‘ordeal, death and rebirth’ (it formed part of two biopics, and a dozen books after all). It also plays well with a lifestyle narrative - a singular vision of technical and design excellence, a masterminded quest for the futuristic rescues a ‘doomed’ brand and revolutionises both the brand and the world in the process.

Over the course of a few years, Apple's market share suffered slowly after its peak in 1990 and by 1996, experts believed the company to be doomed. It was not until 1997, when Apple was desperately in need of an operating system, that it bought out NeXT Software (Jobs' company) and the board of directors decided to ask for some help from an old friend: Steve Jobs. Jobs became an interim CEO, or iCEO as he called himself (Jobs was not officially the CEO until 2000). Jobs decided to make some changes around Apple. He forged an alliance with Microsoft to create a Mac version of its popular office software. Not long after this decision was the turning point for the company. Jobs revamped the computers and introduced the iBook (a personal laptop) followed by iPod, an mp3 player, which became market [sic] leader.

Reward, Seizing the Sword

The reward of the second Jobs era came, predominantly, in the form of the iPhone. Its sleek design and, at the time, unparalleled technical capabilities, changed the world and there, centre stage for the announcement, was a triumphant Steve Jobs.

The iPhone, a touch screen cellular phone, introduced in 2007 was one of the world' most successful products and the company has released several new versions since. Not long after the announcement of iPhone and Apple TV, the company dropped "Computer" from its name to become "Apple Inc.," indicating that it is about more than just computers. Other popular products include iPad tablet and Apple Watch. Most recently Apple has expanded its services segments with its credit card (Apple Card), Apple News for news, Apple Arcade for games and the Apple TV+ for streaming original content produced by Apple


Despite the death of its near mythic founder leading to questions about the future of the company (and stories and rumours about the four years of new products Jobs left behind), Tim Cook’s stewardship has seen Apple become the first trillion dollar company and has fluctuated around the three trillion dollar mark for the last 12 months, with plans underway to revolutionise the worlds of finance and entertainment well underway.

Steve Jobs died October 5, 2011, but Apple continues on with his legacy with Tim Cook at the helm as the CEO. The popularity of iPhones made Apple the first company valued at one trillion dollars in 2018 and two years later it doubled that figure.

Summarised brand story

Same goes for this summary as the previous one for Patagonia, it’s a short narrative that, while it contains far less Jobs than you might expect, tries to centre the technical and design aspects of the story which have become central to its  appeal as a lifestyle brand.

In 1976, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak set out to transform computing, revolutionising the way the world saw a rising technology and changing the world in the process. With the encouragement, and investment, of computing luminaries such as Intel’s Mike Markkula, the Apple I was released later that same year

Despite Wozniak’s departure in 1983, and that of Jobs in 1985, Apple continued to flourish until, faced with declining market share, visionary founder Steve Jobs returned to the brand in 1997, and once again Apple became a brand that created the future, releasing The iBook and iPod in quick succession.

The launch of the iPhone in 2007 that cemented Apple’s role as one of the leading technology companies in history, redefining not only what it meant to own a phone but also what the future would look like in the collective imagination.

Under Tim Cook's leadership, and with the aim of revolutionising still further sectors, Apple began to take steps into entertainment and finance while reaching a market cap of almost three trillion dollars. 

Apple's journey, marked by several world-shaping innovations, continues to drive and set the pace of human technological advancement.

Let your story inform everything else

This is not an exaggeration. I genuinely mean everything. Your business and financial decisions should flow from your story, your hiring practices, everything from the tippity top to the very bottom. Again, this is about walking the walk - and it’s here that many lifestyle (and, more broadly, values driven) brands fail. 

Whether it’s in trying to cut costs by exploiting labour in the developing world, greenwashing, or in any other way failing to live up to the story that is being told to consumers, lifestyle brands are more vulnerable than most to the long term financial consequences of PR crises.

Use this story to inform tone of voice

Your brand’s tone of voice is integral to how it is perceived - it’s why perception of Innocent Drinks has remained largely positive despite its purchase by one of the world’s worst polluters (The Coca-Cola Company) while the ‘sassy Wendy’s’ social media gambit directly preceded a huge uplift in its market cap - and yes, I know correlation doesn't equal causation, but while many things may have played a part in this growth, the huge and near constant exposure that Wendy’s and the social media fast-food wars of 2016-2019 can only have helped.

So, before I wander off into chart land again, I’ll return to the point: what does your story tell you about who your brand is and how it speaks? 

In case you were missing the casual littering of academic resources, here’s a note on the use of a ‘human voice’ from a paper entitled Watch Your Tone: How a Brand's Tone of Voice on Social Media Influences Consumer Responses which provides a glimpse into the current thinking:

“The results of this study confirmed our hypotheses. In the low situational involvement scenarios, the use of human voice has a positive influence on purchase intentions (as in Study 1a). In the high situational involvement condition, however, the increased sensitivity of consumers to risk was enough to reverse the influence of human voice and make it negative. Consumers in this situation preferred the more distant and formal voice on the brand page. The mediation analysis showed that the perception of risk mediated the relationship between purchase intentions and the interaction of human voice and situational involvement. The next study tests that interaction again but with a different approach.”

However, while I’d always encourage an understanding of the theory - with creative processes, rules are, of course, meant to be broken, and there are brands seeing success at least in part because of their decision to push against prevailing trends for TOV in their sector.

Use this story to inform your style guide

Once you’ve established your tone of voice and the personality that voice represents, codify it. It’s not necessary for everyone at your company to sound like your brand, but it is absolutely essential that your brand always sounds like your brand (until it isn’t, but that’s a long and complicated conversation that takes place about 10 years after the brand’s sale to a soulless venture capitalist and a resultant need to be playful with iconography and messaging).

Whenever your logo is speaking, it should do so with the voice you have chosen for it. We know social media accounts are managed by multiple people, we expect variation because we know they’re managed by people, but your catalogues, your billboards, your landing pages and PDPs - they need to be clearly and consistently the voice of your brand.

This means that if your brand uses emojis, it should do so consistently, if it uses contractions, it should use them all the time - if it speaks with the faux-French accent of a Monty Python knight, then you’ll have to get used to it until that venture capital money flows in, and begin telling people that their mother was a hamster.

Use this story to inform a logo refresh

You have no idea for how long I lived in a state of Mandela Effect confusion during the writing of this section at the apparent non-existence of a quotation which has, to all intents and purposes, been erased by a 1990 episode of The Simpsons called Brush with Greatness wherein Mr. Burns says “You know, I’m no art critic. But I know what I hate. And I don’t hate this.”

That being said, to quote Orson Welles: “I don't know anything about art, but I know what I like”. This puts me at a significant disadvantage when it comes to discussing all things design - but PepsiCo reportedly paid a million dollars for this abomination back in 2008, and you’re getting this for free. I will, however, be leaning heavily on a few articles (and some of the articles cited therein), including:

So while I may have the artistic ability and tastes of your average four year old, I am, at least, trying to condense the thinking of people far wiser. To that end - the first of the above studies begins with the following:

“Strong brands offer major advantages in the marketplace (Mizik 2014; Rust et al. 2004). Two key elements of such brands are a distinctive, favorable brand personality (Aaker 1997; Keller 1993) and a well-designed logo (Cian, Krishna, and Elder 2014; Jiang et al. 2016).”

The study is particularly useful to consider when thinking of the logo for your lifestyle brand. The study deals with the impact of asymmetry, its relationship to brand personality, and the role that such interplay has in consumer assessment of a brand and the financial outcomes associated with brands that employ asymmetry in their logos.

“Study 3 showed that the combination of an asymmetrical logo and an exciting brand personality positively influenced the market’s financial valuations of brands (i.e., financial-based brand equity) through consumers’ evaluations (i.e., customer-based brand equity) for real brands in the marketplace (H3a and H3b). Study 3 also showed that this interaction effect did not occur with other logo design properties and brand personalities.”

You can see the impact of such asymmetry on various aspects of consumer opinion in the following chart:

However, while it is clear that - for the most part - a degree of asymmetry may suit the brands within a lifestyle niche, it is equally important to consider everything about your logo - and, thankfully for the designedly-challenged, there is a wealth of research on each aspect. 

The second of this section’s articles (Logo Design and the Corporate Identity), for example, discusses the use of geometric shapes and what they imply to consumers:

It has to be said, however, that such qualitative findings should be taken with a pinch of salt, but they can serve as a jumping off point for a logo design or redesign.

The next thing to consider is, of course, colour - and, thankfully, there are centuries worth of academic literature on colour theory. However, I am - as I’ve mentioned - a fan of literature reviews and the like when researching, and our fourth paper is a contemporary analysis from the 2022 International Colour Association Conference, which says the following:

“The modern view is that this is also a highly complex subject, which is still open to debate and controversy. Every colour may have multiple or even contradictory meanings depending on the context. In dealing with colour, one has to be aware that it is a pre-verbal phenomenon. Recent research (Divers, 2020) pointed out that to draw meaningful conclusions on the meaning and effect of colours mentioning single hue names is not sufficient. In addition to the hue dimension the other colour attributes, such as value and chroma (or similar) and their combinations also play, often an even more significant role.”

While it’s not the answer that we might be hoping for, it does remove a lot of the restraints that are often placed on designers when it comes to colour. The long and short of it is that there is no perfect colour for a specific industry, nothing guaranteed to engender a specific feeling. Instead, you’re looking for the perfect colour for your brand and for your customers - and this is the kind of thing that was made for focus groups and qualitative analysis. 

So, as far as your logo is concerned, we can say that, depending on your story and the brand personality, tone and style it inspires, asymmetry is likely a good idea, we can say that there is likely a shape that will complement your aesthetic and we can say that through testing, you can find the colour that suits you and appeals to your customers. The important thing is that your creative decisions flow from your story and remain authentic representations of your brand.

3. Nail down your creative

I’ll offer the same preface here that I have previously - I have what would kindly be described as the opposite of an eye for design - but what I can do is filter some academic writing through my own experience of what I’ve seen work in the past. 

One of those marketing statements that has been attributed to everybody and stolen by everybody else is: “you don’t have a brand, you have a logo”. Obviously, this is partly gate-keeping by marketing’s equivalent of the edgy debate-me-bro types, but there is a kernel of truth in there. 

A lot of new businesses with ambitions of brand-hood have a founding vision, but lack a well defined roadmap and, therefore, the consistency of approach to achieve the podium place that is recognised brand status. 

What is a brand?

I dealt with the ‘what is a lifestyle brand?’ question earlier, but I’m going to go right back to basics here. In its simplest form, a ‘brand’ is just a name or symbol that aims to differentiate the product or service of one entity from another - but the term ‘brand’ also carries a lot of ideological weight and this weight can be perhaps summed up using the following exercise:

I don’t buy [product], I buy [brand]

Like any exercise of this kind, it’s reductive, it will miss out edge cases, there are dozens of potential issues - but it works to illustrate the concept:

  • I don’t buy trainers, I buy Nike.
  • I don’t buy cars, I buy Aston Martin.
  • I don’t buy watches, I buy Rolex.

This is, generally speaking, not where most businesses with brand ambitions are - but I don’t think it needs to be. While the above brands have achieved near ubiquity, there is no need for everyone to understand this equation for your brand’s products - it’s simply(!) your job to make it the case for a segment of your customer base and then to grow that segment as you grow your customer base.

The importance of consistency

Consistency is absolutely essential until it isn’t. For businesses in pursuit of brand status, consistency is key - even if your brand thrives on inconsistency, that inconsistency should be consistent (think of the work being done by Surreal at the moment). Or, as a Masters thesis titled An Assessment of The Challenges of Brand Consistency (from the Copenhagen Business School) puts it:

Some of the primary benefits of brand consistency are making sure that consumers associate a company’s brand with certain strengths and favorable characteristics at all times and that the brand stands out in the market in a positive manner (Beverland, Wilner, & Micheli, 2015, pp. 589-590). We argue that this can still be accomplished even if aspects of the brand are modified as long as the core of the brand stays the same across all channels and touchpoints. And, specifically viewed from a marketing perspective, we further argue that companies might have enough room to live up to the aforementioned differences of various marketing channels - at least to some degree - as long as only the very core of the brand needs to stay the same.

Your aim is to generate a level of immediate recall and salience in your target audience and the best way to do this is through consistency - of tone, messaging and design, because, as the article Understanding the Role of Brand Salience in Brand Choice Decisions in the Charity Sector makes clear:

Brand salience reflects the prominence and distinctiveness of a specific brand being thought of in relation to other brands in a certain buying situation. Accordingly, we conceptualized and demonstrated that brand salience is composed of two dimensions namely prominence and distinctiveness. All psychometric properties were satisfactory across samples and studies. Most importantly, brand salience has behavioral impact in that it positively influences brand choice intention. 

It is fine to be playful with your creatives so long as you have a well recognised brand identity, otherwise it’s just inconsistency.

Imagery & design

There must be recognition that there is a difference between what looks good and what looks good for your brand. One of the most common mistakes made by lifestyle brands in their early years is with selecting imagery judged on a piece by piece basis rather than as part of a whole. 

When selecting your imagery and when deciding on the overall style for your site, packaging or anything else, it is important to act as a curator on behalf of your brand - selecting only pieces which connect with a broader theme rather than on a case-by-case basis which can lead your imagery and design to feel disconnected.

Again, consistency is your friend - just as with your tone of voice, there should be no doubt, when a customer sees a social share or piece of packaging, that it is yours.


4. Communicate loud and often 

The final step, at least as far as this go-round is concerned, is to start shouting about it. That’s not to say that you need to spend a fortune on paid media to promote yourself, just that wherever your brand speaks - whether on social media, on product pages or any other page which talks in the voice of your brand - it should do with these three things in mind - your audience, your story and your style.

Every appearance of your brand whether offline or online should be distinctively, recognisably you - and that is going to require buy-in throughout the company, so that every area is pulling in the same direction. For this reason, it can pay to have a brand champion - it doesn’t need to be their full time role, but somebody should be looking out for the brand on all channels to make sure you’re presenting a consistent look and feel.

Marketing an otherwise unfamiliar brand requires far greater frequency to generate the same level of recall as a well-known brand, but obviously you can’t outcompete them on blanket coverage - for that reason, targeting is going to be hugely important. This is why researching your target market is step one in this list - you’ll need to be trying to get in front of this specific target market regularly and with engaging creativities that speak to them.

If you'd like to speak to us about how to grow you're lifestyle brand - contact us today!

Written by:

Photo of John Warner
John Warner
Senior Marketing Manager


The Hub