Lifestyle Associations: Reality Trumps Stereotypes
Western welfare states guarantee a minimum level of material security for their citizens and grant them individual rights for their self-realisation and personal fulfilment. These two aspects enable large parts of society, not only the elites, to access the lifestyle of their choice and to develop their individual way of life.
Recognising, latching onto, and framing lifestyles in various spheres of life is an essential success factor for brand management. Having a finger on the pulse of times, knowing the consumers’ needs and coming across as authentic at the same time is indispensable, especially regarding the increasing influence of digitisation, making it much easier for consumers today to retrieve information on products and businesses.
In the context of a representative baseline study on different lifestyle worlds, BSS and concept m have interviewed 1,000 participants online on what lifestyle means to them in general. About 50% of the answers were self-referential (e.g. “the way you present yourself; curating a certain style”) or rather philosophical-philanthropic (for example: “taking care of people in need and leaving all places cleaner than I found them!”).
On the one hand, lifestyle seems to be a rather undefined term for many that does not evoke clear associations. The other half of the respondents, on the other hand, had very precise ideas, resulting in a heterogenous image:
In addition to the answers that could be expected, like “sports and hobbies”, and, named much less frequently, “travelling and vacation”, “family”, and “just enjoying life”, conscious luxurious consumption and “fashion”, very prominent, play an important part. It is rather surprising however to see that among the unaided answers, words and concepts like “modern”, “being up-to-date”, “minimalism”, and “food” were named as meaningful components of the respondents’ individual lifestyle.
A comparison between women and men reveals surprising results: While it is true that men define their lifestyle more often with sports and hobbies, and women more often with food (not cooking!) and family life, it is astonishing that men, too, most often refer to fashion as relevant part of their lifestyle. Cars, on the other hand, are hardly named, and if they are, women mention them as frequently as their male counterparts. There are, nevertheless, more men than women curating a minimalist lifestyle or trying to refrain from consumption.
Luxury, prestige brands, or cosmetics play a very subordinate role for women – contrary to all stereotypes – when it comes to defining their own lifestyle.
In order to successfully position brands as lifestyle brands while remaining authentic, marketeers have to find the right balance in the fundamental tension fields between sense of belonging vs. autonomy and safety vs. excitement. In close cooperation, concept m and BSS Brand Communications have developed the Spheres of Brand Impact Model that allows to locate brands and their (potential) customers.
Dr. Martin Schultze