Brand names! They’re everywhere from the chic wrap dress you buy at the mall to the organic granola you have for breakfast. Brands are ubiquitous in daily life, so much so that on the rare occasion you purchase something without an identifiable logo, advertising campaign and well-established name many of us are thrown off. But why are brands so important, and why do companies go to such great lengths to pair a concept or personality with a product? It turns out, brand authenticity is essential to retail success, and there are several reasons why. Whether you’re a consumer or a business, it’s important to understand how brands work. Here’s a quick overview to help illuminate the subject.
What is a Brand?
Put simply, a brand is a company that manufactures goods under a specific name. Of course, that hardly defines what brands look like today. Modern brands need to distinguish themselves from the competition in increasingly clever ways. It’s not enough to state that Company Z makes soda; they have to make it clear, ideally in a glance, that their soda is superior to all other brands, from A-Y. By distinguishing itself, through advertisements, a cool logo and various other forms of marketing, Company Z develops a unique persona in the eyes of consumers, who now link the brand name with certain attributes. The more enticing the attributes you assume the company has, the more likely you’ll buy the product.
What is a Lifestyle Brand?
Branding works well if there are only a few competitors or a few products. But many companies are battling against dozens, or they have hundreds of disparate items for sale. The din created by too many brands claiming superiority leaves buyers confused and annoyed. Or, if the brand makes a variety of commodities from different categories, such as clothing, makeup and hygiene products, it makes more sense to develop a perception that encompasses all of them without resorting to broad or vague statements. Thus began lifestyle branding.
A lifestyle brand seeks to reflect the interests and ideals of its intended customer base. The company suggests people who live a certain lifestyle or come from a certain culture use their products; therefore, anyone who lives that way (or aspires to) should opt for them too.
Losing the Narrative
Lifestyle branding flipped the script for advertising in many ways. After all, you no longer buy products just because you think they’re the best-made or best tasting item on the market. You buy them because they make you appear smart, fashionable, tasteful, eco-conscious, etc. Unfortunately, when a company loses sight of how its niche group sees itself, or it tries to sell products that don’t fit the concept they’ve created, buyers may abandon the entire brand rather than simply skipping the latest release. When designer jeans brand Seven for All Mankind partnered with Express to create affordable denim for the masses, its base of wealthier consumers lost faith. Why pay so much for one pair, when a similar style with the same brand name retails for half the price? The exclusive label lost its coveted cachet, an essential element of its appeal. Whether a brand name uses lifestyle marketing or not, retaining its authenticity is paramount to remaining successful.
One Size Does Not Fit All
Every business must create a unique branding strategy that suits its products. While a cosmetics conglomerate can develop a lifestyle brand, a family-run restaurant would never benefit from such a tactic. Big or small, retail or restaurant, a company must cultivate a well-defined image that also leaves room for growth. An independent electronics store, for instance, can build a reputation for its attention to detail, focusing on providing excellent service and selling only the best-reviewed equipment. Both of these qualities are distinguishable from big box stores and will likely attract a loyal following.
Clearly, the most important move a business can make, after creating a fabulous product that consumers are bound to love, is developing and maintaining a strong brand identity that’s relatable, respectable and attractive. Preserving the authenticity through careful marketing plans and ethical practices ensures steady growth and long-term loyalty for the life of the company. Therefore, brand authenticity is only important if you value success.