6:09. TUESDAY. MORNING. STARBUCKS.
The barista conducts her post-dawn symphony as the orchestra of percussive grinders, portafilters and steel pourers burr, snap and clang. The steel wand hisses steam then gurgles triplets as it surfaces, whipping the milk into a froth.
She pours. Fastens the lid. Bows.
I take my $3.50 cup of exotic brew over to the rough hewn wooden table. Other patrons are spread about, each sipping their own blend. All tapping away on their devices.
I bury myself in a playlist. And begin to work.
Your clothing. Hairstyle. Playlist. Car. Bike. Accessories. Each is a declaration of your identity. They provide context and define you to others.
Whether or not you’re aware of it, the identifiers you choose are carefully constructed, packaged and marketed to help you be the person you aspire to be.
Brands do this successfully to win more than just our money. They win our love.
Consumers are willing participants. We absorb the likes of Starbucks, Apple, Harley Davidson and Lululemon – all brands that cleverly avoid marketing goods, products and/or services and win us over by appealing to our sense of self.
Writer/journalist Naomi Klein explores the darker side of nuanced branding in her cultural manifesto titled No Logo. The construct by which brands enter our minds to win our hearts is, in her opinion, sinister.
Despite her dated allegations, the fact is brands absolutely aim to win hearts and minds to gain access to our pockets. But their tactics aren’t sinister. The art form that is lifestyle branding is not only intensely creative and wonderfully entertaining, but also effective.
In a competitive sea of vodkas where taste is subjective and hardly definable, lifestyle is as clear as crystal. One sip of Ciroc and boom, you’re a Bad Boy For Life!
Lifestyle branding in real estate
He’s a Russian billionaire looking for a swanky playboy pad in South Beach, Miami.
She’s recently sold her company and is seeking vineyard property in Paso Robles.
A couple wants off the grid and is seeking a 2,000-acre grain farm in Calgary.
Whomever they choose to facilitate their needs is a decision that could easily be swayed by a brand that has embraced the lifestyle niche with which they identify.
Consider Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate and the lifestyle strategies it has delicately leveraged from its parent company’s 88 years of consumer branding.
“Lifestyle plays directly to what people aspire to through real estate,” Sherry Chris, CEO and President of BH&G Real Estate told me when we spoke.
Sherry’s fervent pursuit of this methodology began the minute she was appointed to launch the brand in 2008. “Consumers are focused on two things in real estate: lifestyle and community. While other brands market around selling homes, we focus on lifestyle. It opens us up a wider array of marketing avenues to connect emotionally with people.”
This isn’t just talk. The walk is evidenced across Better Homes and Gardens’ digital assets that include Facebook, mobile search and video.
Across the hall in Parsippany, N.J., execs at Sotheby’s International Realty Affiliates, LLC offered their perspective on lifestyle marketing in a recent New York Times article, “’Best of’ Lists for Lifestyle crowds.”
I asked Wendy Purvey, Sotheby’s chief marketing officer, to expand on her comments.
“Lifestyle marketing is the important differentiator in reaching the luxury real estate consumer. In the luxury space, lifestyle is the ability and desire for one to own their passion. In an oversaturated marketplace where the consumer has access day or night to all the information they need and an array of real estate sales options, successful marketers will be the ones that identify the special tangible and intangible elements that will support a buyer’s unique lifestyle and interests…and they will speak to them in terms they understand and be wherever they are searching.”
A brand marketer’s blue ocean of opportunity
Lifestyle branding isn’t something you affix to your collateral like a plastic mustache on Fake Friday.
Lifestyle means little unless you breathe it and deliver the experience consistently.
If you want to distance yourself from your competitors, stop marketing property. You have the very same inventory as everyone else.
And stop marketing yourself. You don’t matter. Market what matters to the consumer. Their needs. Their wants. Their desires.
People want to align with brands that get them. They do it across every single line item of their lives. Why not real estate? It’s the fullest expression of a lifestyle.
Only a handful of brand guardians get this. I think there’s room for a few more to pursue that ideal.
[Disclosure: Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate is a 1000watt client.]