How does a regional, off-brand beverage consumed by Midwestern moms for nearly thirty years suddenly elevate its neon-canned, naturally-flavored carbonated water to a staple on the shelves of Whole Foods, the Instagrams of trendy young pros and memes floating all around the internet?

It achieved “lifestyle brand” status.

In case you’re not yet on the LaCroix bandwagon, this zero-calorie soda alternative is making waves in both the pantries and pop culture of today’s social media minded audience. A recent Vox.com article broke down the way that the fizzy drink went from a small market product to a lifestyle brand.

Which got us thinking…what really makes a lifestyle brand? Why do we choose LaCroix over Dasani? Or Southwest over American? Or Apple over PC? And could non profits also play in this space, creating brands around causes that move people and become parts of their lives?

But first…what is a lifestyle brand?

According to Lifestyle Brands: A Guide to Aspirational Marketing, a lifestyle brand is “a company that markets its products or services to embody the interests, attitudes and opinions of a group or a culture. Lifestyle brands seek to inspire, guide, and motivate people, with the goal of their products contributing to the definition of the consumer's way of life.”

To help illustrate real examples of lifestyle brands, we asked our TAG team to share some of their favorite brands and why they love them:

  • Southwest Airlines: Though other carriers might offer more flight choices, Southwest fliers are deeply loyal, “luv”ing the airline’s friendly vibe, out-of-the-box approach to things like seating and luggage, and above and beyond care for customers.
  • Apple: Clean, creative technology made for real people’s lives  - served up in very cool packaging. Plus, all devices work together to give you an integrated life.
  • Lululemon: Would a yoga pant by any other name still fit so sweet? Lululemon not only creates great athletic wear, but it has become the modern mom uniform.
  • Target: How can visiting a store to buy shampoo and paper goods almost reach hobby status? With “Target Run” becoming a recognized activity, the bright, happy environment, quality store brands and interesting collaborations make Target stand out from the crowd.
  • John Varvatos: Not a rock star but want to feel like one? Varvatos’s music-inspired designs give an iconic, edgy but still put together style for men looking to stand out from the crowd.
  • Free People: With clothing styles that embody the free spirit in all of us, Free People goes beyond just beautiful clothing to offering content, resources and events around other things that free spirited women value: music, art, travel, wellness, etc.
  • Kate Spade: Simple, sophisticated and organized, Kate Spade embodies what the working woman aspires to be – while creating great products that help her achieve her goals.
  • Mrs. Meyer’s: In case a product that simplifies cleaning, has attractive branding and offers great scents isn’t enough, Mrs. Meyer’s commitment to natural and green products fits in with its users philosophy and commitment to health, wellness and natural living.
  • Teva: Stylish and functional, Teva shoes help carry you along on all of your adventures. Outdoor and athletic brands tend to make great lifestyle brands, as they speak to people’s need for adventure.

Are you starting to get the idea? A lifestyle brand owns, elicits and represents emotions, values, identities and aspirations of its users. It speaks to the human experience beyond just the problem the product solves or the solution the brand offers. It helps people express who they are and empowers them to be who they want to be. Most of us have deep loyalty to these brands regardless of price; after all, to switch would be untrue to ourselves.

When it comes to non profits, what is more aspirational than finding a cause and making an impact? Organizations that contribute to the social good are ripe for lifestyle status.

Check back next week when we tackle the elements of a lifestyle brand and outline how you can build a lifestyle brand out of your organization, non profit or business. 

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