Trend Whisperer, a blog by Sherri Scheck-Merrill
Although I carry admiration for those, (regardless of their respected industry), who have pulled off this monumental task, there are two sides to every sword and this one requires some razor sharp strategic planning.
On one side, it’s no secret you will enjoy the fruits of your labor if indeed you hit the bulls eye, however, on the opposite side it’s important to know the Lifestyle Branding waters are getting heavily polluted and dare I say many companies are dangerously drowning because they swam before learning how to float!
Lets take a look at what may be involved if you are tasked with researching the possibility of laying the groundwork to establish your own Lifestyle Branding. And at the end I will invite you to chime in and share who you personally feel has implemented a remarkably successful and well-strategized Lifestyle Brand.
First, lets take the cue from a few brands such as Coach, Armani, DKNY, Kate Spade, Martha Stewart, Coca Cola and Estee Lauder, who are dangling their success tempting so many to enter the “lets become a Lifestyle Brand” trend zone. Many companies today are setting their sites, (figuratively and literally), on becoming the next success story because simply put, if it can be done at your company, franchises and licenses will flourish, as will the financial ambitions of your pencil pushers.
DO YOU HAVE A CORE?
As your assess whether this trend is right for your company, keep in mind it will require much more than impeccable service, offering amazing amenities or popping up cleverly appointed public spaces. In order to sell a defined image or brand, your organization will need to be crystal clear not only about your DNA but the core niche of your organization. What is it the customers are coming for??
Think about your heritage and what precisely and specifically has put you on the map. One example I like to use is Burberry, a brand that has exploded from Fashion and into the Lifestyle segment, however Burberry got it. They spent years establishing a “British chic core” which recently, has been it’s own trend and one that has become desired by the masses. Infact the fascination over “anything-British” is still flourishing at retail and as a side note, the British trend was thriving well before “George” entered our lives and Burberry had a lot to do with this.
Another prime example of a company doing an excellent job at projecting a crystal clear image is Victoria Secret, infact it would be challenging to find someone who doesn’t know that Victoria Secret is all about sass, beauty, sexy and a hint of fantasy.
Beyond needing a solid core and identity, a financial base is also crucial to pull off the monumental task of transitioning into a Lifestyle Brand. Also, successful branding means you need to “tell-a-story,” and the story needs to be larger than life, extremely relevant and carry an emotional attachment in order for your customers to bond to your brand. Thiis task alone will take an army to pull off. (And a well-orchestrated one to boot!)
Let me preface this next section about the timing of reaching the finish line with one word; never! Multiple phases later, outside of your core product, you will constantly reinvent and expand. It’s the nature of embarking on the heavyweight champion of branding campaigns and like Yoga, your core will be your inner strength in expanding and creating desire for your offering.
Like the art of breathing and posing simultaneously, this trend isn’t something you turn on or off via a switch or set aside Friday at 5 and return to it Monday morning. Development of anything never happens overnight and the task of spearheading a Lifestyle Brand will actually become your own lifestyle. Extreme patience and undefined devotion with the acceptance of “never-an-idle-moment” will be a mandated virtue!
LOCAL CONNECTIONS will need to be in play. Think entertainment, art, fashion and culinary to name a few.
SERVICE is expected to be exceptional, however, your employees will now become brand ambassadors so it’s vital they also compliment your heritage and core. I revert to the example of the appearance standards at Disney where the classic and friendly look is in no shape or form a coincidence!
ENVIRONMENTAL impact to show you are reducing any negative effects on the environment. Ex. Parking spots for hybrid vehicles. Natural décor elements such as cork or bamboo. The elimination of plastic beverage containers including those used for water and coffee within your business.
LEADERSHIP Factoring in an upper management leadership role from outside your industry’s trenches will be crucial. Sourcing talent from retail, fashion, beauty or entertainment where Lifestyle Branding is thriving is crucial in order to establish your own culture that eventually has the legs to be branded.
SIDE NOTE: Including talent from outside the industry was the thrust behind Apple’s hiring of 2 CEO’s who had both the fashion and technology industries buzzing. One from Yves Saint Laurent and the other from Burberry joined ranks at Apple thanks to their excellent track records at their previous companies where both brand were carried into iconic stature. One CEO lead her company away from being a staid, old-fashioned trench coat brand; (Burberry), while the other, (YSL), plotted a journey into the mass market of luxury branding. Both developed excellent new products which became symbolic of their cultures and countries with which they were associated. (England and France).
For many of the reasons above, I am an admirer of the younger talent pool and especially Aerin Lauder and Ivanka Trump when it comes to Lifestyle Branding. Both are slowly taking their classic family businesses tapping into their customers from head to toe including their homes from floor to ceiling. And It’s why key retailers Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue and Bergdorf Goodman are buying into their fresh approaches and attracting new customers at a time when all three retailers were slipping in the mass appeal department as their customer base and demographics matured. (A danger zone for any business).
GOLDEN RULE OF THUMB
Taking a cue from the Pros in fashion, a potential newcomer on the Lifestyle Brand circuit must exhibit “extreme patience” so they do not venture into their product expansion too soon. Fashion Designer Kate Spade is the perfect example as her empire was built from several decades focused strictly on handbags, or, Tory Burch, another Fashion Designer who began her empire with a diligent focus on an iconic ballet slipper before expanding.
I’ve shared quite a bit that may have you pondering and hopefully a few tips which can be borrowed to assist with your own brand related projects regardless of how big or small.
Until next week, I leave you with a simple question before you go onto your next blog; Who do you feel is moments away from being the next successful Lifestyle Brand, and why?
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Sherri Scheck-Merrill is a hospitality industry professional with a passion for excellent hotels and resorts. She is passionate about hotels, interior design, fashion, and beauty. As Vice President of Amenity Services Inc., she focuses on hotel business development and guestroom product design. She distinguishes herself by researching, teaching and reporting U.S. trends for her own fashion and export business.
She is a three-time nominee for Businesswoman of the Year by California’s Orange County Business Journal. A UNLV student-athlete/Harvard Executive Education Consumer Marketing graduate, she licenses popular retail brands for hotel guestrooms.
After spending several years on a tennis court, followed by the role of head buyer at the largest West Coast-based sporting goods and fashion apparel export company, her knack for predicting trends landed her a columnist position at Orange Coast Magazine. She is also the author of the biannual trend-forecasting report for a major retailer in Osaka, Japan, and writes a popular blog about trends for Hotels – the magazine of the worldwide hotel industry.