Private Label – Lifestyle Brands?

This guest post comes from frequent contributor, Tess Wickstead, Strategy Director of the international design agency Pearlfisher. Her post discusses the concept of Lifestyle brands and their relevance to retailers.

I love this concept if we are going t evolve Private Brands to be differentiating assets they must have the ability to be more than the national brands they have  historically mimicked, more than the category labels that pretend to be brands (almost any retailer owned organic or beef brand) and much more than the shallow good, better, best tiers that mean nothing to consumers.

We often hear brands refer to themselves as Lifestyle brands,  but what does this mean in the context of real life? How can a private label retailer become a ‘lifestyle brand’?
In the past, Lifestyle branding has typically been about presenting a well defined image of a style of living, with a strong philosophy, specific set of values and a very distinct aesthetic. These traditional lifestyle brands tend to be very aspirational. At the premium end, think Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger, or Martha Stewart. However, often these brands can present  a way of living that is so ‘perfect’ that it can feel both intimidating and inflexible, especially when compared to how we realistically live today.

As a result we are seeing a shift in lifestyle branding. Brands are no longer dictating a specific lifestyle for consumers to buy wholesale. Now we see brands allowing consumers to mold them to fit their personal style, so that they fit in with how we live our lives.

Labour & Wait
is a London based retailer that has a focus on ‘un branding’. Unlike traditional lifestyle brands whose value rests in their overtly branded products, Labour & Wait builds on their image of traditional, authentic British homewares with no branding on products. This lack of branding means that products feel more collected than produced making everything feel one-of-a kind and also unified through a beautiful aesthetic. The un-branded aesthetic allows us to enjoy the products as part of our personal style. 

Allowing for individual interpretation:
Similarly, brands like Uniqlo, American Apparel and The Gap, succeed because they continue to play on individual interpretation, rather than creating a single aesthetic or image. Japanese brand Uniqlo has created a position focused on the individual interpretation of style, with international ad campaigns that feature local celebrities wearing basic items in their own way. American Apparel is all about self expression, encouraging people to wear their basics in unexpected and inventive ways, which ultimately elevates the brand through their creativity. These brands are presenting their products as a base, a starting point for individual style.
Lifestyle Curator:
Brands like Jme, Anthropologie, and ABC Carpet & Home, realize that consumers are both seeking out specialty items and living through an individual mix of brands. These brands are sourcing products from a variety of independent designers and we see them designing in-house ranges under speciality sub brands. Anthropologie even became famous for their internal curation when their buyer at large landed a show called Man Shops Globe on the Discovery Channel. The doc-style series mirrors the delight of discovery one experiences when shopping in the whimsical and almost cluttered Anthropologie stores. These brands truly become lifestyle curators, offering consumers a mix of products from different sources and building an image on individuality and specialty.

Lifestyle brands for today’s modern living.
Today, most innovative lifestyle retail brands are positioning themselves as individual and personal, inspiring customers with a unique mix of products and values to help them build their own interpretation of modern living. The next generation of lifestyle brands will present a more open discourse with consumers on living, inspiring and educating, to help each individual create the perfect home for their own personal needs and way of life.

Tess Wicksteed, Strategy Director, Pearlfisher
Tess’s great talent is the instant ability to see the wood for the trees. As the creative force behind Pearlfisher’s strategic offer, she trades in originality, clarity and logic, getting to the point fast and delivering strategy that’s both creative and cohesive. A longstanding Pearlfisher person, Tess was Strategy Director in London for ten years before relocating with her family for a brand new challenge in New York.

As a literature student at York, Sussex and Cambridge Universities, Tess was keen to become first a clown, then a teacher. However, it was her belief that good culture matters that finally led to a career in design and an ongoing commitment to creating powerful brands that contribute positively to the world. Short and sharp in all things, Tess balances refreshing bluntness with disarming humanity. Her presence on a project promises fireworks – and guarantees results.

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Christopher Durham is the president of My Private Brand and the co-founder of The Vertex Awards. He is a strategist, author, consultant and retailer who built brands at Delhaize-owned Food Lion, and lead strategy and brand development for Lowe’s Home Improvement. He has consulted with retailers around the world on their private brand portfolios including: Family Dollar, Petco, Staples, Office Depot, Best Buy, Metro (Canada), TLW (Taiwan) and Hola (Taiwan). Durham has published five definitive books on private brands, including his first book, Fifty2: The My Private Brand Project. In 2017, he will debut his newest book, Vanguard: Vintage Originals, a visual tour of innovation and disruption in private brand going back to the mid-1800’s. Dynamic in his presentation while down to earth and frank in his opinions, he has presented at numerous conferences, including FUSE, The Dieline Conference, Packaging that Sells, Omnishopper and PLMA’a annual trade show in Chicago. Durham lives in Charlotte, NC with his wife, Laraine, and two daughters, Olivia and Sarah.