Develop content around that impact: Whether it’s social media, email marketing, website content or another marketing channel — all branded content should not just focus on your product, but the lifestyle changes and impact it will bring to your consumers.
As a part of our series called “5 Things You Need To Know To Create A Very Successful Lifestyle Brand”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Amber Olson Rourke, Neora Co-Founder & Chief Sales and Marketing Officer.
Amber Olson Rourke leads a team that is responsible for all branding, creative services, communications, public relations, events, digital marketing and social media at Neora. As a member of the core executive team, Amber helped set and execute the strategy that led Neora to be the youngest company ever to earn a place on the Direct Selling News Global 100 List in 2013, as well as receive the prestigious Bravo Growth Award from Direct Selling News for hitting 100 million dollars in sales during its first full year of business.
In 2014, Amber received multiple industry recognitions, including the Direct Marketing News 40 Under 40 list, the Best in Biz Marketing Executive of the Year Silver award, and several Stevie awards including the Women Helping Women Gold award. Most recently, Amber was named the 2015 Top Female Executive by ADDISON Magazine. She has also been profiled alongside other Neora top executives in both Direct Selling News and SUCCESS from Home magazine.
Due to Amber’s innovative approach to product marketing, including a fully integrated digital to offline product storytelling strategy, Neora consistently attracts thousands of new customers per month. In addition, Neora is recognized as a top performer in social media performance and engagement.
Amber also plays a key role in the culture at Neora and helps drive the company’s vision of “Making People Better.” She assisted in developing Neora’s core values and leads a corporate culture committee, which ensures that the core values are represented throughout the company.
Amber currently serves as the president of the Neora Ripple Foundation, which has donated more than 5 million dollars to charitable organizations including World Vision, the SUCCESS Foundation and Big Brothers Big Sisters. She also serves on the board as secretary for Big Brothers Big Sisters International.
Passionate about helping people achieve their dreams, Amber established a partnership with the SUCCESS Foundation to host teen workshops across the country. These workshops teach kids the skills needed to achieve their dreams. To date, thousands of teens have attended these free workshops. Amber is also featured in SUCCESS for Teens, the book from which the workshops are based. Since its publication, SUCCESS for Teens has been donated to more than two million teenagers nationwide.
Prior to her time at Neora, Amber owned a medical spa where she often noticed many of her clients using products that did not live up to the results they expected after seeing the before and after photos. This frustration fueled her passion to represent a product that was based on patented skincare technology and offered real, noticeable results.
A frequent keynote speaker at Neora events — which draws audiences of 10,000 people or more — Amber encourages women to put their “calling before their comfort.” She has hosted women’s workshops across the country and is on the advisory board for Live Happy and the international #HappyActs campaign.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a bit about your “childhood backstory”?
I grew up in a very entrepreneurial household where my parents involved the whole family in their business ventures. Through these experiences, I learned the importance of establishing business goals, helping people and defining success. Growing up in this type of environment instilled an entrepreneurial spirit in me at a young age in terms of creativity, innovation and grit. During these formative years, I quickly learned that I wanted to make an impact on the world, and now as a mother I’m trying to instill this same sense of curiosity, passion and creativity in my own kids.
Can you tell us the story of what led you to this particular career path?
I graduated high school already knowing that I wanted to forge my own path. I continued my education at the University of Florida, which took me out of my comfort zone growing up in Texas. I knew no one starting my college experience, which allowed me to come into my own and define who I wanted to be. After graduating college with a degree in marketing, I worked at several marketing and advertising agencies and enjoyed the work, but quickly realized that my passion was for initiatives more entrepreneurial in nature. This led me to owning and managing a medical spa in Dallas, and that’s when I started to love helping people feel confident in their own skin. When the opportunity came along to build what was initially a skincare brand with my father Jeff Olson, I could combine everything I was passionate about — entrepreneurship, family and helping others feel confident. Neora may have started as a skincare brand, but has since evolved into a brand that helps people feel like their most confident self.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
When you’re in “startup mode” at a true startup company, every employee is juggling 10 different jobs. It’s some of the most exhilarating, yet exhausting work you will have in your career since it’s so encompassing of your daily life. While we were preparing to launch Neora in 2011, I was also engaged and simultaneously trying to plan a wedding. As one could guess, I was juggling a lot on my plate. The intense workload and long hours may have contributed to my save the dates having the wrong date and wedding invitations having the wrong location. Some people may have freaked out over these mistakes; however, I could quickly email our guests and send them the correct wedding information.
The lesson learned here is balance and doing the best you can in the current circumstances. Sometimes when you lead an entrepreneurial life things can fall through the cracks or get pushed to the wayside; but it’s important to remember that it’s ok to make mistakes in your business or other areas of your life. Take the time to laugh it off, learn from your mistakes and keep moving forward.
Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
The Slight Edge by my dad, Jeff Olson, Neora founder and CEO. This best-selling book focuses on habits and breaks down that success isn’t something you’re just born with. Success is about developing consistent habits over time that help take you where you want to go. It’s empowering to know that by showing up consistently with a good attitude, whether it’s health and wellness, your career or anything, you can make great progress and get to where you want to go with good habits. The good habits I’ve developed have helped me become who I am.
When I got to the University of Florida, they said that the average GPA was 4.03. I looked at my dad and said, “Oh my gosh, how am I going to compete?” and his response was, “It’s easy — you’re just going to show up consistently over a long period of time.” Weeks later, I was showing up to my classes when other people weren’t. I would study an hour every day and developed other little habits that seemed to make no difference at the time but ended up making all the difference in the end. I graduated magna cum laude even though I was not the smartest in my class.
In terms of developing my leadership style, Daring Greatly and Dare to Lead by Brené Brown have influenced me the most throughout my career. Twenty years ago, we were taught that being vulnerable leads to weakness and sets us up to fail, but Brené teaches that leading with vulnerability and clarity helps your team become more open.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
One quote that has stuck with me from my father’s book, The Slight Edge is: “Successful people do what unsuccessful people are unwilling to do.” To me, this quote represents the lesson that being successful isn’t about having the highest degree of education or coming from the most elite background. It’s about making those daily choices that set you up for success. No matter your background or circumstances, you have the opportunity to make every day count — and get closer to your goals — through your habits and choices. This lesson is empowering because anyone can achieve success, as long as they have the right mindset and make the right choices to get there.
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. For the benefit of our readers, let’s define our terms. How do you define a Lifestyle Brand? How is a Lifestyle Brand different from a normal, typical brand?
All lifestyle brands have two core components:
- The brand inspires consumers in a specific area of their life to do more, be better or have a different outlook.
- The brand offers products and/or services that help consumers achieve this established goal.
For example, a pen is something you use every day, but Bic doesn’t define itself as a lifestyle brand because it’s not elevating your health, wellness or other aspiration goal in your life. In comparison, Peloton is a leading lifestyle brand in the marketplace because the company has established itself as much more than just a bike or treadmill. Peloton’s branding creates community, pushes consumers to be the healthiest version of themselves. This company is a great example of how a brand can become more than just the products it sells.
At Neora, our real promise to people is beyond the products we sell. It’s about how these products can help them look their best, feel their most confident and be their healthiest. Our company’s mission to “Make People Better” is delivered through the international community we’ve had the opportunity to build over the last decade.
What are the benefits of creating a lifestyle brand?
One of the biggest benefits that you can have from creating a successful lifestyle brand is providing something that is truly making your consumers’ lives better. It’s important for all lifestyle brands to understand how they are helping their consumers beyond the consumption of a product or service. When you do it right, lifestyle brands can create a significant, long-term impact on their consumer base. Due to this, lifestyle brands tend to see larger and longer brand loyalty as their product/service, community and content become ingrained in the daily lives of their consumers.
For me, it has been so rewarding to see Neora grow into the global lifestyle brand it is today. Being able to see firsthand how our products are transforming people’s lives and hearing their stories keeps me motivated in my work and excited as Neora continues to grow.
In your opinion, what is an example of a company that has done a fantastic job building a believable and beloved Lifestyle Brand? What specifically impresses you? What can one do to replicate that?
Continuing with the Peloton example, this lifestyle brand has solidified itself in the marketplace with its aspirational messaging. From social media to ads and influencers, its messaging is always bigger than the products the company sells. Peloton doesn’t focus on the product details, instead it brings attention to the person consumers aspire to be. No matter what is going on in your life or how busy you are, you can fit in a workout, be healthy, connect with a valued community and be one step closer to your aspirational self. It’s also important to highlight the community aspect of Peloton’s brand. One wouldn’t initially think you would have the opportunity to build community from a stationary bike or treadmill you experience alone in the comfort of your own home. However, Peloton has been able to build such a large, loyal community through its classes and groups offered through its subscription. The brand has created community and camaraderie around something that you experience individually. This is a big part of their genius.
At Neora, our community has been built through the tens of thousands of brand partners we have around the world. These brand partners support each other and their customers. It’s important for any lifestyle brand to have a strong community, because these individuals are invested in your brand and are its biggest advocates.
Can you share your ideas about how to create a lifestyle brand that people really love and are ‘crazy about’?
When you’re thinking of developing a lifestyle brand, it’s critical to focus on creating a product or service that’s truly a part of people’s lifestyles. As much as Bic would want to be a lifestyle brand, it’s hard to establish a deeper, longer-term value from a pen. Creating a lifestyle brand starts with examining what it is that you want to provide and how it’s going to elevate somebody’s daily life. This goes beyond the product — it’s about creating a community and corresponding content to develop a comprehensive ecosystem for your consumers to serve them on their respective journeys. At Neora, we really see ourselves as an integrative health and beauty company that’s helping people make the best choices related to looking and feeling their best and being at their healthiest. Our products become a part of our consumers’ everyday routines to lead happier and healthier lives. We focus much more on our interaction with our consumers through the community we have created and the content we offer to help them achieve their health and wellness goals.
Going back to Peloton, the brand figured out what they were bringing into a consumer’s life beyond the bike. It’s a commitment to their health and fitness in the midst of a busy lifestyle. From there, Peloton created a community and content to support their consumer base throughout this journey outside of the physical product they purchased.
What are the common mistakes you have seen people make when they start a lifestyle brand? What can be done to avoid those errors?
One of the most common pitfalls I’ve seen in the industry is becoming too ingrained in your brand and products, and losing your bird’s eye view of your company. As an entrepreneur, you can become so infatuated with your product or service because of the extensive time and money you have personally invested into the venture. Many entrepreneurs can become very entrenched in the nitty gritty of why their brand is better than competitors, which can lead to complex or confusing product messaging in the marketplace. At the end of the day, your consumers just want to know what is in it for them and the top benefits. It’s important to keep your marketing simple and high level — when appropriate — in order to effectively capture your targeted consumer base.
Let’s imagine that someone reading this interview has an idea for a lifestyle brand that they would like to develop. What are the first few steps that you would recommend that they take?
The first step to take is refining and articulating what your overarching brand and products/services are going to do for your customers. It’s important to pinpoint how your brand will elevate a consumer’s life. If you can’t articulate this in an effective, yet succinct manner, then you know you need to continue to refine your brand messaging. Once you have this in place, you can begin to build the support structures around your brand, such as social media, marketing campaigns and other content to build a community to support your consumers throughout this journey.
Ok. Thank you for all that. Here is the main question of our discussion. What are your “5 Things You Need To Know To Create A Very Successful Lifestyle Brand” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)
- Understand your consumer impact: As a lifestyle brand, it’s key for you and your team to understand the impact you want to make on your consumers’ life.
- Develop content around that impact: Whether it’s social media, email marketing, website content or another marketing channel — all branded content should not just focus on your product, but the lifestyle changes and impact it will bring to your consumers.
- Create a community: If you want to truly be a lifestyle brand, you must create a community that’s bigger than your product or service. The key here is figuring out how to best create community around your brand that’s authentic, effective and inspiring. The way to achieve long-term brand loyalty is to engage with your consumers regularly and make your brand a part of their lives that’s bigger than their purchase.
- Establish a feedback mechanism: For lifestyle brands specifically, it’s important to have a continuous feedback loop from your customers to make sure they are satisfied and happy. Implementing a system to receive consistent and honest customer feedback will help make sure your brand is delivering on the promises you make to your customers. This feedback will help you hone in on how you can best show up and support them.
- Never stop innovating: In order to be relevant five or 10 years from now you need to continuously be innovating and thinking of different ways to deliver your products/services, community and content. We’ve seen many examples in the past of brands that stopped innovating because of this and are no longer in the marketplace. A prime example of a lack of innovation is Blockbuster. This was a mainstream lifestyle brand that was a part of many people’s lives. I know for me personally, I went to Blockbuster every Friday when I was a kid in hopes to pick up the latest movie and socialize with my classmates who were also there. Due to a lack of innovation, Netflix took over this consumer segment and drove Blockbuster out of business. A takeaway from this example is to continuously innovate to meet your customers’ evolving needs and stay relevant. At Neora, we are always looking for opportunities to innovate to continue to meet our consumers’ needs. For example, we are launching a new weight management and wellness system called NeoraFit in 2021. We saw an opportunity to combine our leading products, community and content to create an all-in-one-system people can easily incorporate into their lifestyle to achieve their health and wellness goals.
Super. We are nearly done. Here are our final questions. You are an inspiration to a great many people. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
I would start a movement that encourages others to take action. Especially if you’re an entrepreneur, it’s important to believe in yourself and take action. Your company, product or service will not be perfect from the start — and that’s ok. Many people wait around and are hesitant to take bold actions due to this, but everyone has skills, assets and passions. If people learned to take action on the things they are the most passionate about, there would be so much change in the world.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
I would love the opportunity to grab a meal with Sara Blakely, the Founder & CEO of Spanx. Sara started her company out of her apartment and put in a massive amount of hustle to create a billion-dollar business. I relate to her as both a founder and a mom. Having to juggle such roles can be challenging, but also very rewarding. I look up to her personally and professionally because she appears to find a balance in both aspects of her life.
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.