Live Your Culture. Live Your Brand. Successful lifestyle brands don’t just have catchy taglines and great storytelling. The brand is a culture, a way of being. The brand is the lifestyle. Think Different is what Apple does, how it creates products and services and how it invites customers to experience the brand.
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 Hanna Fitz, an international brand strategist and business coach. She is the founder of the Brand Atelier at hannafitz.com, author and creator of the powerhouse presence method. Hanna has consulted and coached luxury award-winning brands, experts, celebrities, and public figures on how to elevate their positioning, messaging, and presence to create more success with a world-class brand online.https://content.thriveglobal.com/media/78769380eac1aca1d9fcde8b2dbb6f54
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”?
Though I was born on the island of Saint Lucia, an independent island that is part of the British commonwealth, five week later I moved with my parents to the island of Martinique which is a department of France in the Caribbean. So French is my mother tongue. After five years, my parents moved back to Saint Lucia, where I grew up. I am the last of a family of six. My oldest sister’s daughter is one year older. There is a big gap in age between my siblings and I so I became an aunty the day I was born. I always felt that pressure of responsibility and leadership very early on because of this.
Growing up I was exposed to multi-cultures. I spent many summers in Maryland, in the United States with our cousins there and spent easter holidays in Martinique. This cultural melange has really had a profound influence on my work and world-view.
I see the world, not in our differences; languages, race, or borders but in patterns and meanings which why I feel so connected to the process of creating brands. I love storytelling. A story always has a way of giving meaning to a message. It allows us not only to connect with an idea but to see patterns of that idea within ourselves. It can convey a message in a way that makes others more receptive compared to if you just gave an instruction or directive that would bring resistance. Think the story of Little Red Riding Hood and how it powerfully illustrates why little children should not stop to talk to strangers. Being able to use stories to unveil universal patterns that create meaning is so important for brands to be successful, especially those with a global focus.
Today, I help personalities and brands create a powerhouse presence online that increases their authority, revenue, and impact leveraging their distinct brand identity/brand culture. I’m an international brand strategist and business coach for experts and entrepreneurs and I have been doing this work for the last 10 years.
Can you tell us the story of what led you to this particular career path?
Growing up on an island, the career paths that were encouraged and considered prestigious were to be a lawyer, doctor, teacher, nurse, engineer. However, it was always in my mind to be an entrepreneur. Most of the people in my family had their own small ventures and I saw the freedom that came with working for yourself. It was reading a romance novel around age 12 or 13 one day, that I discovered the world of advertising and creative directing. The story of a female creative director on the set of a commercial for the Marlboro man. She fell in love with the Marlboro man and I fell in love with the possibility that choreographing images and catchy headlines could be a career. I knew then that this was a path I wanted to take even though I had no examples around me of people on that path.
Whenever we traveled, I would always collect glossy magazines and brochures. I was intrigued by how images with few words could powerfully evoke emotions and tell a story. I went to University and chose a BA in Corporate Management which was a blend of LAW and BUSINESS from Anglia Ruskin University (UK) graduating with first class honours. I landed my first job as a New Product Development Officer for the parent company of a financial group of companies. Few months later, my portfolio of responsibility was expanded to include Product Management.
This role really set the foundation for my career as a brand strategist understanding the importance of market search and creating great products and experiences that help companies create powerful stories and a strong competitive advantage.
After taking the big leap from employee to entrepreneur three years later, I began consulting for award-winning luxury hotels, retailers, hospitality brands and later when I moved to Italy over two years, Italian family-owned brands. I’ve recently been certified as a brand Licensing Professional with Licensing International which is brand extension strategy that can be so beneficial to the growth of a brand and since signed to global licensing contracts for a celebrity client.
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?
I can think of one thing that happened when I started my job with the Financial group. One day, I called our Senior Manager’s office and he didn’t pick up. A song came up on the radio and I started singing. Then I heard “Message recorded. Goodbye.” The words of the song were embarassingly “I’m a put you to bed, to bed to bed…”. I literally froze. Then ran to his office but he wasn’t there. I anxiously waited and when he got back I said almost shouting and blushing at the same time “please delete the message from me. Don’t even listen to it. It was an error.” But what happens when you work in a male dominated department? My other co-workers overheard and now the manger said he was curious about what I didn’t want him to hear and all the other guys were curious too. So embarrassingly they all listened to my singing this song. But we all had a good laugh about it. The lesson. Always end the call before moving on to the next thing especially now in a world of Zoom where anything can happen… hopefully not on camera.
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?
While I was still working for that company, a friend shared with me the book WHO MOVED MY CHEESE. It talked about being in the rat race and everything in that book resonated so deeply with me. There was the story about an encyclopedia company that kept doing what was working even if the market was changing. They failed to digitalize the product on time until it was too late.
The book is about adapting to change and not getting comfortable with what is working when greater awaits. I had a great job but I was working in an industry that was very traditional which left very little room for creativity and to do work that felt meaningful for me. My life had become routine. That book made me realize that I no longer resonated with the status quo of getting a job, get a promotion, get a mortgage to build a home, pay it for 30 years, and hope to retire well. I had learned a lot on my job but I knew I could not grow anymore there. It was time to take the big leap and start living my dream as an entrepreneur.
I wanted more freedom of creative expression. To choose my projects, be more creative, and I wanted to be able to have greater control over my financial destiny and do work that felt more meaningful.
Besides the company policy required me to wear a uniform. That little vanity piece gave that extra motivation. I love fashion, so being boxed into a certain look was not going to work.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”– Wayne Dyer. I love this quote because it is a constant reminder to see things not just as they are but what else could be there. What’s the other side. I find very often no matter what the situation is, there is always another side. It’s not always easy to see the other side depending on the circumstances but when we invite the space to look at it differently, there is much more that is revealed and often opportunities that were not apparent before.
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?
The market has changed in terms of how we communicate with customers and tell stories so many brands that did not fall into the lifestyle category market themselves lifestyle brands today. A lifestyle brand is a brand that focuses it’s message and positioning on appealing to the inspirational and aspirational desires of their clients. While some brands may focus on providing a solution to the problem, the lifestyle brand focuses on making the client/customer’s dreams and desires come true. Inspiring them to be a better or greater version of themselves. This is what Nike. They invite us to be our own best version of an athlete with the reminder to JUST DO IT.
What are the benefits of creating a lifestyle brand?
Lifestyle brands have a distinct advantage of being able to tap into the emotions of their customers. 70–80% of why we buy is emotional and if a brand can connect people to the attributes, characteristics and outcomes that inspire and motivate them, the brand can create success.
Storytelling is a powerful tool for lifestyle brands. The stories are no longer product focused but rather centered on the consumer and their desires. Lifestyle brands can connect with consumers better because they can connect the best version of that person’s lifestyle through stories to motivate them to buy. The CEO of the brand Hermes once said (not an exact quote) “I’m not in the business of selling handbags. I’m in the business of creating desire.”
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?
I would have to say as a relatively young company, Lululemon came on to the market and became hugely successful and beloved as a fitness brand. They made workout clothes cool. People now wore their yoga pants to the supermarket and on flights. The brand gave rise to the whole athleisure wear category that has redefined the fashion industry today.
From the onset, Lululemon did not take the positioning of athletic wear company but more of a wellness brand with a fashion twist and prices positioned higher than similar products in that category. This added to the message of an aspirational product. They also took the approach of fostering a community and not just a corporate brand. Customers were a part of a club, a society. They hosted events like meditation sessions and free yoga classes that reinforce their story and message of a commitment to the wellness lifestyle. They incorporated the culture of self-improvement to the marketing and messaging of the brand. There was clarity on what the brand stood for and who it stood for in the marketplace. This level of clarity in messaging and positioning is what was a driving force in Lululemon’s success.
This is a powerful strategy that any brand can replicate. When I say replicate, I don’t mean copy. But really leaning on to the strategic thought behind how Lululemon connected with their audience. They clearly identified what the brand stood for and who it stood for and incorporated that lifestyle at a the heart and soul of the brand.
Can you share your ideas about how to create a lifestyle brand that people really love and are ‘crazy about’?
I often share with my clients that a great lifestyle brand needs to have two essential ingredients for success; performance and presence.
Going back to the example of Lululemon, a great brand needs to have a great product. The founder of Lululemon was in love with yoga pants and filled a gap in the market by bringing in a more technical approach to the product design for enhanced performance. But a great product with great technical features alone will not make people fall in love and go crazy for the brand.
This is where presence is important. How the brand tells its story by creating an experience around the product. By tapping into the aspirational or inspirational lifestyle that will speak to your ideal audience. By drawing a line in the sand and embodying a characteristic that sends a clear message about your brand’s values and how it defines who a person is in the world through association. I usually share with clients a report that defines the archetypal nature of their brand so that storytelling can become more cohesive and consistent. It is understanding how your brand more clearly express, set themselves apart, and define themselves in the world. Ultimately it is about giving your customer a sense of place and motivating and inspiring people to their next level through your brand.
What are the common mistakes you have seen people make when they start a lifestyle brand? What can be done to avoid those errors?
Focusing on selling how great their product is and how great their accomplishments are instead of putting the consumer at the center of the brand experience. Many years ago when Apple was struggling as a brand to stand out in the market, they discovered that the shift to what is called “product-less marketing” had a bigger impact on sales. They focused on telling stories that articulated the desires and aspirations of their customers without even talking about the product. Stories that inspired them to THINK DIFFERENT.
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?
Get clear on the journey that you want to take your consumers on. You have to know your ideal client and what drives them. It is not about convincing the market that your product is great. It is about motivating the market to feel great about being associated with your brand. It is about them telling their own story and showing the world who they are through your brand. It is not an outdated concept “PUT THE CUSTOMER FIRST”. You have to get clear what it will take to create that type of connection and motivation that draws people in. That requires an intimate knowledge of who you will serve and the community you plan to create around your brand.
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.)
Here are the five things you need to know to create a successful lifestyle brand:
- Clear mission and movement that goes beyond offering a great product and service and will speak to the heart and soul of your ideal client. Apple’s mission was to create a computer that was easy to use. A computer that integrated style and usability. They invite us to think different. Think outside the box. Think outside the status quo.
- A defined tribe/archetypal group of people your brand will serve and their values. Harley Davidson is for the rebel at heart. The explorer. The one who doesn’t want to be boxed in. Those who ultimately value FREEDOM.
- Empower your customer. Nike is great at that. They inspire their customers to believe that greatness is in them. That everyone is an athlete. They tell great stories to show that you too can be a hero. You can be great if you JUST DO IT.
- Make Your Customer’s life better. Peloton is a great example of this. Their fitness machine is the total package giving you an at the gym experience in the comfort of your home. Complete with fitness instructors and music.The instructors have become celebrities with their own tribe within the Peloton community i.e. Robin Arzon whose tribe is called “Sweat with Swagger.” They have made working out more than a daily routine but a community. A thing that cool people do. This adds value in terms of convenience and wellbeing all wrapped in one innovative product.
- Live Your Culture. Live Your Brand. Successful lifestyle brands don’t just have catchy taglines and great storytelling. The brand is a culture, a way of being. The brand is the lifestyle. Think Different is what Apple does, how it creates products and services and how it invites customers to experience the brand.
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.
My movement invites people to LIVE THE CULTURED LIFE™. It is about realizing that you can take sandy grains (little ideas, untapped potential) and turn it into lustrous pearls. When people believe and take action from a space of knowing that they can culture their life and as cliche as this may sound that “the world is your oyster”, you can do anything and achieve anything including creating a world-class brand. The more people who believe in their own power to transform any idea into something lustrous, something that will add value to the world, the more we will advance positively as a humanity. So I always say, Live the Cultured Life.
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.
Yes absolutely. I would love to have lunch with Sara Blakely. First, I believe we would laugh a lot but most of all exchange a lot of ideas. I love the brand she has built in the world and the courage she had to pursue her dream full on to create that level of expansion and impact through her philanthropy. I also know that I have some great ideas that I could share with her on taking things to a whole new level.
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.