Jean-Philippe Brousseau of Phone Loops: “Include your consumers in the experience”

Include your consumers in the experience: A big part of what’s happening in commerce is keeping up with the trends and collective communication and staying relevant. For example, selfies and social media enable your customers to participate in the experience and add a new, more dynamic dimension. It’s a way for people to become part […]

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Include your consumers in the experience: A big part of what’s happening in commerce is keeping up with the trends and collective communication and staying relevant. For example, selfies and social media enable your customers to participate in the experience and add a new, more dynamic dimension. It’s a way for people to become part of your 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 JP Brousseau.

JP is the CEO and founder of Phone Loops, a DTC cellphone accessory company which has been featured Dragon’s Den (L’oeil du dragon, it’s the French Canadian version). They have worked with clients such as Disney, Netflix and Microsoft on their corporate side (these businesses buy Loops as a promotional item).

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”?

Hi everyone. Thank you for having me. I’m a 32-year-old Canadian entrepreneur coming from Québec. As a graduate of the University of Sherbrooke in mechanical engineering, I worked as a consultant in numerous industries for six years. It helped me apply and grow my knowledge and skills in design, manufacturing, and organizational performance. I also did tutoring as a part-time job in college for about five years during the same period. I ended up with expertise in project management and product development. As I had never operated a business before Phone Loops, I started it slowly while working other jobs. It is my earliest entrepreneurial attempt, but indeed not my first business idea.

Can you tell us the story of what led you to this particular career path?

When it comes to handling smartphones, I’ve got quite the butterfingers. I accidentally broke more than my fair share of screens over the years, whether I was using a case or not. After a while, the bills started piling up, and in 2013 I finally set out to find a solution. Little did I know this attempt ended up turning my life upside down and earned me my own full-time job.

It all started when I was visiting a friend in Montreal. While having a drink at the local pub, I took a straw and clasped it between my phone and its case to act as a kickstand. It worked. I realized that the problem was not the user but the phone itself. It is too light, too thin, too slippery, too expensive and valuable to drop over and over. After that, I made a prototype for my friends and family. They all gave me a great feedback, so I decided to crowdfund it.

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 starting out, I was the one that did all the publishing on our webpage and socials. However, as time went on, the work took a toll on me, and I made a few minor mistakes. One of the silliest was when I didn’t check the link before I published the article. I believe you had at least once clicked on links from specific sites only to be taken to a “404 NOT FOUND” page. In my case, I was so focused on creating engaging and informative content that I didn’t think twice to check the link to make sure it works before publishing it. What’s funny is that the link was the main point of the article, and it didn’t make much sense without it. Luckily for me, I had devoted friends who continuously followed my progress, so they informed me of it before it was too late. Even though it wasn’t a big problem, this event made me realize that it was time to expand my company and hire more staff.

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?

There is one book that helped me grow and understand industry better as an eCommerce business owner, and that is “Principles,” by Ray Dalio. It is a genuine philosophical and practical toolkit for entrepreneurs where he shares incredible ideas and maps out attractive models to manage a business. Dalio believes that in order to succeed, you need to develop personal and business operating principles. I especially liked the idea of facing the past, analyzing problems and weaknesses. His book expresses a degree of personal humility, and the point he makes about the credibility of people struck home with me.

I often reflect on his ‘five-step process to get what you want out of life’. It starts with having a clear goal, followed by recognizing the problems that stand in the way of you achieving it. After that, it’s finding the root of the issues, making plans to get through them, and, finally, doing what’s necessary to reach the goal. I apply this method whenever I feel like I’ve reached a dead end, business-wise, or in general.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

My ultimately favorite life lesson quote is: “You might be winning, but you’re not growing, and growing might be the most important form of winning.” by Jordan Peterson.

It helped me to always strike for more, business-wise, or in general. Being your own boss has its perks, but I often found myself get lost in the daily tasks that I forgot why I started this whole business in the first place. When I focus on growing, it opens up a different perspective that helps me think of ideas that wouldn’t normally occur to me.

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?

My view of a lifestyle brand is a business that markets its products or services to embody the interests, opinions, and attitudes of a group or a culture. Lifestyle brands seek to guide, inspire, and motivate people. Their goal is to contribute to the definition of the consumer’s way of life through their products. Companies often operate off an ideology, hoping to attract a relatively high number of people and ultimately becoming a recognized social phenomenon.

Products come and go, but our underlying journey to find ourselves and become the people we’ve always wanted to be can remain the same for decades. That is the difference between a regular and a lifestyle brand. Through lifestyle brands, companies market an experience and vision to a customer, whilst typical brands offer just an item.

What are the benefits of creating a lifestyle brand?

There are several types of lifestyle brands. Some might be that of a larger business, and others are individual-centered. However, in case you’re considering the latter, there is one great reason you may want to market your lifestyle: you can be your true, authentic self. Those who create a lifestyle brand don’t have to do much in order to be valued. They are not obligated to act a certain way, wear a particular type of apparel, or in any other way abide by all the regulations and rules that typically come with working in a larger, more rigid enterprise. They get to be the unique individual they are, and that’s more than special enough.

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?

When it comes to creating successful lifestyle brands, there is a tall order to fill, so it helps to look at a few businesses doing it right. The one that impresses me the most is Apple. If you’ve ever visited their website or a store, you know you get exactly the experience you’d expected — a simple, clean, and ingenious world of innovation. What impresses me the most is that almost all Apple users remain loyal throughout their life and even become advocates or ambassadors for the brand. Not many companies can do that. The technology they offer might have changed over the years, but the lifestyle they promise remains the same. Their brand philosophy has always been ‘Think Different,’ and they seem to deliver precisely that. One example was when all personal computers were gray and dull, so Apple came out with the fun and colorful iMac. Therefore, if you want to replicate some of their success, the first step is to find something that makes you unique and act on that. It works because people find it smart, innovative, clever, and creative.

Can you share your ideas about how to create a lifestyle brand that people really love and are ‘crazy about’?

Lifestyle brand marketing is about uncovering what kind of person your consumer wants to be and then giving them the tools they need to achieve it. Regardless of which type of lifestyle brand you’re trying to create, you have to build an online presence. To do so, you should create and post content on a daily basis. It is essential that content aligns with your brand’s theme and is native to each platform. Also, make sure to have posts that include other people, brands, or companies. Whether it be as simple as a picture or as detailed as an interview, it can increase your credibility and add more viewers to both you and the person highlighted in your post. It takes a lot of hard work, so be patient. Eventually, everything you put into your brand, from your purpose to your name, needs to represent the vision you’re trying to portray. Your identity altogether should be a representation of the kind of personality your customer wants to embrace.

What are the common mistakes you have seen people make when they start a lifestyle brand? What can be done to avoid those errors?

The usual mistakes I see people make when it comes to starting a lifestyle business are:

  • Recreating someone else’s lifestyle: Sometimes, it is hard to develop a concept of what your lifestyle brand should look like, so a few people try to base theirs on existing, prosperous ones. Even if you share the same interests and ideals, it’s hardly going to be successful. The reason is because it’s their unique story, so they have years of experience on their side.
  • Having great expectations: I believe that with hard work, you can have it all, but not all at once. It is a rare case to accomplish a lot when just starting out. Like I’ve said, building a strong lifestyle brand is hard, so don’t get discouraged and give up on the first try.

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?

If you’ve decided on your lifestyle brand concept, the first step you should take is to develop a memorable and engaging story that sells the lifestyle you plan to offer. You can start by addressing a problem you know your consumer wants to resolve. After that, find ways to highlight how your company, product, or services can help to overcome said challenges in an authentic and trustworthy manner. The best way to connect with your audience is to engage on the platform they most often visit daily. Remember that your focus should be on creating content that will resonate with your customers on an emotional level.

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 my five tips and tricks you can use to help you create a very successful lifestyle brand:

  1. Keep a friendly tone: The term ‘lifestyle’ is about storytelling and engaging with people through conversation. Even though you should keep it professional, make sure your voice is also clear and friendly.
  2. Strive for unique concepts: Today, customers usually have a smart approach to buying goods. We’re in this day and age where information is at everyone’s fingertips through the Internet, social media, or apps. As a founder, you have to be quick and creative to get people excited.
  3. Include your consumers in the experience: A big part of what’s happening in commerce is keeping up with the trends and collective communication and staying relevant. For example, selfies and social media enable your customers to participate in the experience and add a new, more dynamic dimension. It’s a way for people to become part of your brand.
  4. Choose brand partners and networks wisely: Quality relationships are vital to any lifestyle brand. You should examine the companies working within your target market’s culture and carefully chose who to “befriend.” Networks you associate with can bring good opportunities for your business, such as further entrench.
  5. Boost your online presence: The fact is you cannot be present on all social media, nor will such dissipation bring the desired results. The best strategy you can implement is to focus on the media your target audience uses the most and have a relatively decent one on the rest.

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.

Well, if I could inspire such a movement, it would definitely be about global warming. Our modern industrial economy is based on using techniques that hurt the environment and human health. We need to balance the economic good this creates with the harm it does to ourselves and future generations. The exact balance depends on how damaging people think pollution is, how bad global warming will be, and how much they want to benefit from an industrial economy. I believe that with the current attitude, we won’t be able to save our planet and ourselves from the collapsed nature. If everyone did as little as possible, we could at least prolong the life privileges we are now having.

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.

If I were given an opportunity of meeting someone from the big industry, I would love it to be Jordan Peterson. His podcast is a big favorite of our team members. Peterson’s thoughts and ideas really help us make sense of what’s going on with the world at the moment. Watching his videos on politics, social justice, and post-modernism, not to mention his academic lectures on psychology and philosophy, has had a considerable impact on my thinking over the past few years. I try to live by his points, such as aiming to do what is meaningful, not convenient, and taking responsibility for myself, my actions, and my surroundings. His book “12 Rules For Life” really made his views get to me. I think he’s remarkably intelligent, insightful, and he represents a conservative intellectual voice that is very needed in today’s discourses.

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.

You’re welcome! I hope I’ve been of help.

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