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Jo Barnes of Your Lifestyle Business: “Know how to engage your audience with your brand”

Know how to engage your audience with your brand. One of the most significant determinants of a lifestyle brand is its engagement with the consumer. Or, more accurately, in its consumers’ engagement with the brand. In my example of the ‘Live a Great Story’ brand, their social media comprises pictures and stories from their customers more […]

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Know how to engage your audience with your brand. One of the most significant determinants of a lifestyle brand is its engagement with the consumer. Or, more accurately, in its consumers’ engagement with the brand.

In my example of the ‘Live a Great Story’ brand, their social media comprises pictures and stories from their customers more than from the brand itself. This audience interaction adds trust and encourages virality and word of mouth marketing, which is the essence of a lifestyle brand.

How can you actively encourage users to get involved in your brand? For example, Starbucks regularly runs contests asking customers to upload photos of them with their favorite Starbucks drink. Aerie has it’s own hashtag #aeriereal, encouraging women of all shapes and sizes to upload pictures in their Aerie clothing. The Nike training apps allow you to share goals and achievements with friends and people you meet online.


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 Jo Barnes.

Jo Barnes is the founder of Your Lifestyle Business, a blog dedicated to empowering solopreneurs to build a business they can run from anywhere in the world. As a globe-trotting lifestyle entrepreneur Jo has explored 30+ countries in the last ten years while building six & seven-figure online businesses and is currently locked down in Thailand. 😎🏝


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”?

Sure! Thanks so much for the opportunity to be part of your interview series! Born in the South of England, I went the usual route of school & college but chose the University of life rather than higher education. Convinced I would become a pop star, I won a local Karaoke competition, which started a stint as a singer, DJ, and entertainment Manager. It was clear I was drawn more to the management side and built a ten-year career as a concert venue & Theatre Manager, which took me all over the UK. My Dad, however, was an entrepreneur, and when I was younger, we’d dream up business opportunities we could potentially run together. I didn’t know it, but the seed had been sown, and I was destined to start my own business. Constantly moving around the UK in my job had ignited a desire for travel, and so finding a way to build a business while traveling the world became my mission, and now my life’s story!

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

From the moment we met, my partner & I shared a dream of chasing the sun around the world. Living in the wintry and dreary UK, we were desperate to find a way to realize that dream. As chance would have it, we became great friends with a guy who lived in Cyprus with his girlfriend and worked online. Intrigued by what he did, we took a short holiday to visit him and started to learn all about what was then called Internet Marketing.

Some months later, he & his girlfriend were going traveling around Europe and were looking for house sitters. We sold everything we owned within a week, packed three bags, and with our 4-year-old daughter under our arm, headed to Cyprus. That was over ten years and 35 countries ago!

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?

Back then, the internet in Cyprus was terrible. But part of growing our online business was holding online seminars, otherwise known as webinars. On my first public webinar, which had attracted around 100 people, I had so many technical hitches due to the internet speed; it was an absolute disaster. As the webinar ended and I thought I’d switched it off, I swore loudly to my partner, ‘well that was a ****** disaster, wasn’t it,’ to which my computer started to ding furiously as the 80 or so people left on the webinar were writing ‘you’re still live and we can still hear you!’.

I quickly apologized and tried to turn the webinar off but couldn’t! I had to enlist an audience member’s help to come on live and walk me through switching the webinar platform off! The positive result was the stream of emails and messages I received afterward from people telling me how encouraging it was that I’d messed up so publicly, and if I could do it, they could also!

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?

On the way back from our first visit to Cyprus, I read Tim Ferriss ‘Four Hour Work Week’. It was the catalyst for change. I had no idea you could build an entire business online and hire a remote team from anywhere in the world. The thought of living right now as you would in retirement was such an exciting prospect to me. Why wait!

I think I finished the whole book on that one flight and have read it a few times since. By the time we got home, I was more convinced than ever that we could build a business to support the lifestyle we wanted to become accustomed to and fulfill our dream of traveling around the world.

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

Don’t take life too seriously; you’ll never get out alive!’ I am a quote junkie and could choose from a million quotes, to be honest. Another favorite is ‘be the reason someone smiles today.’ But the first one has been my skype quote since I can remember, and it epitomizes my attitude to life. Building a lifestyle business is about doing something you love every day of your life and generating an income from it that supports the lifestyle you want to live. It’s not about high-stress start-ups or VC funding, so you’re up to your eyeballs in debt from day one. It’s not about sacrificing everything now so you can reap the rewards later. It’s about sucking the juice out of life and enjoying every single day. Don’t get me wrong, I’m well aware of the serious issues happening around the world today, but our attitude to life determines our outcomes and the impact we can have on people worse off than ourselves. Fill your bucket first and then spend life filling the buckets of others, all with a huge smile on your face!

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?

So I talk a lot about a ‘lifestyle business,’ which is about building a business that funds your lifestyle. But the best way to do this and get maximum enjoyment is to create a lifestyle brand.

A lifestyle brand is built around a set of belief systems rather than just products and services. A lifestyle brand will capture the imagination of its audience. It will focus on what it believes, not what it does. It will naturally attract people who share those beliefs and, as such, will connect at a deeper, more emotional level. And because alifestyle brandhas a higher purpose beyond its products and services, its goal is to contribute meaningfully to its customer’s lives, which results in a far higher level of engagement and customer interaction than a ‘normal’ brand.

In simple terms, a typical brand focuses on what they do. A lifestyle brand focuses on what they believe.

What are the benefits of creating a lifestyle brand?

First and foremost, what can be better than living each day to inspire, add value, and help people feel better about themselves? Secondly, by focusing on your higher purpose, you’ll set yourself apart from your competition.

Imagine two companies selling candles. One talks about relaxation, meditation, how to rid yourself of anxiety and achieve ultimate peace of mind, and ‘by the way, here are our luxurious candles which enhance the results.’ The other just sells candles. They may both sell the same candles, but the first company stands head & shoulders above their competing brand because they offer so more than just candles.

A lifestyle brand also offers you, as the creator, an opportunity to turn your passions into profits. To build something you believe in and to create a movement, not just a business.

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?

There are many examples of giant companies that have built lifestyle brands by promoting beliefs before products including, Apple (simplicity), Dove (body empowerment), Nike (action taking), and my all-time favorite Redbull (high octane thrills).

But I’d like to talk about a smaller brand. The ecommerce company ‘Live a Great Story’ have built their business around their beliefs that we should all ‘live a great story.’ Selling stickers, flags, t-shirts, caps, and other apparel, the brand’s whole ethos is that we, the customer, take pictures of ourselves brandishing their message while telling our story all over their website and social media accounts.

They’ve connected with an audience who believe in what they believe, which is to ‘craft our own journey, be true to ourselves and make a unique and meaningful impact,’ and in doing so, the audience they’re building tell the world about them!

What specifically impresses me is that they’ve turned what is essentially nothing more than selling t-shirts, stickers, and mugs into a movement that connects at a far deeper level.

To replicate, you need to start with what you believe. What’s the higher purpose of your brand, and is there a community of people who share your world views?

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

Start with why!

Why do you want to build your brand? What is it you want to achieve? What problem do you want to solve? What impact do you want to make? How can you connect with your audience at a deeper level?

If your focus is purely financial, the chances of you building a lifestyle brand are slim unless struck with inspiration as you grow. To build a brand that people love is to create a story that people believe in and that by association makes them feel better about themselves.

Dove, as an example, sells soap and shower gel. But what it really sells is body positivity! By using Dove products, we buy into the story of loving our bodies no matter the shape or size. We believe in women helping women and the overall movement of female empowerment. It’s so much more than shower gel.

What’s your story? How can you create or tap into a larger movement?

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 biggest challenge facing lifestyle entrepreneurs is understanding what their target audience truly wants and needs. To connect at an emotional level, you have to get deep inside your customer’s psyche.

Too many brands still focus on demographics such as age, gender, or location. But with 60 being the new 30 and location being ‘online,’ far more important these days are psychographics.

Instead, we should be asking what our target market believes. What are their pain points, and what motivates or inspires them? We need to know what potentially holds our customers back and how our brand can meet their emotional needs.

Never stop questioning, surveying, and exploring your customer’s interests and behaviors. The better you know them, the deeper you can connect.

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 is to get very clear on the reasons for starting your brand. Join groups, forums, and communities and talk to the people you think may make up your audience. What do they believe? Do their beliefs align with yours? Is there a big enough community looking for a brand like yours to add to or improve their lives?

Once you have that clarity, define your message and brand identity. ‘Redbull gives you wings’ is synonymous with extreme sports and high-octane thrills. If you look at their Instagram or Facebook, their posts are videos & images of stunts and crazy antics by thrill-seekers. That is their brand identity.

My brand is about physical and financial freedom. I use images of beaches, beautiful sunsets, and spectacular scenery from all the places I’ve traveled. My message is that by engaging with my brand, you too could work from anywhere in the world doing what you love!

Brand identity isn’t necessarily about your logo or color scheme. It’s about your message and what you stand for.

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.)

  1. Know Your Higher Purpose

Bill Gates didn’t set out to become one of the richest men in the world. His goal was ‘a computer on every desk and in every home’. Many people thought he was out of his mind. Nowadays, just think about what’s in your pocket or where you’re reading this article.

Having a passionate higher purpose isn’t just about connecting with your audience. It’s what will keep you going in the dark moments. Your higher purpose will become the very reason you jump out of bed every morning and the strength you need to overcome adversity.

Building a brand is a tough job. Sure, it’s fun & exciting, but it can also be arduous and highly challenging. Give yourself every chance of success by developing a strong reason why you want to start your brand.

2. Know your ideal target audience intimately.

To define your message and your brand identity, you need to understand your target markets’ lifestyle. What are they inspired by? What motivates them versus what keeps them up at night?

As I said before, don’t just focus on age or gender, which are increasingly becoming less important as technology and attitudes change.

It doesn’t matter if you’re nine or ninety to Nike. Whether you’re a man or a woman, white or black, able-bodied, or with a disability, it’s irrelevant. What do you believe? Do you love sport? Do you want to reach your full potential? Do you think you can do it?

You need to explore your ideal audience’s psyche and discover their world views, understand their aspirations, and get to know their values. If you want your brand to become a part of their culture, you’ll need to understand how they think and feel.

3. Know the emotions you want your audience to feel when they come across your brand

When people come across my brand, I literally want them to feel the wind of freedom whipping through their hair. I want them to breathe deeply, get excited, visualize what financial and physical freedom means to them, and imagine it’s all happening right now.

What do you want your audience to feel when they find your brand on social media or your website? What emotions and thoughts do you want to evoke? What will your audience experience when engaging with your brand?

Whenever I roll out my mat in front of the TV, ready to do twenty minutes of Yoga With Adriene, who now has over 8.8 million subscribers, I begin to feel a sense of calm and acceptance almost before I start one of her videos. Such is each experience I have with her. She makes me feel like I’m excellent at Yoga (even though I’m not), that I’m at one with my body, that I deserve the time on the mat, and that even when I can’t do one of the moves, that’s ok. I’m still fabulous, just as I am.

Wow! All that from a few YouTube yoga sessions? That’s the power of a lifestyle brand.

What’s your message? What colors are you using? What images or videos represent your brand? What language or tone do you use?

Other great examples include; Coca Cola, red, white, upbeat, and happy. Nike, black and white, powerful and intense. Redbull, heart-stopping. Starbucks, cozy. Dove, empowering.

How do you want someone to describe your brand?

4. Know how to define your message in your content

Don’t just create a byline or brand mission statement and be done with it. Your content needs to live your message!

Redbull started life as a sugary energy drink sold on the streets of Bangkok. It’s original name ‘Krating Daeng’ literally translates to Red Bull (or Bison). In its early days’ Thai men believed the taurine within the drink to come from bull testicles giving it a magical aura of strength and masculinity. This underlying message paired well with extreme sports in Europe, and ever since, the brand has associated itself with high energy, proprietary sports events.

It’s byline ‘Redbull gives you wings’ is demonstrated repeatedly with videos of ski jumping, motorbike stunts, cliff diving, and wingsuiting. The brand lives and breathes its message in all its content.

Define your brand message even if only for you, create your byline, and then demonstrate it consistently in everything you produce and publish online. Show don’t tell.

5. Know how to engage your audience with your brand

One of the most significant determinants of a lifestyle brand is its engagement with the consumer. Or, more accurately, in its consumers’ engagement with the brand.

In my example of the ‘Live a Great Story’ brand, their social media comprises pictures and stories from their customers more than from the brand itself. This audience interaction adds trust and encourages virality and word of mouth marketing, which is the essence of a lifestyle brand.

How can you actively encourage users to get involved in your brand? For example, Starbucks regularly runs contests asking customers to upload photos of them with their favorite Starbucks drink. Aerie has it’s own hashtag #aeriereal, encouraging women of all shapes and sizes to upload pictures in their Aerie clothing. The Nike training apps allow you to share goals and achievements with friends and people you meet online.

All of these strategies work to put the customer front and center and embody the brand’s beliefs before the promotion of its products and services.

Your goal is to involve your audience with your brand and deliver a valuable and inspirational experience with every interaction.

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 love to bring more attention to the Micro Lending movement. After reading the book Half the Sky by award-winning journalists Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, I have become obsessed with micro-lending. The basic premise is that many people lend small amounts of money collectively to women in developing countries to help them build small businesses that transform the lives of their family, their children, and in many cases, their entire village. It’s like a modern-day version of the old proverb ‘Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.’

With micro-lending, you’re assisting in developing a supply chain that benefits more than just the person you’re lending to. Plus, the money gets paid back! Meaning you can continue to lend to more and more people.

The not-for-profit organization Kiva.org which specializes in micro-lending around the world offers the opportunity to create your own branded lending teams to promote the movement proactively without setting up all the intricate financial systems and relationships with NGO’s etc. I have a lending team called Micro Angels, which I promote via my business.

If you’d love to be making a more significant difference in the world and are unsure where to start, start with Kiva.org!

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’d love to spend some time with Peter Diamandis and Ray Kurzweil. I’m sure I wouldn’t understand half of what they’d talk about, but I find their views and attitudes on longevity and the future of AI fascinating, and I’d love to know more about what we can do to extend our lifespan! The future is so captivating, ‘I want to live forever!’ As Freddie Mercury would say!

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


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