Build a solid foundation. Consider your financial investment in starting a new brand, as well as the time it will take to monetize it. Identify a path that will help you sustain what you’re building while also monetizing some aspect of it as soon as possible. Launch a product or service that requires little to minimal investment that you can start earning money on so you have some revenue coming in the door. This will help create a solid financial situation. Nothing feels worse than a diminishing bank account and little to no money coming in. You want to avoid that stress and diversion as much as possible so you can focus on what you do best.
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 Rachel Gogos.
As the Founder + CEO of brandiD, Rachel Gogos works with innovators and entrepreneurs to help them achieve their wildest business dreams by building their online presence and platform. brandiD is a soulful digital web agency that gets to the heart of who you are and builds your virtual brand and business around you. Before starting brandiD two of Rachel’s favorite jobs were working in communications at the United Nations and as a news copy editor at The Wall Street Journal.
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 was born and raised in Buffalo, NY to parents who had immigrated from Greece through Ellis Island! My first language was Greek since that was all we spoke at home. I quickly learned English but have always felt very connected to my Greek roots. My early life resembles the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding 😊. My family did and still does own a restaurant and I worked there for many years. Fun fact: The band from the My Big Fat Greek Wedding played at my wedding reception!
Can you tell us the story of what led you to this particular career path?
I’ve always been very entrepreneurial and had started businesses that involved working on the web before Google was a big thing. It’s just in my blood. I have a passion for people and marketing and personal branding, which is at the core of my work at brandiD and is the combination of those two things. Having worked in marketing and as a journalist in the past, brandiD was the perfect combination of my past work experiences and has really given me the ability to work in my talents. During my last job at another organization I read about the concept of personal branding in Time Magazine! That was 14 years ago and after getting certified by the pioneer in the field I launched brandiD.
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?
First starting and mistakes go together like chocolate and peanut butter. Looking back one funny one was the challenge of working from home with two children ages 3 and 1. I had a babysitter but my older daughter was loud. I can remember hiding in closets finishing up calls (this was before Zoom) so clients wouldn’t question my professionalism. Now that everyone is working from home interruptions for many people from kids or pets is just the norm. Nobody questions professionalism — there’s a lot more compassion out there today.
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?
Loved the book The Alchemist by Paolo Coelho. A huge lightbulb went off when I read it, which was that sometimes what you seek is exactly in front of you–it comes down to your lens on how you view life. What we seek is often in front of us but if our perspective is skewed or we are hungering for more we may not notice it. Life is truly about the journey to the destination.
As for Podcasts one of my all time favorites is How I Built This. The host Guy Roz interviews massively successful entrepreneurs whose origin stories are so inspiring. I listen to his show when I need a jolt of optimism, hope and resilience.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
I’ve always loved the quote, “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why,” by Mark Twain. I stumbled upon this quote a few years after I launched brandiD. I remember thinking “wow, this totally captures my journey.” I never felt settled in a job for longer than three years before brandiD. I often got bored and moved onto the next thing. Starting brandiD 13 years ago felt like I found my why. I found my place in the world. After being born finding your why is such a powerful moment in life.
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?
A lifestyle brand is a product or service that has a strong set of values or an ideology about a particular way of life. It’s a brand that stands for something and through its offering is hoping to improve or better the lives of their ideal audience / consumers.
What are the benefits of creating a lifestyle brand?
- You have a very strong alignment between what you do for a living and what you believe in. This is pure gold in life. What can be better than working from an authentic, deep part of yourself?
- Your customers or audience are committed to your product or service regardless of price because they believe in what you believe in.
- You have a massive opportunity to influence or support others who share the same ideology you do.
- When you work at something you are passionate about it doesn’t feel like work! This feeling leads to a sense of fulfillment and joy.
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?
Burt’s Bees — Started in the early 1980’s by bee keeper Burt Shavitz and innovative, creative friend, Roxanne Quimby, Burt’s Bees was all about being good to the earth and putting all natural, pure materials into their products. They started out with candles and eventually started making lip balms which in my opinion are some of the best balms out there! Today they have several hundred products for the body and maintain high quality standards and ethically produced products despite their current ownership from The Clorox Company. They use no parabens, no animal testing and are 95% all natural. Ingredients are ethically sourced and packaging is recycled. I am so impressed by their lasting impact on the planet and how massive their brand has grown and sustained itself for over 40 years and counting. They created and led the path to paraben free cosmetic products before that was a thing. Doing the right thing attracts loyalty because it makes a customer feel good about investing / spending money with a company that cares about the environment. Picking causes that are universally appealing can help sustain your business for the long-term while at the same time sustaining the good you’re putting into the world.
Can you share your ideas about how to create a lifestyle brand that people really love and are ‘crazy about’?
Building a sticky brand is the goal of many business owners. It’s risky business to create a lifestyle brand but the payout will all be worth it if you’re successful and I don’t mean just the financial payout but also the personal satisfaction of building something you care about and your loyal fans rave about is a business homerun and deeply satisfying!
- First start with uncovering what you are passionate about. What causes really move you and motivate you to take action? What problems do you want to solve? How do you want to improve the lives of others through what you’ve created? Get clear on that and you’ll tap into the fuel that will lead to your success.
- Second, get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Your business is going to have to take a very public, vocal stand about what you’re all about and why. Some people will be very turned off by your lifestyle brand while others will be magnetized by it. Lifestyle brands can often be polarizing–you either love them or avoid them. It takes guts and chutzpah to stand up and give voice to what you believe in.
- Third, incentive your customers to take action to support your cause. A great example of this is Tom’s Shoes and their buy a pair, give a pair OR one for one business model. I didn’t mind the higher price point on canvas shoes once I realized I was also donating a pair of shoes to someone in need when I purchased a pair. What a brilliant incentive!
What are the common mistakes you have seen people make when they start a lifestyle brand? What can be done to avoid those errors?
- They are so passionate about what they are offering that they forget or don’t consider best business practices. You can’t be so swept away by your idea that you don’t manage your money and cash flow.
- Watch how you grow–align yourself with partners who share similar principles and values as you do. Especially In the early days of building a brand you are guilty by association so be mindful of how a bigger brand can reflect on your own.
- Get crystal clear on who your ideal target market is and find innovative ways to connect with them and reach them.
- Don’t underestimate how long and how much effort it will take for you to build awareness of your brand. Positive press can help a lot and really speed up the process or the appearance on a show such as Shark Tank but most businesses take 7 to 10 years to become known in a space. You have to be ready to commit to a long-term roller coaster ride. It will have ups and downs but be so worth the ride.
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 your why. It will fuel you through the hard times and there will be hard times. It’s unavoidable 🙂
- Create a prototype and test it with your audience, if it’s a digital product do the same thing. Most of us think our ideas are really good so we are eager to dive in and start creating our solutions. I did this in a big way about 7 years ago with the launch of another virtual business for high school and college students. I created an incredible product, super useful and definitely filled a void in the world, but it also gave students a feeling of overwhelm. The most common feedback I got was this is great, but I don’t know where to start or how to get through all this content.
- Interview your ideal customers and really listen to the language they are using to define the problem they have that will lead them to buying your product or service. Also, listen to the language they use to describe what your product/service is. Once you zero in on that language use it in your marketing.
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.)
- Take the time to hone in on your personal brand. Dive deep to uncover your values, mission, vision and what you stand for. Your business brand and your personal brand are the same so it’s important to know who you are and what you’re made of. Think about Richard Branson and his company Virgin–the attributes of his personal brand and what we associate his business with are one in the same. Both are happy, risk-taking, colorful, fun-loving brands.
- Creating a very successful lifestyle brand takes time–lots of time. Being realistic at the get go about how much it will take will help you avoid discouragement and false expectations. It will also help you estimate how much time you need to commit to what you’re starting. There are some success stories that are outliers when it comes to timing but that’s not the norm. Do you remember Oprah’s favorite things from her daytime talk show? Anything on that show became an instant overnight hit because Oprah was a known, trusted and highly respected brand.
- Build a solid foundation. Consider your financial investment in starting a new brand, as well as the time it will take to monetize it. Identify a path that will help you sustain what you’re building while also monetizing some aspect of it as soon as possible. Launch a product or service that requires little to minimal investment that you can start earning money on so you have some revenue coming in the door. This will help create a solid financial situation. Nothing feels worse than a diminishing bank account and little to no money coming in. You want to avoid that stress and diversion as much as possible so you can focus on what you do best.
- Your customer should be your BFF. Deeply understanding who will buy your product or service will be the key that unlocks your effective marketing. You have to know and understand your customer intimately because it will help you figure out where to market and what to say to get their attention. Think about the brands you invest in, are they ubiquitous in your life? Do you see them in a few places–maybe your Facebook feed, or your friends mention them, or stores you shop in also support them too. That’s because those brands have taken the time to deeply understand you (their ideal customer) and tap into your psyche.
- Avoid being a one hit wonder–you need to always be thinking ahead and innovating your product or service. Stay on top of trends but don’t be trendy. Get involved with or connected to the influencers in your industry so you can be ahead of the curve as things shift and evolve. If you’re successful doing this over time you’ll become an industry influencer. Newbies will look to you to be the industry lighthouse. Starbucks was super successful with this approach. They started out as a small, local coffee chain in the state of Washington. Once Howard Shulz got involved and was inspired and educated from his coffee buying trips to Europe and in particular the cafe scene in Italy he wanted to bring that trend to the States. And, eventually he did! The rest is history.
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.
The Who Am I movement–Most go through life accepting what they’ve been taught, what they heard in the mainstream news or what they “should” do. Very few people actually take the time to figure out who they are and what motivates them to take action. I truly believe the more self aware we are the happier we are because we make choices proactively vs. accepting what’s coming our way. The energy and zest from people who are happier about their life can create an incredible ripple effect that emanates to family, friends, acquaintances and beyond. It all starts with answering the question Who am I? Getting clear on who you are and what motivates you helps guide decision making along the path of 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.
Sara Blakely! I admire her full life, her grit and perseverance. I think she is extremely humble and real. As the mother of two kids myself I look up to the fact that she is super successful at growing her business (maintaining full ownership) and is growing a thriving family at home. She is the ultimate role model for me.
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.