LIFESTYLE BRANDS-MICHAEL AND RALPH
Lifestyle brands are some of my favorites. They have an appeal, often an aesthetic, that binds all their products and services into a higher-level idea called lifestyle. The definition of a lifestyle brand is best when it is the founding definition. When a brand achieves this status, they will have three characteristics in common:
They have a devoted following
They get a premium price
They have a road map for new product development
Lifestyle brands do have a little thin ice, but if they enjoy the devoted following, they get forgiveness.
A young chef named Michael Chiarello made the Napa restaurant Tre Vigne a hot place to go while visiting The Valley. He excelled at creating dishes that were at the intersection of Italian and Napa Valley cuisine.
He created NapaStyle as a way to extend his idea. He offers everything from cookbooks (naturally) to furniture-indoor and outdoor- to kitchenware, wines, home accessories, you name it. There is a breezy casualness about his brand that takes advantage of the culture of wine, the design orientation of Italian products and the laid back aura of the Napa Valley.
A particular aesthetic for him is furniture made from used wine barrels. Just when you think he has run through all the possibilities of wine barrel furniture, the next catalog will have something new.
You may have never thought that you would want to drink a chair, but his are mighty tasty looking.
This is one of the pinnacles of a lifestyle brand. This brand and its sub brands are the most consistent representation of the classic American lifestyle. He can sell men’s clothing, women’s clothing, paint at Home Depot, furniture, home accessories, sports clothing, books about Ralph’s antiques car collection, fabrics, merchandise at discount outlets, etc.
NOTE: Ralph’s discount store program actually may be somewhat of an aspirational customer strategy.
The whole brand drips of the lifestyle of the casually rich of the east coast. Sailboats, polo matches, mansions, who wouldn’t want to be perceived like this?
Here’s another example of his brand consistency. The Laurens-mom, dad, son- all look like Ralph Lauren models. A little jokey, but true.
The first time I recall seeing a Ralph ad was one of a black and white of Ralph himself getting out a car in a pinstriped suit and a light grey tie. It didn’t have a price. I bought the suit. And the tie. Over 30 years ago. I still wear them. I don’t look the same but the suit does.
You can think of brands like these in another way. When you wear Polo with Ralph’s polo player or buy Michael’s wine barrel end tables, what you are probably doing is trying to reflect to others that you’re in a taste-maker club.