How to Build a Business of Aspiration

Brand Innovation

In an age of productivity, formulas and life hacks, we can be led to believe there are guidelines and paths to ensure success. If we have not yet succeeded, we’re simply following the wrong path right? Whether you are building a new brand or cultivating a more mature one, the truth is you are carving a brand new path. No two businesses share the same story. All you really have are unique experiences, intuition and the ability to seek, learn, apply and discard knowledge along the way.

Lifestyle brands are nothing new, they’re the fictional narratives which traditionally play up to our aspirations and fears. Classic success stories include:

- Coca-Cola’s sunny, youthful, good times.

- Harley Davidson’s rebel spirit, perceived access to freedom and an outsiders club.

- Apple’s superior tech which enhances your perceived reputation and empowers you to fulfil your creative potential.

Just because these brands successfully fabricated a lifestyle to sell more soft drinks, motorcycles or computers — their success may not necessarily be attributed to a superior product, but they do share a common thread. Each of these lifestyle brands were (or are) consistent in their brand promise, their communication and at delivering that promise. This is how leading lifestyle brands successfully build trust and loyalty.

Is my brand a lifestyle brand, should it be one?

Why would someone choose your brand over a competitor? If you answer this confidently, chances are you have a well positioned lifestyle brand, or your business may not require lifestyle brand status. If you struggle to answer this question, developing a brand promise will be a game changer.

Lifestyle brands have the ability to cultivate more than profits. They’re a force to create community, advance causes, challenge the status quo, explore ideas and connect like minded people. Much of this would not be possible without profits but in recent years lifestyle brands have increasingly higher market value. So when is the best time to evolve a brand into a lifestyle brand? Differentiating your brand early and building upon a defined foundation is more cost effective than reconsidering and inserting a promise later. The time to re-imagine your brand is always now.

The business of aspiration — a foundation.

Building a brand promise based on values and beliefs means it doesn’t matter what competitors are doing, this is your brand’s path to carve. A foundation acts as a self made map to navigate decisions for both the brand and your people/customers. That’s not to suggest you operate in a silo. Below are 7 ideas, each a topic in itself, to cross check how your brand holds-up and dive deeper where you find blind spots:

1. The promise

What beliefs and values were your company born from? Why does it exist, who are you making that promise to and why is it important?


2. What are the brand’s ethical boundaries and responsibilities?

What does the brand stand for? How are you leading by example and proving it? Solidify these internally, then experiment with ways to demonstrate your brand ethics. Patagonia has an activism page on their site, sharing causes which matter to them and empowering their community to learn and get involved. Global communities and accreditations for businesses beyond profit are growing sectors. A good place to start is B Corp and 1% for the Planet (another Patagonia venture). These communities challenge businesses of all sizes to be the best version of themselves and helpfully highlight ethical and sustainable weak spots.


3. Without defined values you’ll blend in

Authentic values means there’s nothing to fake, make them as ambitious, grand or noble as you see fit. Imagine there are three European airline providers. One values low cost, one eco travel and one luxury travel. Each brand will be shaped by their values to resonate with the people they matter to. In today’s busy sectors it’s not enough to simply choose a product or service as your difference.


4. Delivering on a brand promise

How you choose to share your promise is what makes you stand out. Defining your brand’s positioning will uncover your market sweet spot. You don’t have to be the first in a category, but you do need to be the first to come to mind. Work on a consistent strategic approach; when put in practice this will demonstrate your brand’s commitment. People like to be committed to those who are committed to them.


5. Defining a niche

Having defined a brand promise, values and positioning, your niche should become clear. Globalisation and the internet have made it easy to reach huge audiences (at a price), and although the ‘mass’ marketing method is popular, is it really the best method? How many people actually care and are willing to engage? Maybe it’s time to abandon wide sweeping marketing tactics, and focus in. Connect and speak directly to your people. What are you doing to build and nurture relationships? How do you wish the brands you like would reach out and connect with you?


6. Community

If you’re growing disillusioned with social platforms’ unethical practices, what are the alternatives to reach people? Existing and new categories are ever evolving so be experimental. Explore places to share valuable content like Substack, mutually beneficial partnerships and nurturing fans before customers. Our partners AndCo have a WhatsApp group specifically for their London audience. A brand’s community needn’t start from scratch: what are your industry’s and customers’ existing watering holes? Consider how your brand can participate within existing communities and add value.


7. The loop

A promise > communication > action > repeat. Leading lifestyle brands are those who are able to align what they think, say and do. Deliver on your promise, again and again, you will build trust. Underdeliver, you will have churn. Over deliver, again and again, you will build repeat business and referrals.

Here are 7 ideas to develop a lifestyle brand, and put it through its paces. This is not a seven steps to a successful lifestyle brand post. There is no silver bullet, the brands you admire became admirable through time and experimentation. Start by cutting the noise and returning to your brand’s truth. Aspirational brands communicate what they think and do, not what they think they should be saying and doing. Let’s build brands for people and communities we love. Genuine value and aspiration can only come from something that is true.