top of page

I Don't Want Your Product. (I Want Your Lifestyle)

I don’t want any more stuff. My apartment is full, and my cats eventually chew everything they can get their mouths around. My shopping list is small, but my donate list is long. When people ask me what they should buy me for Christmas or my birthday, I often suggest they buy me tickets to events or travel points. I am more interested in the experiential aspects of life rather than the accumulation of more things, and I think many of my generation would agree with me. The next generation of buyers could care less about the newest features or flashy logos. There is one aspect that will tip the scale and make the younger generation perk up their ears. It’s whether or not that product or item will allow them to live a better life. Not an easier or more convenient life, but a profound and meaningful life. My generation seeks meaning in the things they own and sees new lifestyles through the items they purchase.

Let me explain…

The Lifestyle Economy

When I go to the store and look around at the products being sold, I put on an internalized drama in my head. I see myself using that item or wearing a certain garment, and if the scene that follows matches the ideal life I am looking for, then I am more likely to buy that product. If it sounds like mental illness, that’s because it probably is. Blame it on a life spent consuming Folgers ads and Pepsi Commercials.

What this means for your business is that to tap into this and encourage a younger generation to buy your product, you need to establish the lifestyle associated with the product. If you want to sell a candle, you aren't selling the features of the candle; you are selling the way the candle looks lit on a snowy Christmas morning. If you are selling Athletic Gear, you are selling the patented flex waist material; you are selling the feeling of crossing the finish line of your first marathon with your dad. You are making a promise to your customer that by buying the product, you are by extension buying access to a new life or experience.

A man Crosses the finish line after engaging with the runniing lifestyle for many months and using great products to help him get there.
If you are selling Athletic Gear, you are selling the patented flex waist material; you are selling the feeling of crossing the finish line of your first marathon with your dad.

Designing Lifestyle Apparel

As a small business, you should take some time to solidify and define your cultural image. Where are you located? Location is one of the largest cultural touchstones. If you operate in a city and most of your clientele is from the city, you will need to tap into city culture as your cultural identity. This can mean incorporating urban details, empathizing with urban struggles and problems, as well as building content and designs that resonate with that cultural demographic. If your business is from the mountains, you can use hiking, outdoors, and nature as your cultural imagery. These make up the building blocks of the lifestyle you will be selling.

Once you’ve defined your cultural image, you need to figure out how your product fits into that image. Do you take it on a hike? Does it look great during happy hour? Does it remind you of the trip you took last summer? The item needs to tell a story about your business and its connection to the culture at large. The product needs to act as a token that allows the client to participate and be a part of that story. A sweater that they will wear over and over because it feels like they are in a small-town Hallmark movie. A gray felt hat that makes them feel like they are a New York City media magnate.

Creating Lifestyle Content

Another set of tools you can use to tell the cultural narrative of your new lifestyle brand is social media. Your initial instinct when devising a social media plan is to create content more in line with an advertisement. Pushing the product first and letting the story be more of a punchline.

The truth is that no one wants to be sold to. No one wants to realize that they are being targeted by an algorithm or a marketing team. What I propose is putting your cultural story first. Tell about the experiences and lifestyles that define the world that surrounds your product, then let the client fill in the space where the sales pitch should be.

Using Lifestyle Content

So if you are a brewery and you want to push your merch instead of saying, “Here’s our new merch line,” you could create a video with the following:

A man on a hike with his fiance, The sun is hot but the vistas are beautiful. The man is strong and healthy but aging. They get to the top of the mountain and celebrate with a can of your new Sessions IPA. The last frame is on the man’s hat, and you see that it has a leather patch with the brewery logo. The man smiles and pulls out a pocket notebook, scratching off an item on the page, and says “12 down, 23 to go,” suggesting that he takes the hat with him on all his major hikes.

This one video could be a short film that then gets parsed down into multiple different formats for different platforms. Stills can be used for Instagram, and the script can be reworked to be used as a blog post. All this powerful suggestive content and not a single sales pitch.

A Group of Hikers on the Trail heading towards snowy peaks in the distance. Living a lifestyle of health and nature while using products to get them there.
The man smiles and pulls out a pocket notebook, scratching off an item on the page, and says “12 down, 23 to go,” - an Example of Lifestyle Content

In Conclusion

In a perfect world, we all would feel comfortable going out into the world and simply living our best lives, but we have rent to pay and jobs to work and various responsibilities, so we purchase conduits of better lives to feel closer to the lives we dream of. The business owner has an opportunity to sell lifestyles over just products. By telling better stories about the world of the product, not just the product itself, the business can allow the client to enter the cultural narrative of your business and briefly escape the responsibilities of their world and be a part of something bigger than themselves. We should strive to design products that not only serve a function but also act as props of a grand play that people strive to be a part of and give voice to their desires and dreams.


bottom of page