Philips Electronics India Ltd does not want to be known as a consumer electronics company any more. The company recently merged its consumer electronics and home appliances division, which has been rechristened Consumer Lifestyle division.
“We are changing our positioning to a lifestyle and health-care company,” says Gunjan Srivastava, director, consumer electronics, Philips India. Philips is not the only company embracing “lifestyle”.
Its rivals Samsung India Electronics Pvt. Ltd and LG Electronics India Ltd are also strengthening their lifestyle focus. LG’s high-end products such as frost-free refrigerators, automatic washing machines and flat-panel display television sets have all been branded as “lifestyle products”.
“We use the lifestyle tag for aspirational products that are upmarket and symbolize today’s consumers’ lifestyle,” says V. Ramachandran, director, sales and marketing,LG India.
The lifestyle phenomenon, in fact, has spread far and wide. In broadcasting, for example, there have been a flurry of new television channels pitching themselves as lifestyle entertainment channels. UTV, NDTV, Zee TV and INX have either launched or plan to launch channels under the lifestyle umbrella. NDTV Networks Plc., in fact, named one of its subsidiaries NDTV Lifestyle. The broadcaster has already launched one channel called ‘Good Times’ under the lifestyle banner and it plans to add three to five more to it.
“India’s urban paradigm is changing with the majority of our population getting younger, more affluent and spending a lot on living better, whether it may be on dining out, vacations, wellness, gadgets or fashion,” says Smeeta Chakrabarti, CEO, NDTV Lifestyle. “Through our lifestyle channels we aim to chronicle this change in the society and also give viewers more of what they are seeking.”
Similarly, on the retail front, Reliance Retail Ltd plans to position its outlets in metros as lifestyle stores. “We have not finalized on the name of our stores yet, but these will be positioned as lifestyle stores and will include products ranging from watches, books, and music, among others,” said Bijou Kurien, president and chief executive, Lifestyle, Reliance Retail. Of course, there is already a chain of retail stores called Lifestyle.
Experts say the word lifestyle is quite flexible in terms of its marketability. While it lends brands a certain degree of oomph and contemporariness, it doesn’t limit their relevance to any particular socio-economic group of consumers. “The word lifestyle provides a safe marketing plank. A lifestyle product or service will equally appeal to consumers in the low, middle or higher income groups,” says Harish Bijoor, CEO, Bijoor Consults, a Bangalore-based marketing consultancy.
The risk that marketers run in pitching a product or a service to the entire diverse consumer group at one-go is losing its exclusivity and aspirational flavour.
“By using the word lifestyle, it allows a brand to exist in a space it was not in before,” says C.V.L. Srinivas, independent media consultant. “It gives more credence to a brand which would then automatically attract a different set of consumers.”
Lifestyle branding, say experts, also helps in adding a different dimension to the brand. “The lifestyle pitch is like applying fresh face paint,” says Ramesh Thomas, president and chief knowledge officer, Equitor Consulting Pvt. Ltd, also a Bangalore-based brand consultancy firm. “It can change how a brand is perceived on the surface.”
Little wonder that “lifestyle” has become a buzzword for many India brands that are in the midst of launches, makeovers or expansions. Wills Lifestyle, the premium apparel brand from ITC Ltd’sstable, was, in fact, one of the early ones. So much so that other apparel brands arealso jumping on to the bandwagon. Adidas India, for instance, positioned its new ‘Original’ brand of apparel as “lifestyle” clothing.
“Today’s consumers want to connect with products that help them bolster their individual identity. Lifestyle products help them make a statement about who they are and where they come from,” says Hartwin Feddersen, director, marketing, Adidas India.
Some marketers also point out that the use of word “lifestyle” in their marke-ting communication helps assuage a widespread concern among consumers regarding their health.
“With Indians living faster and more erratic lives, lifestyle diseases such as obesity, heart attacks and diabetes are on the rise. By selling lifestyle benefits, brands are seeking to strike an immediate connect with consumers,” says a spokesperson for VLCC Healthcare Ltd, which runs a chain of fitness centres and spas.