Yahoo! News recently ran a Forbes article entitled, “Why Facebook is a Threat to Lifestyle Brands.” It makes many valid points about the functionalities of lifestyle brands and the role they’ve traditionally played in our lives.
There was one point, however, I somewhat disagree with. Alexander Chernev, the author, discusses how lifestyle brands have always been a means for people to express themselves. He then states:
I agree that lifestyle brands are a means of expressing ourselves and our interests, but I don’t think I’d go as far as to say that the ways we express ourselves via social networks have replaced the expression stimulated by utilizing products of specific brands. Rather, I’d argue it’s enhanced it.
The brands Alexander mentions early in the article include Polo, Dove, Gucci and Gillette. Say I’m a proponent of all those brands and own or use several corresponding products: I have a Gucci purse, wear Polo shirts and my shower contains Gillette razors and Dove soap.
The forms of self expression from my use of those such items in my “static” life aren’t really diluted because I spend more time on Facebook now than I did three years ago. Those “real-life” items I use are independent of the way I express myself on Facebook.
Granted, if I learn of a new purse of a different kind through a Facebook fanpage, for example, I may be tempted to purchase it next time in place of my current (hypothetical) Gucci. The “inklings” we instinctively have toward certain brands over time develop because of our personal associations with those brands, which are definitely influenced at the present time by social media channels. Before, the consumer relationship with brands was much more narrow, and the “conversation” much more one-way. Now, the conversation goes both ways (between brands and consumers).
But that’s not the issue at-hand in this argument. The argument here concerns “the more opportunities we have to express ourselves through social networks, the less likely we are to rely on lifestyle brands.”
When I mentioned before Facebook has perhaps “enhanced” my lifestyle-product identity, I meant that, now, because of Facebook, my friends who may not have otherwise known of my affinity for Gucci may stumble across a photo of my purse, and learn of the affiliation. Through status updates and images, consumers of products now more than ever before have the opportunity to be displayed.
Do you think Facebook is a threat to lifestyle brands?