Understanding the Big Picture During A Lifestyle Brand Identity Crisis

By Kia O. Moore | +Subscribe |

When a lifestyle brand is said to have a brand identity crisis, in public relations terms, this means that there are four public relations theories NOT working in harmony to project key elements of that brand’s identity to the masses in a clear and concise manner: Framing of Attributes, Denfintion, Value Advocacy, and Legitimacy.


Framing of Attributes: Frames are tools used by PR professionals as an attempt to define reality through communication in terms that will relate the client to their target publics (Hallahan, 1999).

Frames put boundaries around a message so a company or an organization can project a message to its target publics in a manner that will influence individuals to make specific inferences about that message. The goal is to help individuals attribute meanings to those messages that align with the views of company or organization projecting those messages (Hallahan, 1999). In the case of a lifestyle brand framing of attributes is the framing model that is often utilized.

Framing of attributes involves using messages to highlight particular details about an object, event, or person to cast them in a more flattering or more derogatory light (Hallahan, 1999). In the case of lifestyle brands aspects of the product that make them unique from other lifestyle products in their product market will be highlighted. The aspects that make it similar to other sneakers will not be mentioned at all.


Definition: In the field of public relations, choosing the right words can mean the difference between overwhelming success and utter failure when managing the reputation of a client. In the Jaques (2004) article it explains how easy it is for individuals to perceive an “issue,” or in this case a “lifestyle brand,” in many different ways.

The Jaques (2004) article talks about how lawyers will view an issue in primarily legal terms, while an accountant will see it in financial terms. The public affairs department will view it as a public affairs issue. The same diversity in perception can occur with lifestyle brands. In the case of the Reebok lifestyle brand this diveristy in preception happened geographically.

In Philadelphia, Reeboks were perceived as cool while in other parts of the U.S. viewed the sneakers as an uncool footwear brand that should be avoided matter how visually appealing they may have been (Vanderbilt, 1998). When launching a lifestyle brand it is important that all primary and secondary publics share an understanding of how the brand defines itself in comparison to the other brands in the vast lifestyle marketplace.


Values Advocacy: With lifestyle brands using the framework of culture to identify themselves, these companies must engage in values advocacy to become very successful & long withstanding brands . Values advocacy is the appeal to share cultural values from business to consumer (Bostdorff and Vibbert, 1994).

In the book The Sporting Good Industry: History, Practices and Products it explains how sporting goods companies, including prominent sneaker brands, use sports marketing tactics such as licensing, endorsements, and sponsorships to project the brands values to their consumers. Even the vendors they select to sale their products in must align with the sporting goods’ brand values (Lipsey, 2006).

With a lifestyle brand, the brand ambassador(s) must have values that align with the values of that brand. The brand ambassador must be an advocate of the brand and share the brands values to the media and to the consumers. Once the target consumers learn of the brand’s values from the brand ambassador the hope is that the consumer will adopt those values and in turn purchase the advocated product that exhibits those values.


Legitimacy: If a brand expects to reach consumers it must be a legitimate business.

Legitimacy is when an organization attempts to align its values with greater society’s social values. If the organizations values align with societal social values then legitimacy is granted. If they do not align, then the organization is more than likely in violation of legal,
economic, or social sanctions and is no longer granted the right to exist.

In the lifestyle brand industry, so many companies exist. To endure
the fiscal life cycle these brand must always stay legitimate in the eyes of the consumer or they will no longer be granted the right to exist and consumers will stop spending money on the brand’s products and/or services.

Conclusion: If a lifestyle brand can keep these four public relations theories in order and working in harmony their brand identity should be very clear to their target audience and investors.

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Reference List:

Guth, D. and Marsh C, (2005). Adventures in Public Relations: Case Studies and Critical Thinking. Boston, MA: Pearsons.

Hallahan, K., (1999) “Seven Models of Framing: Implications for Public Relations.” Journal of Public Relations Research 11.3: 205-42.

Jaques, Tony, (2004) “Issues Definition: The Neglected Foundation of Effective Issue Management.” Journal of Public Affairs 4.2 : 191-200.


Lipsey, R. A., (2006). The Sporting Goods Industry: History, Practices, and Products. Jefferson, NC: McFarland


Vanderbilt, T. The Sneaker Book: Anatomy of an Industry and an Icon. New York: New (1998).