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Lifestyle Brands

  • Dr. James Emery White

    James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and a former professor of theologyand culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he…

  • 2019 Jan 07

A burrito isn’t a burrito. Not if you’re Chipotle. 

It’s a lifestyle brand.

“Our ultimate marketing mission is to make Chipotle not just a food brand but a purpose-driven lifestyle brand,” says Christopher Brandt, the company’s chief marketing executive. “Chipotle will become a brand that people will want to know about, want to be a part of and want to wear as a badge.”

Add in Godiva, which has publicly noted the company’s desire “to be seen as a lifestyle brand by leveraging their culinary expertise to expand beyond chocolates.”

Who else has jumped onto the intentional “lifestyle brand” bandwagon? 

Pizza Hut, Blue Apron, IHOP… need I go on?

All to say, burn the phrase “lifestyle brand” into your psyche. Companies are trying the strategy “of using emotion and shared values to build relationships with consumers—and sell them more stuff.” To many, it brings to mind the 1971 jingle that if you wanted “to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony,” you bought a Coke.

But back to Chipotle.

“You kind of make an evolution from having fans of your brand to people being friends with the brand and inviting the brand in, wanting to see the brand do different things and talking to the brand in a different light,” Brandt said. “Not just — ‘I went to Chipotle.’”

That said, trying to equate a fondness for burritos with something greater may cause more than a few eye rolls.

“When I hear people talk about ‘lifestyle brands’ or ‘societal brands’ or ‘purpose-driven brands’ or what have you, it’s all marketing spin to me,” said David B. Srere, chief strategy officer at Siegel+Gale, a brand consultancy. “Any good brand should do all of those things.”

Still, there is a value to the “mumbo jumbo,” Mr. Srere said, adding, “If calling it a lifestyle brand begins to move them and get the company to think differently about the brand and move to a more meaningful role, then that’s fine.”

The rise of “lifestyle” marketing ploys are largely the result of companies worrying about their brands fading into the background or losing customers in a crowded marketplace. Brands are playing the long game as they aim for hearts and minds.

“It’s not an overnight thing to be a lifestyle brand,” said Brandt. “You have to be consistent and find the messages that resonate with people and you have to do it over a period of time.” He pointed to Chipotle’s recent initiatives to run ads on shows that generate chatter like “Real Housewives” and a sponsorship tied to Fortnite players.

“The journey’s begun, but there’s no finish line,” he said. “We’ll keep telling our message and championing what we think makes us special.”

It goes without saying that if there should be anyone in the “lifestyle brand” business, it should be the church.

But are we intentionally trying even half as much as people selling burritos?

James Emery White


Sapna Maheshwari, “When Is a Burrito More Than Just a Burrito? When It’s a Lifestyle,” The New York Times, July 29, 2018, read online.

About the Author

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he also served as their fourth president. His latest book, Meet Generation Z: Understanding and Reaching the New Post-Christian World, is available on Amazon. To enjoy a free subscription to the Church & Culture blog, visit ChurchAndCulture.org, where you can view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world. Follow Dr. White on Twitter and Instagram @JamesEmeryWhite.