The Lifestyle Consumer Revealed

December 1, 2014

How marketers can effectively reach this highly engaged, influential audience

By Jon Steinlauf

Consumers spend $4.1 trillion in just three lifestyle categories each year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Trillion is a number most of us never need to think about, so here’s some perspective to wrap your mind around just how large $4.1 trillion truly is: If you spent $1 million a day, it would take you 10,960 years to blow through that amount of cash.

The lifestyle categories of home, food, and travel account for nearly two-thirds of all discretionary spending. Any why not? We all feather a nest, have to eat, and, whether around the world or just the block, we all travel. For marketers, priority one should be building a partnership with media entities that engage lifestyle consumers across the broadest spectrum of these categories.

Lifestyle consumers have been with us since such measurements began, but fully appreciating the extraordinary impact they have on marketing and advertising is new. In fact, it’s vital to your marketing efforts. That’s why Scripps Networks Interactive recently advocated placing lifestyle in its own content category, and why other content providers have rapidly ratcheted up the lifestyle content in their portfolios. Nothing succeeds like success.

Simply put, the multi-generational lifestyle consumer-base is seeking insights that help them live better. Given our fragmented media landscape, however, they often suffer from information overload. Marketers can counter this by emphasizing authenticity and credibility. Few media companies are capable of providing that authenticity across the three major lifestyle categories, so investing your brand with one that does is the first step toward identifying and capturing the lifestyle consumer.

Identifying the Target

Your ability to recognize lifestyle consumers and understand the mindset that activates their purchase behavior will help focus your messaging and maximize its effectiveness. One immediate consideration is that lifestyle consumers are not niche. According to GfK, one of the world’s largest market research organizations, 74 percent of Americans are focused on products to improve the home, 67 percent on food and food entertainment, 58 percent on travel, and 42 percent of those surveyed are highly engaged in all three lifestyle categories.

Lifestyle consumers are defined by their attitudes, which often predict their media consumption behaviors. Scripps Networks uses many consumer response tools to explore those behaviors, none more important than Under One Roof, an Internet-based consumer panel of 20,000 adults ages 18 to 64. Panel members are recruited specifically for their interest in lifestyle brands and products, and are both viewers and non-viewers of Scripps content. Panelists participate in a variety of online forums through which Scripps compiles their opinions, life experiences, personal passions, media use, and level of engagement in the lifestyle categories.

From our research, we’ve learned that influential lifestyle consumers are active, upscale, and tech-savvy early adapters. If the information they get is authentic, they will respond by acting on it. They influence their families, friends, and colleagues. If you’ve ever wondered why your next-door neighbor is your neighborhood’s advice guru on just about anything, it’s because she — let’s call her Heather — is an influencer. She’s well acquainted with the best stores, the latest technology, the newest foods and restaurants, the top travel destinations, and unique home renovations — and her friends know it.

As an influencer, Heather’s enthusiasm for your brand spreads to everyone around her. At this point of brand interaction, Heather evolves from being your lifestyle consumer to being your brand champion.

Locking On Your Target

With an increasing array of viewing options and information sources, it can be difficult to reach the lifestyle consumer with scale, relevance, and efficiency, but it’s worth the effort. One look at the ad campaigns of some of today’s major brands and you see their success comes not just from marketing a product, but from marketing the lifestyle that comes with it. These brands employ an assortment of lifestyle triggers to elicit an emotional connection with — and response from — the consumer.

Lifestyle content should spark the consumer’s creativity and enrich their personal life. For advertisers, connecting the consumer to that content requires building a brand affinity that inspires loyalty. It means generating a sense of purpose and humanity, because lifestyle consumers are primarily motivated by content and products that are personally relevant in their lives. This is critical because, while information changes, relevance does not. In the food category, for example, the prevailing opinion on which foods are healthy and which ones aren’t is frequently revised (every other week it seems). But the desire to maintain a healthy diet does not change. That desire drives the consumer’s appetite (pun intended) for the most relevant product information available on recipes, restaurants, and so on.

As consumers’ habits evolve, it’s imperative that they encounter your product at every step along the path to purchase, regardless of page, place, or screen. Brand champions like Heather, for example, tend to get their entertainment from a wide variety of platforms. If she’s engaged in all three lifestyle categories, then you can surround her with your brand at every touchpoint of her media journey.

For example, when we think about programming for the food audience, we think about how that content might accompany consumers throughout their daily lives. If Heather is hosting a dinner party, she may be inspired by an episode of Chopped After Hours with a great eggplant Parmesan. She downloads the recipe to her tablet, drags it to her smart phone, heads to the store, and purchases the ingredients. She returns home, cooks the meal, and serves her guests. They’re so impressed that Heather shares the recipe on Facebook. She goes to Ulive (the Scripps video portal) in search of more food-centric ideas and, ultimately, plans a vacation to the Wine & Food Festival in Miami. At the airport, she stops for a bite at the Food Network kiosk, boards the plane, catches up on Food Network Magazine, then arrives at the festival, where she meets her favorite Food Network stars.

If Heather is beginning to seem like one of the more engaged consumers on the planet, it’s because our brand helped make her so. We’ve stayed in lockstep with Heather throughout her journey and surrounded her with the relevant content she’s looking for. We’ve made our brand a permanent component of her life, and lifestyle. And as an influencer, you can bet Heather is going to share everything about her interaction with our product.

Marketers no longer have the luxury of simply informing lifestyle consumers — or any consumer — where to find and how to interact with their brand. These consumers tell us what they’re watching and where they’re watching it. If you can greet them there, with relevant, credible content that helps improve their lives, you’ll find a deeply engaged lifestyle consumer, and capture your share of that $4.1 trillion.

Jon Steinlauf is executive vice president of ad sales and marketing at Scripps Networks Interactive. Email him at


"The Lifestyle Consumer Revealed." Jon Steinlauf, Executive Vice President of Ad Sales and Marketing at Scripps Networks Interactive. ANA Magazine Spotlight. December 2014.

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