"Lifestyle brand."

What was once illustrative and implicitly definable is no more. The term has been bastardized and bludgeoned to death on account of laziness and sloppy strategic marketing. It has become cliched and hopelessly ambiguous.

The North Face used to be a lifestyle brand. As in, a brand created-for and catered-to a certain activity - mountaineering, say - and it made perfect sense. (It's now too big for a single lifestyle, so it's *just* a  brand.) These days, though, your latest t-shirt company also claims lifestyle brand status, because "there just weren't any t-shirts out there that fit our lifestyle" say the brand founders.

(Ugh.  Really? It's not much better than a stick in the eye.)

It has become a meaningless catch-all and it's pure laziness that comes off as a little pretentious - or at least self-involved - which is usually never a good look for a brand trying to reach a specific tribe, unless it's 'the self-involved tribe.'

Look....it's not easy this strategic marketing and branding business. Because you have to be something, right? For somebody, right? Well yes and yes, and when it's not as simple as being an outdoors brand, or a software brand, it seems you have to be "some-sort-of-adjective" brand. Because it would be silly to just say "we're a brand," and end it there; that's not very helpful either.

But calling yourself a lifestyle brand anymore is vacuous and usually nothing but mush. Civil Standard is a company that makes hats, but it's foolish to think our hats speak to a 'lifestyle' in a way other hats can't or never have. Instead, our aim is for Civil Standard to speak to an identity in a way other hats can't or never have. So in the quest for purpose and spirit of context, we like to think of ourselves as an "identity brand."

Pretentious?  You be the judge. It may not be perfect, but the scourge of the lifestyle brand has got to go. 

A Letter To Minnesota

November 21, 2014

We came across an interesting article a few months back that has been knockin’ around our skull ever since.  It ruminates on the regional identity of Minnesotans and whether they appropriately still belong under the general umbrella of the “Midwest” moniker.  Through his arguments the author concludes that Minnesota just doesn't have all that in common with the “Midwest” group at large, and instead desires a grouping of more “like-minded states.” 

Regional identity…these are the things we think about.  Ad nauseam.  So we respect the exercise and wish more of us did it more frequently, but take umbrage at the approach and wanted to weigh in on the matter and pick a side, as the author suggests.  Our response was inspired by a moving letter Bob Collins of Minnesota Public Radio penned to the East Coast back in 2011.

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Brands have the luxury of starting over.  Even age-old brands that have been defined over the course of a century or so can re-invent, re-imagine, re-define.   So what of geographies, then?  Of cities, states, and countries?  What if a city were to start over?

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Civil Standard is appalled (appalled!) at the recent news of Levi's plummeting profits on account of the "athleisure attire" trend. (Hat tip however to the person who coined the term 'athleisure.'  Way cool.)

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Aaron Draplin, of Draplin Design Co., speaks on the motivation behind his 'Field Notes' brand.  This is amazing storytelling, and proof that incredible passion for an otherwise obscure notion can lead to great art. 

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P.J. O'Rourke apparently had it right; not about the February 9th anniversary of The Beatles on Ed Sullivan (that would take no guesswork), but about the avalanche of "one more 1960s changed-the-world-forever thing" that we're destined to endure for the next six years. 

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Now I've never had Jeppson's Malort, nor had I ever heard of it until very recently despite a seven-year residency in Chicago - where it is evidently from - a fact clearly obvious to those intimately familiar with the Second City.  As is commonplace in Chicago, Jeppson's has appropriated design elements of the Chicago flag in its logo, clearly signaling its point of origin.  Seems a pretty smart play for what I assume to be a purely regional brand; I myself would have had no interest in this bottle had it not been for the logo.  

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Japan...often light years ahead of the States in all things fashion and design...has seemingly turned The Civil Standard Theory into The Civil Standard Ass-Kicking Reality. 

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Imported From Detroit

January 31, 2014

In honor of Super Bowl weekend, a look at one of our favorite ads of all time. Civil Standard approves this message.

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So God Made A Farmer

January 31, 2014

In honor of Super Bowl weekend, a phenomenal ad showcasing the power of storytelling. This is emotional brand building at its best.

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