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Employees Are Shoppers, Companies Are Brands

By: Anna Greenwald, CEO of On the Goga

We live in a lifestyle economy.

We shop, buy, subscribe and engage with businesses that fit our unique values and sub-cultures. The brands that thrive in our lifestyle economy, “Lifestyle Brands,” make us feel special. They know what we care about, what we think is cool, and they play to it. That’s why we might go out of our way to buy a sustainably sourced winter coat by Patagonia, or pay the extra hundred dollars for a pair of Nike’s because we believe it will make us play like our favorite NBA star. We shop for experiences and stories first, products and services second.

Why Do Lifestyle Bands Thrive?

No one cares if you post a photo of a microwave burrito on the internet, but Chipotle’s recent burrito video on Instagram has over 44,000 likes. Lifestyle brands work tirelessly to become more than just their product or service, they work to become part of our identity. They convert us from consumers to zealots: true brand advocates who are willing to sacrifice convenience, cost and sometimes basic human logic just to engage with the brand.

How Do They Do It?

Their secret isn’t a secret at all. Lifestyle brands are obsessed with their customers. They understand their target market’s deepest desires, they know what they eat for breakfast, they know what makes they smile and what makes them get off the couch on a Friday night. As Alex Frias, president of Track Marketing Group described it in a 2016 Forbes article: “It’s not simply a compilation of their demographic data with some key “interests” and “likes” thrown into the targeting keyword list — it’s understanding their consumers fully as an anthropologist would understand a culture.”

So, What Does This Have to Do With My Wellness Program?

We shop, eat, sleep, watch, listen, and even date within a lifestyle economy. US consumers seek out products and services to match our niche values and interests. This purchasing behavior can be seen throughout the economy… and it doesn’t stop at the door of the workplace. In the workplace, employees are customers and employers are brands. And just like in the rest of the economy, the companies that are coming out on top are “Lifestyle Employers.”

What is a Lifestyle Employer?

In his 2005 book ‘Let My People Go Surfing’ Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia, described the origin of the lifestyle employer brand.

“I read every book on business, searching for a philosophy that would work for us. I was especially interested in books on Japanese or Scandinavian styles of management… We value employees who live rich and rounded lives. Our policy has always allowed employees to work flexible hours, as long as the work gets done with no negative impacts on others. A serious surfer doesn’t plan to go surfing next Tuesday at two o’clock. You go surfing when there are waves and the tide and wind are right.”

Lifestyle Employers view the employee experience not as an afterthought, but as the foundation for a healthy and high-functioning workplace. Their policies, from recruitment to strategic business planning, are grounded in an intentional set of values that enable them to serve their employees with the same zealous fervor that they serve their customers. And in turn, just like consumers of traditional lifestyle brands, their employees give back something that cannot be bought with money: intrinsic motivation.

Wellness Programs Are a Mechanism for Becoming a Lifestyle Brand

One simple way to enhance the lifestyle brand value of your company is through your wellness program. The most successful wellness programs go beyond pop-up programming, and are focused on helping employees create a genuine lifestyle of well-being. These are the cultures that attract and retain top talent (“consumers”) to your company (“brand”).

To do this, wellbeing has to become part of your company culture through policy and leadership. When creating wellbeing programs for our clients, we always starts in the company values. What are you preaching to your customers? What is your mission? Then, we take those values and explore how we can reflect them inward in the organization. What programs, policies and initiatives will help your employees feel cared for and supported in a mission-aligned way? How can you create a culture of wellness that values employees as you would customers?

But you can’t keep your successes inside. Just like any great lifestyle brand, you need to become incredible at telling your story to the world. Advertise your culture through social media, referral programs, etc. just like you would for your product or service.

This type of wellness program is an incredible competitive advantage to your organization. It promotes competitive recruitment, employee retention, and can even foster mindfulness and emotional intelligence in your workplace. This approach also expedites the process of leadership alignment and buy-in because it builds on accepted, validated company standards: Company Values and Customer Experience.

So, What Next?

Sit down with your wellness program. Map it out. And answer the following questions:

  • What experience are you creating for your employees?
  • What tools and resources are you giving them?
  • Is your company practicing what it preaches?
  • Would you be drawn to this company over any other?
  • Why are you creating this experience over any other?

Next, and most importantly, sit down with your team. They are your customers. Become as obsessed with them as your marketing team is with your target market. Find out what makes them happy, what brings them joy, what they like to do on a Friday night. Ask them what would make them happy. Because, as we say at On the Goga, Happy People Do Great Things.

For more information on building a culture of wellbeing, visit

Anna Greenwald

About the Contributor

Anna Greenwald is a mindfulness coach, speaker, and CEO of On the Goga. Through her work, she helps clients design culture-driven wellness programs based on emotional intelligence, brand strategy, and comprehensive wellbeing. She has had the privilege of working with an array of diverse organizations in including Johnson & Johnson, L’Oreal, Urban Outfitters, Lyft, and

About On the Goga

On the Goga is a corporate wellness company driven by a simple, guiding principle: Happy People Do Great Things. They work with clients to create strategically-aligned wellbeing initiatives that enhance employee experience and employer brand. Their services include: strategic culture consulting, change management consulting, wellness program management, event facilitation, and professional development trainings.


  5. Chouinard, Yvon. Let My People Go Surfing. PENGUIN PAPERBACKS, 2006.


© On the Goga LLC, 2019
Intellectual Property Disclaimer: This article contains proprietary information and intellectual property of On the Goga LLC. Neither this article nor any of the information contained herein may be reproduced or disclosed under any circumstances without the express written permission of On the Goga LLC, except for publication in the WELCOA Well-Informed email. This article shall at no time be considered a “Work Made For Hire.”