How to Create a Product That Increases Lifestyle

Lifestyle is the attitudes, interests, behaviors, and personal orientations of a person, a community, or group. The word was first introduced by Austrian psychiatrist Alfred Adler in his famous work, The Case of Miss R. with the implied meaning of “the basic nature of a person as established at birth”. It can also be taken to mean “group identity” or “general attitude”.

The ideas of Alfred Adler and Karl von Mises are important in our understanding of human freedom and enterprise. In their book, Human Activity, they distinguished between three essential types of attitudes we have towards life – economical, emotional, and intellectual. Alfred Adler also distinguished three stages of personality development, which are progressive, ideal, and psychotic. Then, according to them, people develop four types of behavior, namely, honor, loyalty, competence, and independence. Finally, as part of their book, they distinguished leisure activity from an employment activity, defining leisure activity as leadership oriented, emotional, social, and intellectual.

Charles Darwin put forward several ideas on his search for the fittest, including natural selection by virtue of the genotype, for traits that would be selected for better reproduction. His ideas on natural selection are relevant to understanding modern lifestyle and individual psychology. As hiker and traveler writerials, travelogues, and journals attest, natural selection by virtue of genotype has been practiced throughout history. Charles Darwin’s theory of natural selection, however, is not well suited to individual psychology. As detailed in detail by Hogue, Wheatley, and Gurian, the concept of natural selection renders meaningless attempts to attribute motive and affect in behavior, as human actions are entirely the product of the individual’s genetic make-up.

Social scientists studying human behavior try to understand individual psychology by studying the effects of social situations on behavior. New York times’ science writer Alfred Adler, in his review of The Social Life of the Human Mind, identifies three distinct schools of thought concerning the nature of human behavior. According to Adler, who claims to be an outside psychologist, “Lifestyle, which is my own school, postulates that people are products of their environments, and that environments determine aspects of the personality. The environment can be thought of as a set of criteria on which the choices of people depend. All of us live according to criteria which are selected from our environment.”

According to Adler, these two other schools of thought concerning the nature of human behavior, namely, heredity and cultural or social learning, respectively, “are both erroneous.” He further adds: “Lifestyle content diverges from scientific attitude because it regards only a few dimensions of life as significant. For instance, value orientation neglects the influence of environment, whereas learning orientation regards both degree of internal structure and external influence as important elements of the individual’s behavior.” The difference between heredity-based and lifestyle-based theories is perhaps the most significant in the study of behavior. Whereas heredity-based theories maintain that behavior is shaped genetically, lifestyle-based theories (or social learning theories) believe that it is influenced by environmental factors such as heredity, opportunity, and stress. In either case, the key to understanding human behavior is separating the study of behavior from the study of biology.

Consider, for example, a study of the influence of Facebook on mood and other factors. Researchers noted that “habitat” – that is, the shared environment one resides in – was particularly influential in shaping people’s moods; this was especially true for Facebook users. Similarly, in a study on the impact of real-world social media, participants were found to be more influenced by online social media rather than real world sources, such as magazines or books.

Research on the impact of lifestyle on the individual has been plentiful. One study, for instance, found that mothers who used an online resource focused on raising kids were more likely to be working in higher-paying jobs by the time their children were five years old. Another study looked at how a change in workplace productivity affected the way participants prioritized health concerns. After completing a questionnaire on their lifestyle, participants were asked to rank high on factors such as work-family balance and social media use. Interestingly, those who prioritized health issues were also found to spend more time searching the Internet, which may not be so surprising given the increased convenience of this type of platform offers. Other lifestyle factors included eating junk food, not exercising, and not participating in sports.

All this, of course, raises the question of why these findings are relevant for marketers. Marketers do want to reach their consumers, but they also need to understand that people’s individual lifestyles have a profound effect on how they think and feel about a product. For this reason, many marketers are turning to lifestyle science to help them understand and then create products that will appeal to specific segments of the population. “Lifestyle marketing” is becoming a catchall term that combines science, art, psychology, and business to create products that actually improve a consumer’s lifestyle. Weber’s research offers insight into how marketers should approach this approach, as well as important lessons for entrepreneurs interested in creating products that enhance people’s lifestyles.