Larry Light, CEO of Arcature, wrote an article titled ‘Building Brands On The Concept Of Neighborhood’ (2020): “In this turbulent, unsettling, uncertain, fragmented world, the idea of neighborhood is more relevant than ever. Neighborhood is more than a place. It is a state of mind. Letting us know that we are part of a group, a community, a neighborhood of individuals positively feeds and nurtures our needs.” He quotes Sarah Friar, CEO of Nextdoor, saying, “… people can forget how alike we all are. What I love about a neighborhood is it brings people together with a collective purpose.”

As the power of ‘Local’ comes back into vogue in the post-pandemic age, neighbourhoods have the opportunity to promote themselves in order to attract private inward investment. For example, New York and Amsterdam achieved success with their “redistribution” strategies by focusing on the “authentic” experiences to be had in the places-less-visited. This appealed most to millennial travellers who have led the way in rejecting the label ‘tourist’ and seeking out genuine local experience.

The ability for neighbourhoods to self-brand relies on them recognising how every part is special in the eyes of its residents, visitors and other stakeholders. It is also about seeing how these points of distinction can be better articulated using the touchpoints of various branding techniques and especially through the use of ‘lovemarks’. Well-known marketeer Kevin Duncan says of ‘lovemarks’ that the concept is about creating “loyalty beyond reason”, requiring emotional connections that generate the highest levels of love and respect for a brand.

How does this work in practice? Take, for example, a low carbon community infrastructure project and see how an opportunity to self-brand can easily be missed. Developed using private investment, its investors receive a modest financial return and may feel a warm glow of satisfaction. Residents may be thankful for the lower energy costs. There it stops and there the opportunity for both is missed.

The story is not about the pipes and cables being laid, nor the tonnes of carbon dioxide being saved, nor even the lower energy costs. The story is about the impact on the people and the communities affected. These positive anecdotes, when knitted together, create a sentiment from the people for their neighbourhood – a love and respect which creates a ‘lovemark’. Properly promoted, this sentiment helps to positively brand a neighbourhood. For investors, association with a neighbourhood ‘lovemark’ is a reflection of their own values: “Look at this vibrant neighbourhood; we have invested in them and they have trusted us, therefore you can trust us”.

Market makers are just starting to appreciate the marketing value embedded within neighbourhoods. Those that invest into neighbourhood brands stand to enhance their own brands.

© David Arscott March 2021