Building Brands On The Concept Of Neighborhood

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Building Brands On The Concept Of Neighborhood

Neighborhood is more than a geographic descriptor. Neighborhood is a mindset… an amalgam of attitudes and behaviors. Whether it is Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, or the Cheers bar neighborhood is a powerful force. Financial Times once described a New York City, Upper Westside neighborhood toy store that had lasted beyond the demise of KB toys, FAO Schwartz, and Toys R’ Us. The store lasted because their neighbors owned the store and their neighbors worked in the store.

Neighborhoods are casual, informal environments. We do not have to plan or schedule or prepare. There is serendipity in the neighborhood. Neighborhoods act as a control valve: we can have as much engagement and involvement with the neighborhood as we wish. Neighborhoods have never been about “big happy families” but neighborhoods facilitate the discovery of and easy association with people destined to become special to one another.

In the neighborhood, we can bump into friends, receive gossip, important news and we can gain social support. A neighborhood meets many of our social needs without incurring the effort of rational planning. In the neighborhood it is BYOF: bring your own friends.

This is why lock-downs and stay-at-home orders make us so uneasy. The most important thing about living in a neighborhood is the human contact and recognition. Connecting virtually was fun for a while but we miss the presence and conviviality of being together. We feel disconnected, isolated and cut off. We like being ourselves, but also want to participate in something that is bigger. Neighborhood gives us that bigger, more external purpose of building a viable, livable community.

Brand Examples

Nextdoor is a social networking site for neighbors. In an interview with, the CEO of Nextdoor, Sarah Friar, spoke about our common need for neighborhood. Your street address and zip code identify your neighborhood. Comments and threads made on the website are only available to those living in the same neighborhood. According to The New York Times, Nextdoor represents 265,000 neighborhoods in 11 countries. Nextdoor is working to ensure that it remains a positive force for community strengthening rather than an outlet for neighborhood watch.

Neighborhood is the driver of Nextdoor. But, the concept and construct of neighborhood is a compelling and motivating force for many brands, especially now as we are stuck in our neighborhoods and craving the companionship of our neighbors. The connections of those who live close become increasingly important. Brands that can deliver on neighborhood have a relevant differentiator.

Hotel Indigo is a brand that promises a neighborhood experience. It promises to deliver knowledge of what it is like to live in the local neighborhood and experience something a little bit different than a non-neighborhood hotel chain. Décor and menus reflect the neighborhood.

Dunkin’ Brands, parent of Dunkin’s has described itself as follows, “At Dunkin’ Brands, we feel fortunate that our restaurants are part of the fabric of so many communities and neighborhoods around the globe, and our franchisees value the role they can play in strengthening their communities.”

Applebee’s once had a lock on the emotional idea of neighborhood but abandoned it for a “product as hero” approach. Currently the brand features individual menu items with a price. The sense of neighborhood camaraderie that built the brand does not appear except as a closing slogan.

State Farm continues to reinforce the message that it acts just like your good neighbor. State Farm also promotes a program – Neighborhood of Good – by asking people to behave in a neighborly manner by giving back to the community in which they live.

Oscar Mayer Wieners ran a commercial during National BBQ month (this past May) asking customers to take advantage of the conviviality of neighborhood cookouts by placing their barbecues on their front lawns staying “12 hot dogs apart.” The PR about the event stated:

“Connect with neighbors and enjoy a day of grilling while observing social distancing guidelines with this nationwide cookout. Oscar Mayer is encouraging people to get outside — and stay 12 hot dogs apart — to cook for a cause. The company will donate one million meals to Feeding America, and each time someone shares their cookout on social media with the hashtag #FrontYardCookout, Oscar Mayer will donate an additional meal to the nonprofit organization, for up to one million extra meals.”

Neighborhood Is A State Of Mind

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.

As Sarah Friar said, “… people can forget how alike we all are. What I love about a neighborhood is it brings people together with a collective purpose. We all want our neighborhoods to be safe, to be places where are children can grow up so we all have strong incentive to kind and to make it work.”  She reminds us that when we are thrown together, we discover much to like, much to become attached to, much that adds to our lives and much about which we can change our minds.

Virtual friends and communities have benefits, but there is nothing quite like the feeling of walking down a street waving to people we know and where they know us and where we are all glad to see each other.

Contributed to Branding Strategy Insider by: Larry Light, CEO of Arcature

At The Blake Project we are helping clients from around the world, in all stages of development, build strong brands and profitable businesses. Please email us for more.

Branding Strategy Insider is a service of The Blake Project: A strategic brand consultancy specializing in Brand Research, Brand Strategy, Brand Growth and Brand Education

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