April 22, 2021
CommUnity launches to help brands respond to an increased demand from consumers to do more in our communities
Award-winning creative consultancy, Unity and insight and foresight specialists, The Trajectory Partnership have come together to launch a new consultancy called CommUnity, dedicated to helping brands respond to the post-pandemic focus on locality, neighbourhoods and community living.
Prior to launch, Unity & Trajectory carried out research into consumer attitudes towards the role of brands in our neighbourhoods.
The research, which was conducted in February 2021 amongst 1,500 UK adults suggests that in a changed world the focus in so many aspects of life will be on “the local”.
Key findings of the research include:
- Home working doubled during the pandemic and 25% of us expect to be working from home in January 2022
- Most of us will engage in “hybrid working” splitting our time between the office and home, using the office for collaborative work with colleagues and home working for more focused, productivity.
- 64% of us want a great choice of local retailers
- 54% of us would like more places where we could meet people and work locally
- We want big brands to do more in our communities including working with local people to tackle problems and achieve opportunities (75%), work with local government (70%) and source and promote local goods and services (73%).
- Attitudes towards brand involvement at a local level vary across the country with those in the North East feeling most strongly (83%) and those in the East of England least (65%).
- Supermarkets were seen to be the most actively involved in local communities (65%) followed by restaurants/fast food (48%) with Gyms and Utility companies (39%), Mobile phone companies (35%) and media companies (33%) scoring lowest.
The research suggests that a very different type of local engagement will be required from brands in the coming years as communities want brands to apply “Citizen Thinking” and work more directly with local government and local people.
Seven trends emerged from the research: de-regulation of place; collectivism; home working; play society (an increased importance on leisure and green space); climate urgency plus two brand-specific trends. These are: mercurial consumption (meaning that brands which are seen to contribute and not just in it for themselves will generate loyalty); global v local (meaning brands need to be aware of local conditions and avoid a one size fits all to community engagement).
The Opportunity and Challenge for Brands
Brands, therefore, have a golden opportunity to help to build stronger and more vibrant communities and benefit from the reputational uplift as a result. The challenge is that responding to myriad local needs is time-consuming and costly and goes against the national operational focus of most big brands. However, as more people choose to spend more time at home and in their neighbourhoods there will be an increased focus on the role of brands locally. “Business as usual” may not be an option.
The answer is based around listening more carefully in each community they serve, testing and learning and freeing up colleagues to better serve their local community.
CommUnity is a new consultancy practice designed to help brands meet the challenge of engaging effectively with local communities in a post-Covid world. It brings together a highly unusual but highly relevant mix of brand expertise and local community knowledge.
The practice has developed an approach to “the local” which it calls “Citizen Thinking”. This is based on CommUnity’s primary research which strongly suggests that the pandemic is likely to cause lasting behavioural change and attitudinal shifts, in particular, an emphasis on society, civic responsibility and “the local”.
Placed within the context of the government’s levelling-up agenda and increasing local autonomy in many parts of the country, CommUnity believes that for many brands “the local” now requires fresh thinking and a new approach.
It means brands being active participants and doing more than community outreach in the traditional way. The benefits are substantial. Brands which are active in and support local communities are more trusted, encourage loyalty, are recommended more and command better prices.
Commenting on the launch of CommUnity, CEO Gerry Hopkinson said: “What we call “the local” is likely to become much more strategically significant for brands. Historically, local engagement has not been a priority for big brands and for those at the corporate centre but the pandemic is likely to change that. Now is the time for brands to think differently about community engagement and to become more active partners with local government or other local businesses, as well as continuing the traditional philanthropic and charitable acts that support communities.”
Unity is an award-winning agency that helps brand understand and engage audiences. The agency has teamed up with the Trajectory Partnership (foresight and insight experts) and leading practitioners and consultants in local development to create the CommUnity practice.
Specifically the practice offers:
- Research and insight including a Community Brand audit
- Strategic consulting
- Localised NPD and brand innovation
- Local public affairs and engagement
- Matchmaking and partnerships
- Test and learn campaign planning, development and execution
- Monitoring and evaluation