I’ve gotten into the habit of reading the New York Times Real Estate section on Saturdays as a gentle form of self-punishment, since I’ll never be able to buy a home here. Along the same lines, a friend suggested I read Joan Didion’s famous 1967 essay about leaving New York, now known as “Goodbye to All That”.
As I read the essay, I laughed and felt closer to the author because of shared memories of the names of places and brands that were part of her life while living in New York City in her twenties, which still exist. Even though Didion’s essay was published forty-six years ago, I still felt a connection to her.
What this connection reinforced for me as a marketer and strategist is that companies should think more about the association between brands, shared experiences, and location of origin as a powerful tool. It’s a trifecta and perfect storm all in one: a stronger brand connection is forged when it is linked to emotions from shared experiences and places.
One name she mentioned was Chock Full O’Nuts, a brand of coffee that originated in New York City coffee shops. It’s still around, and I felt a smile creep on my face when I read that part of her story since it’s one of the brands we have here in the office.
If Joan were writing her essay today, some of the local brands she might mention are Ricky’s NYC where many of us buy our last-minute Halloween costumes and accessories, or the revamped Duane Reade, with cans of cashews depicting hanging out at a bar or nuts on a subway package, both typical experiences. (Disclosure: CBX designed the Duane Reade store and packaging – hell yeah!)
She might even mention how the timely New York Sports Clubs ads, particularly snarky and relevant, perked her up on a walk to work. Maybe, because of that strong connection and the memories associated with it, she would have felt more compelled to join the club at another city’s location after leaving the city. It would be all because of the strength of the branding and emotional connection to the location.
To sum it up, for anyone questioning living in New York, I understand. Fully 80% of the population probably questions it at one time or another, and there are some great articles that ponder the question, like this amusing one from The Onion titled “8.4 Million New Yorkers Suddenly Realize New York Is A Horrible Place To Live”.
Having lived in many places, I can honestly say the tradeoffs are worth it – so far! However, for marketers questioning the importance and impact of location-based branding, think again: brands most definitely have the capacity to engender an authentic connection to and amongst people through places and shared experiences. I’m reminded of this whenever I savor a cup of Chock Full O’Nuts.