Today’s prevailing economic model, in which companies sell highly standardized goods to the mass market, has been undeniably successful. Multiple steps in the production chain have certainly increased efficiency and productivity, but have not increased customers’ trust in brands. If anything, brands become increasingly remote, opaque, and even meaningless. As a result, customers have started to seek out unique brands that better reflect their interest in sustainable, local, or original goods. But how do brands bridge the gap between the efficiencies of industrial production and consumers’ desire for shifting value insights of customers?
A quick visit to the market provides some insight into one side of the equation by demonstrating how small, local companies are increasing their reach. In fact, the Brooklyn Flea Market is characterized by a remarkable number of independent “micro-brands” that, through their products, overall design, and social media presence, have positioned themselves as authentic, transparent, and personal. The Brooklyn Salsa Company, for example, features small batches of fresh salsa that uses ingredients from local, organic farmers. The company started producing the salsa in a loft in Bushwick in 2008 and sold directly to clients at markets like Brooklyn Flea. However, by building an active community through social media, their fan base has grown, and they now sell their salsas all over the East Coast through grocery stores that share the company’s values. Furthermore, as they expand, they plan to develop salsas based on the local produce of those new markets. This development strategy will allow Brooklyn Salsa to grow while maintaining their uniqueness and customer loyalty.
Although larger, existing brands may not be “local,” they can adopt similar tactics to gain credibility and build a more intimate relationship with customers. One such company is the upscale coffee chain La Colombe Torrefaction, which has literally taken its brand to the streets. They equipped an old Citroen H with a mobile roaster on a trailer so that they can they demonstrate firsthand their brand’s committment to handcrafted, fresh coffee. This mobile coffee roaster not only attracts attention, it also provides the company with an opportunity to interact with customers, getting feedback and nurturing the relationship with the brand.
We expect that brands of every size will continue to struggle to maintain a connection to the local community while harnessing production on a national (or even international) level. Although a digital presence can help, these two companies show that a physical presence is often necessary to establish authenticity, especially when attempting to find new customers.