Tuesday, 02 September 2014

Engaging thoughts

All posts tagged: London

London's not the only show in town

Tue, 10 May 2011

London is, without question, one of the most ethnically diverse cities in the world; more than 300 languages are spoken and there are more than 50 non-indigenous communities. Figures from the Office for National Statistics show that, as of 2006, London’s foreign-born population accounted for 31% of the total, and it has no doubt risen again since then.

This cultural melting pot, for all its strengths and benefits, poses a challenge to marketers. How do you target your product effectively to a population this diverse? And does this make London a special case in the marketing mix compared with your approaches to populations elsewhere in the country with less multi-cultural demographics?

In one sense I’m asking: is there any such thing as typical Londoner, any more so than a typical New Yorker? And for brands, is there a disparity between this and how they might market their product to a typical Huddersfield or Grimsby resident, for example?

In the aftermath of a royal wedding that placed the capital as the focus of world attention and with next year’s Olympic Games and Diamond Jubilee still to come, is there – or could there be – such a thing as Brand London?

I’m not sure. I believe that the sheer size and complexity of the London population makes it impossible to have a single London strategy. Experience would suggest that brands look closest of all at the buying habits and tastes in the capital, and research can play a role in determining opinions and attitudes of consumers in the capital compared with other parts of the country, but this appears not to be on the basis of diversity or ethnicity.

There are marketing communications agencies in London that specialise in targeting diverse communities – catering to brands looking to align themselves culturally with a particular group. There are a few brands that are so all-encompassing that they transcend national or cultural boundaries, but for others niche targeting can be a way to introduce your product to a group previously resistant, and research delivering customer insights is critical in preparing the path for this.

We have seen instances of products being launched in cities or towns perceived as “cool” or “diverse”. Beyond that, though, there seems little evidence at present of London-centric planning. Brands may focus on needing or wanting to be seen in a cool context to give them the kudos they need, whether that is in London or anywhere else. For grocery products, the emphasis is different. Their sales volumes do not come from being in cool places but from being bought regularly by people in regular places: familiarity and availability are key wherever in the country you happen to be.

The flip side of this is an over-interest in London at the expense of other areas. Brands that are based in London, managed and marketed by people who live (and may always have lived) in London can often act as if what’s right for London is right for everywhere else. In a city with restaurants of every origin, the concept of exotic food, for example, is not the same as it would be in a small, provincial town and getting that messaging and positioning correct for both audiences can be something of a balancing act.