To protect the community, people are living, shopping and investing locally. The housing crisis has trapped Americans in their neighborhoods. They can no longer afford to move out given job losses and decreases in home values. The economy has pushed Americans to collaborate. The new mantra in the neighborhood has become more in line with “help me, help you” to quote Tom Cruise in “Jerry McGuire”. In developing countries with high levels of inequality, this social dynamic is normal. People are used to sharing food, medicine, transportation and other essential goods as the only way to get by.
In the US, which has experienced a significant increase in inequality, the society is also becoming more community-minded. Consumers are shopping locally to help keep jobs in the area. Research by American Express shows that urban customers are moving closer to the buying habits of rural consumers by buying more local, hand-made and community-sourced items. A study in Michigan found that buying from your friendly and neighborly vendor or store does drive your local economy 58% better than buying from the big brand retailers.
Americans have also increased their community involvement. They have become co-creators of their neighborhoods. They are shaping the education, safety, services, businesses and look/feel of their neighborhoods. They can no longer rely on the government to take care of them. State and local governments across the states are cutting back on public services to reduce the budget deficit. As a result, consumers have taken back control of their own lives.
These changes in the social, political and economic landscape mean that businesses need to become local if they want to be loved. They need to act, look, employ, and care as locals to be accepted by the community. To see how this might work, let’s consider a local branch from a big financial institution. The branch would need to tailor its offering (e.g., loans specific to farmers or small retailers) to reflect the needs of the community. They would need to provide advice to the community on money management. The branch should employ people from the community. They should sponsor and participate in local events. Communication should come from branch employees rather than corporate. Most importantly, they should allow the community to co-create their offering.
Local is about more than communications or even geography. Local needs to be part of the brand identity and experience. Local is love. And love is an emotion of strong affection and personal attachment.