Tired of London, Tired of Brands


Since 2012, London has been on a high. Social became the layman’s commentary box as the Jubilee and Olympics propelled London love to new heights. London is still riding on the wave, and brands are working out how to capitalize on it, particularly through social media.

London-born brands are keen to exploit their own stories of heritage and provenance, fitting comfortably into the Facebook timeline concept.

Brands like Penhaligons, Liberty of London and Tanqueray are posting vintage ads and archive footage to tell the story of where they’ve come from, presenting authenticity and gravitas which is hard to come by in a fast-moving world.

Global brands, too, recognize London as a symbol of modern life and culture, seeking to create their own branded lifestyle around the capital. “Insider knowledge” is a common proposition, through dedicated blogs promising to show you a side of London you might not already be acquainted with (Rimmel’s London Buzz blog, or Whistles’ neighbourhood guides). This week Topshop’s ‘Inside Out’ blog promoted an event with Caitlin Moran that sold out months ago. In fact, the very idea of insider knowledge has been blown apart by websites such as greatlittleplace.com, and Secret London, crowdsourcing that same ‘exclusive’ content that brands seek to provide.

Some brands have gone a step further, creating smartphone apps to guide individuals around London on the move (Nike True City and Hugo Boss’ mobile site are good examples). Louis Vuitton have created blogger-curated routes on their London ‘Amble’ app, selling the aspirational London lifestyle from real people who are living it.

The harsh reality of these activations, comes with the question of usage. On a crowded social platform or smartphone interface, why would you chose to spend your time with these brands? On social, traditional media is competing for the same attention as brands are. In this case Time Out or Londonist’s lightweight, individual tips provide a more tangible and actionable London more suited to social feeds and everyday interaction.

Perhaps it’s the overkill of tips and guides to London which has led to the success of blogs such as Shit London, or Twitter accounts such as Jon the Pigeon or Waterstones Oxford Circus. This cynicism gives a more accurate and entertaining portrayal of the spirit of London than yet another brand telling you what restaurant to visit this weekend.

Like opening a new stall on Portobello Road, brands must think about what value they’re adding in this crowded London marketplace. Aligning their own stories and associations with a genuine consumer need is the only way to create a unique and truly compelling offering.