The Branding Power of Brooklyn
By Brittany Hutson
There’s something about Brooklyn. And everyone wants the chance to proudly boast that they are in some way, shape or form associated with the borough. No one can pinpoint exactly ‘what’ Brooklyn’s got, but let’s just say it’s a hybrid of history, character, culture and integrity all rolled into one. The region’s authenticity has been an attractive marketing tool for small business owners, as slowly but surely an evolving number of entrepreneurs have picked up the name and tagged it onto their products and services over the years. But lately, the number of businesses utilizing the name Brooklyn is swiftly growing, so much to the point that large corporations have caught on and are following suit.
Within the year, the popularity of Brooklyn as a moniker and advertising vehicle for businesses has become more evident. It’s almost like the latest fashion crave that everybody wants to get their hand on. A vinter called Brooklyn Winery opened in Williamsburg this past October and Brooklyn Soda Works, a “purveyor of ‘artisanal, handmade’ sodas,” started last February in Clinton Hill. These businesses join an evolving family of already-established Brooklyn businesses, including Brooklyn Burger–founded in 1935–Brooklyn Brewery–founded in 1988–and Brooklyn Oenology, a winery based on the edge of Williamsburg and Greenpoint neighborhoods that opened in 2008.
Popular corporations that are known for their attempts to tap into urban markets are jumping on board as well. Absolut launched a Brooklyn line of vodka this past summer. Earlier this month, the Gap sponsored a holiday pop-up shop that featured foods found in Brooklyn, such as Brooklyn Salsa, Brooklyn Brew beer-making kits and Brooklyn Brine’s salty spears. Nike introduced Brooklyn-branded sports shoes, called Brooklyn Projects in 2009, and Starbucks has offered Brooklyn-branded coffee drinks.
The propaganda has even gone beyond the borders of the borough due to companies like clothing retailer Brooklyn Industries, which was established in 1998 in Williamsburg and now has branches in Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia and Portland, Ore.
It’s gone international too—Tokyo has a New York-themed jazz bar called Brooklyn Parlor.
“Businesses flock to the name ‘Brooklyn’ because of its instant name recognition,” said Farrah Parker, a small business and image management consultant based in Los Angeles. “Whether you live on the west coast, the east coast, or in an international community, the name ‘Brooklyn’ yields instant recognition.”
Natives have always given homage to the borough, especially in the arts and entertainment arena, which is a large part of why Brooklyn is so appealing. When you think of Brooklyn, you surely don’t forget how Spike Lee introduced Bedford-Stuyvesant to cinema with his classic, “Do The Right Thing,” or leave out the hip-hop artists that proudly rep the region, such as Mos Def, Talib Kweli, Lil’ Kim, Foxy Brown, and Fabolous. Particularly, it’s been Jay-Z and The Notorious B.I.G. that have made “dozens of songs that mention the borough and brand it as a place where all things are possible through determination and vision,” said Parker.
The days of the borough being largely associated with drugs and crime are in the past, and many are even claiming that this “new” Brooklyn could very well be the creative capital of the world, a home for the creative and innovative entrepreneur, musician, artist, and 20-something hipster, that all started because these groups were forced to leave Manhattan for affordable rents and a place where they could make their desired lifestyle viable.
Brooklyn’s proximity to Manhattan is another advantage for the borough because Manhattan serves as a gateway for the region to be introduced to an international audience. Not only that, but entrepreneurs can literally take Brooklyn across the bridge and introduce their brand to a diverse consumer typically associated with having plenty of capital. For instance, there is the Brooklyneer, dedicated to all things Brooklyn (i.e. Brooklyn hot dogs, Brooklyn pickles, Brooklyn whiskey) in the West Village.
With so many businesses embracing Brooklyn, could it ultimately have an adverse affect and dilute the brand?
“We have yet to reach the point where ‘Brooklyn’ is used and abused. Though the use of the word certainly has incredible advantages, the repetitive usage can cause it to lose appeal,” said Parker. “Both small and large businesses should asses their respective markets to determine if saturation exists. For example, a marketing exec should ask, ‘are my competitors using a form of the name or a similar city-related concept that may dilute my branding?’”