Selling Cities As Brands and Products

Selling Cities As Brands and Products

What bringing Brooklyn to Manhattan, and to mass retail, tells us about branding cities, boroughs, their lifestyles and products as 'cool.'

Paloma M. Vazquez
  • 15 december 2010

A recent piece at the New York Times discusses a new restaurant in Manhattan – The Brooklyneer, that is dedicated to all things Brooklyn. From the locally-brewed beers and borough-aged whiskey to artisanal foods like pickles, hot dogs, cheeses and jams – the eatery brings some of the best products from Brooklyn to Manhattan – and to all those that want to visit it to experience it.

The article makes some interesting observations that we’ve also noticed – essentially, from Williams & Sonoma to the Gap/Coolhunting Pop-Up Store collaboration, it seems that a number of companies and brands want to offer non-Brooklynites the borough’s perceived ‘DIY cool’. It’s clear that Brooklyn has increasingly visible and productive creative capital and product associated with it during the past several years (some would argue decades) – from music to fashion and now particularly food – and that recognition may now be hitting the mainstream. And so it appears that brands and marketers are looking to extend the ‘Brooklyn brand’ to non-Brooklyn residents, in various forms.

The encapsulation, branding, packaging and retailing of a city (or borough)’s personality is not new, nor does it likely surprise anyone. From NYC East Village shops bearing Japanese teas, candies, anime cartoons and toys, to those bearing Portland coffee, we’ve seen the ‘cool’ of Japanese toys and anime comics, the ‘green’ ethos of Portland (and for ages the haute couture, cuisine and classic romance of Paris) packaged for wider audiences. What is interesting is that, among Brooklyn’s noted creative products, what is getting this much attention as of late is its food. This may simply be telling of the increasingly leading role that food is playing in today’s cultural landscape of what is interesting and cool.

And speaking of ‘cool’ – a recent piece at Big Spaceship discusses how some sites may be trying to ‘monetize cool’ – by making it easier for shoppers to pull together the exact same outfit or look of their favorite icons of ‘cool’. Perhaps the notion of ‘monetizing cool’ applies not just to helping people dress cooler, but to helping them experience the ‘DIY cool’ and lifestyle associated with a borough like Brooklyn, or a city like Portland – while they live in Miami, Houston or San Diego.

The Brooklyneer


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