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Local brands riding the trust crisis to prosperity

Nick Bayes

General Manager

The Brand Agency, Perth


Hannah Muirhead

Lead Strategist

The Brand Agency, Perth


Local brands riding the trust crisis to prosperity


Trust is at an all-time low

Across Australia, and indeed most of the world, trust in government, media, business and NGOs is at an all-time low. Australians have identified eroding social values, immigration and globalization as key drivers of this lack of trust. You can feel it in your social media feeds, in bars, and in book clubs across the country; the large scale erosion of trust as the crumbling of long-established institutions spreads.


Couple this with the rise of automation and globalization, the double edged sword which increases bottom lines to businesses, but to Jenny-and-Dan-down-the-road means looming job losses, while their local community culture dissolves. You begin to see why we have a genuine trust crisis on our hands.  


Indeed, it’s this trust crisis which is partly responsible for the rise in anti-globalization, anti-immigration, and protectionist policies across the world.


Against this backdrop, there’s a clear opportunity for local brands who are in a perfect position to succeed against global and multinational enterprise.


Here’s three reasons why:


The power of familiarity


For local products and brands that existed pre-globalization, this is good news.


Nostalgia makes people feel good. Familiarity gives our lives continuity. Nostalgia, has in fact, been shown to help counteract loneliness, boredom and anxiety, and makes us more generous to strangers and tolerant of outsiders. Experiments have shown that when we are provoked into feelings of nostalgia, we part with our money more easily.


We are in an age of nostalgia. The success of familiar icons like ‘Stranger Things’ and the resurgence of vinyl, board-games and other relics of the past all attest to the power of nostalgia to tap into people’s lives. Why is nostalgia so powerful? Partly, it’s to do with the strength of the memory structures laid down in years gone by. Why is it I can still remember Pizza Hut’s phone number from a jingle from 1994, when most days I can’t even remember my pin number? When these memory structures from your youth are refreshed, local, heritage brands make it easier for you to notice them and buy their products or services.



Personalising Place

For those local brands without a bedrock of heritage there are still wins to be gained.


For most of us, our day to day lives revolve around a certain geographic place, despite the rise of technology. Local brands that can connect products and services to a specific locale are able to deliver the highly individualized customer experience that people increasingly expect in this jacked-up experience economy.


Look at the Feedback App[6] from Canada. This clever app partners with local restaurants to help reduce food waste by helping people access time specific promotions on local food; a perfect example of how local brands can give back to their community in a way that multinationals would struggle to replicate. Even Whole Foods, now owned by the Amazon juggernaut, is keen to showcase its commitment to specific locales, with its Harlem store stocking produce from 20 local vendors, in partnership with a social enterprise committed to supporting cultural preservation.



Local problems solved, one brand at a time

Where governments increasingly struggle to address key social and economic issues, brands can step in to fill the gap.


Local brands should start by asking their customers which essential or desirable public services are lacking, then find a way to provide them, either through partnership with local authorities, or by working directly with the community. The more brands can bring issues back to the personal and local, the more they will remind their customers of their shared values.


Earlier this year, Tesla, a very non-local brand, has announced a partnership with the South Australian State government to provide 50,000 solar panels and batteries in an experiment to create the world’s largest virtual power plant. Local solar providers are kicking themselves they didn’t have the scale to deliver such an ambitious project, as Elon Musk leapfrogs them to become the only solar guy in town worth talking to.



For local brands fearing the influx of the Amazons and Teslas of the world, hope is not lost. The more they can develop a highly nuanced understanding of their local community, the more local brands can realise their home ground advantage.