Nurturing the spirit of community

Joe Russell discusses the importance of community for brand DNA.

Jonny and Joe, Founders of Land of Plenty

Community isn’t a tangible entity; it’s a feeling, a spirit that permeates through spaces and interactions. And fostering community within a brand isn’t an easy task. It can’t be manufactured or forced; it must be cultivated with care and dedication. It requires authenticity, a genuine commitment to the well-being of others – whether customers or colleagues – and it’s about investing in long-term connections and relationships.

In today’s world, where sustainability and environmental impact are at the forefront of people’s minds, community and locality offer a shortcut to demonstrating care beyond transactions. However, we must tread carefully; consumers are discerning and can quickly sniff out inauthentic attempts at community-building. Actions speak louder than words after all, and genuine efforts often speak for themselves without the need for grandiose marketing.

People are seeking more than just polished logos and clever taglines; they crave genuine connections and meaningful experiences. Businesses are beginning to understand that customer appreciation is paramount; it involves education, generosity and commitment. It’s about curating a brand world that transcends mere consumption, weaving together people, place, and planet in a harmonious tapestry.

It’s also not just about the relationship between a brand and its customers; it’s about the connections between all those involved, including us, Land of Plenty, as a partner agency. We often refer to this here as ‘growing a brand’s culture biome’. It’s the ideas and ingenuity born out of interactions and experiences – both past and present – between people inside and outside of the brand’s ecosystem. The conversations that only come about through genuine engagement and listening. All of which is fundamental to unlocking the unique DNA that is needed to create a brand identity that will land with resonance and reverence. 

For us as an agency, we want to create brands that bring joy to people’s lives, but not at the expense of the communities and environments around us. Listening to as many voices and understanding as many people’s needs and desires as possible, ultimately leads to building better brands. Brands that speak to the heart as much as the head.  

Cooking up a brand from a Hackney backyard

Community co-creation

Yard Sale Pizza, and UK-based pizza business focused on the value of harnessing community

One of our longest-serving clients, Yard Sale Pizza, celebrates its 10-year anniversary this year. From its humble beginnings in the backyard of founders Johnnie and Nick, where they would test recipes and sell pizza to family and friends, to overseeing 13 sites across London, each with their own identity that reflects and dials into the characteristics of the local community. Be that the look and feel of the shops themselves, or the involvement of the business beyond pizza – engaging in charity events, collaborations or providing meals for local schools or hospitals. 

This malleable sense of expression has always been at the heart of the brand. In the early days, our multiple hand-drawn logo strategy – with contributions from creative friends – talked to Yard Sale’s values of collaboration, individuality and creativity as a way of breaking free from how a brand ‘should’ do things. Today, despite the growth, Yard Sale Pizza maintains a decentralised approach, eschewing rigid brand guidelines in favour of preserving the spirited, community-dialled essence that steers itself away from being another ‘cookie-cutter’ chain.  All whilst thinking about how or what the brand feels like to experience, as much as what it looks like. 

Building the Yard Sale Pizza brand from the ground up has been a collaborative approach between the founders, the brilliant in-house marketing team, local suppliers, builders and creatives, and ourselves. An internal community in itself, who all get what feels “Yard Sale” in that location, and what doesn’t. Obviously, as the business grows and there are more touch points and new people working on the brand, new challenges will be presented. But we all realise the importance of keeping things loose and spirit-led in Yard Sale Pizza being the brand it is today. 

Uplifting Downtown Memphis

A century of community service

The Commonwealth, an iconic 8-storey building in Memphis.

A sense of community is not necessarily tethered to a specific time or place. When we were approached by Walk-Off properties to help them name and brand a recently acquired building, we understood how important it was to tell the story of its relationship with the local community for the previous 100 years.

The iconic 8-storey, neo-gothic building in the heart of Memphis, Tennessee, had stood vacant for over three decades before the local consortium saw its potential to help uplift and regenerate the downtown area. The building was originally founded in1926 as the Medical Arts Building, established for the common good of all Memphians, and the restored space would be for the community once again; this time to live, work, collaborate and congregate. And so ‘The Commonwealth’ was born; a name that both reflected its past, and looked to its future.

“If the walls could talk”

Through the branding and marketing, we celebrated stories from the building’s past, not shying away from the negatives, but instead, understanding that these low points in its history were as much a part of its DNA as the high points. These stories were brought to life within the physical space to allow the new inhabitants (workers, tenants and visitors) to learn about, or remember, the building’s rich history, in turn allowing them to form their own connection to the building itself and the people that had passed through it.

Since reopening its doors, The Commonwealth has spurred on some significant investment in the surrounding neighbourhood, building a greater sense of community beyond its own walls. 

Celebrating characters of all kinds

Community spirit you can feel and taste

Branding work for ice cream maestros, Happy Endings

But community is not always manifested in the physical. We talk so much about feeling and spirit here at Land of Plenty. These words are so important in the way we think about building brands, and there is no better example of this within our work than on our most recent project with ice cream maestros Happy Endings. 

Happy Endings is a brand born out of ice cream memories. A world of nostalgia and storytelling. A place where everyone is welcome and everyone deserves one. Every product they make has a story behind its creation that ultimately forms the basis of its character. It’s about celebrating individual expression and the joy that comes with a diverse community.

The brand is a reflection of the values and spirit inherent in the business and the magical people behind it. A brand with a sense of community that’s as natural as the ingredients they meticulously source and expertly craft into every one of those tasty little ice cream sangas.

Making the shift

Lula Cafe in Chicago, with a mission to build trust and fight against injustice within their community

Through the research we conduct as a studio, we come across so many examples of community-focused projects that really inspire what we do, and what we try to infuse within our own client work.

Two of our favourite examples we’ve encountered recently include ‘The Ivy House’ in South London, where local residents battled to get the building a Grade II listed status a mere two days before it closed down. They subsequently formed a community-run pub that now hosts film festivals, art events and live music from an array of local creators. Very much a case of by the people, for the people. 

And then there’s the renowned ‘Lula Cafe’ in Chicago, whose mission is to “open doors and provide free space to improve lives, build trust, and fight against injustice, racism, and harassment.” To achieve this, Lula works with “Community Dinners” — an initiative which functions on the premise that access to wholesome food is not only a human right, but a way to communicate acceptance and love to individuals in a community.

To us, community is fundamentally about people inspiring people. Individuals caring for one another in the quest to help us all do better. 

Sharing is caring

These examples and many many more are what form the basis of our recently published report “The Shift: Hospitality Edit”. In it we explore how we as brand owners and builders can evolve our thinking to positively impact the industries we love and the communities we all help create. The report is a distillation of the sector-specific research we already conduct as an agency, but aims to maximise its impact and support our own mission to help ‘build brands the planet loves’. It’s the first of a series, with the next edition well underway. We hope it can start to inspire and help progressive brands look beyond the transactional nature of business.

Download the latest edition of The Shift here

Land of Plenty is a London-based branding and design studio dedicated to creating brands that connect with customers and make a positive impact on the world. With a focus on leisure and lifestyle brands, Land of Plenty believes in the power of small steps to drive meaningful change.

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