Grazing over Embedding: Kopparberg in Hackney Wick
The cider brand Kopparberg's Urban Forest takeover began last week in Hackney Wick and is the perfect example of why an effective and sensitive embedding strategy is crucial when a brand moves into an area and essentially takes advantage of the dynamism and community already in place after many years of local development and investment. It’s not surprising that there is resentment from local festival organisers and residents when a large brand swoops in with a significant cash injection and grazes on, or as Hackney Wick residents put it ‘pirate the energy and spirit’ (see Hackney Citizen article April 15) of the area and all that has been put into place making the area ‘cool’ and therefore an asset to brand’s identity.
It’s the age-old regeneration debate that some would argue simply can not be avoided, but the question is, if it can’t be avoided how can it be done differently benefiting in this case, both the local community and the brand?
A representative from Kopparberg states that they are employing local people as well as inviting local artists to perform and create during the festival. A look at the programme reveals isn’t particularly focused on local talent whose inclusion seems more coincidental (many of London’s top acts happen to come out of Hackney) than intentional. They also insist that they are not there to upset the locals and are doing everything to make sure litter and security issues are properly dealt with and therefore respecting the area.
The issue here is that Kopparberg have decided to use the Hackney Wick site and image to enhance their brand, bringing thousands of people into the area, eating and drinking on their purpose built site. Most of these people, as their residency in Dalston proved last year, won’t venture beyond this site except possibly to drink more afterwards. What do the local businesses and residents gain? The short answer is not much. How could this be beneficial to and more inclusive of the local community? The communication between both sides appears to have been quite limited, so this would have been an essential first step, representatives from Kopparberg asking local promoters, businesses and organisations how they can work together to not only promote fruity cider but also the diverse art and music scene that has emerged from Hackney Wick over the past decade, actually making their brand identity stronger by doing so. A very simple and low cost solution would have been to add a selection of local buisnesses and events to the Urban Forest website under a 'what else is going on in Hackney Wick' section. The jerk reaction from Hackney Wick locals was probably ‘we don’t want this, so no point engaging with these people’ but moving beyond that, the question would have been ‘how can we benefit from this, what can this brand do for us?’ This could then lead to a mutually beneficial longer lasting embedding strategy.
Photo: Joe Opako