LONDON: A majority of British people believe that big brands should do more to show their commitment to local areas – which are becoming more tightly drawn – but almost half are sceptical of businesses that do so.

This apparent incongruity emerged from an online survey of 3,046 Britons by publisher Trinity Mirror and media agency Spark Foundry: 62% wanted brand involvement locally but 49% were cynical about such efforts.

The research, which sought to assess the post-Brexit mood of the country, found that nearly three quarters of the UK (74%) believe their local area defines who they are. And the definition of ‘local’ is shifting away from general terms like ‘Northern’ and ‘Southern’ (47%) to more specific ones such as ‘my village’, ‘my town’ or ‘my city’ (74%).

London is different, where people were 31% more likely than the average to identify themselves as a global citizen (58%).

One possible reason for the contradictory views on brands may lie in the rather bleak view people have of where they live.

When asked to describe their area, the most popular definition was ‘deprived’ (48% of city centres, 49% of suburbs and 65% of villages). Villages were 54% more likely than city or town centres to say they were ‘lonely’ and 72% more likely to say their area was ‘neglected’.

Greater brand involvement could play a role in alleviating some of these perceived problems, especially in towns which were far less sceptical (19%) of big brands trying to make a difference than those in city centres (58%).

But financial help and grassroots initiatives need to be long term to be truly effective and as brands’ concerns these days tend towards the short term, that may in part explain the disillusionment with their efforts.

“We need to always be looking beyond social eco-chambers to really get under the skin of communities and audiences,” said Rachel Forde, CEO, Spark Foundry UK. “It’s essential we understand what’s important when it comes to how people identify themselves and communicate messages they can relate to.”

Marketers need to ensure they are not reinforcing outdated stereotypes which are readily given to different regions across the UK, she added.

Sourced from Spark Foundry; additional content by WARC staff