Introducing ‘Brandfontein’
Posted by
Nomonde Gama at 09:00

Perception is the currency of brands, and it extends well beyond mere products, services, personalities and logos. As soon as people have a choice over what they consume, brands come into play. We may think only of brands like Coke, Nike, Chanel or Beyoncé, but we have a choice over which spaces we consume too, right? So surely neighbourhoods make the cut?

Neighbourhoods are brands too, you know!

Bright spark Simon Anholt first made the case for branding and marketing communications principles to be applied to nations. This soon catapulted into city, destination and my favourite - neighbourhood branding. What I love about neighbourhood (re)branding is that it has less to do with slapping new paint on old buildings and removing graffiti but more to do with communities and finding the unique character, identity and essence of neighbourhood spaces in order to build a meaningful brand. Quite a few South African neighbourhoods have been seen adding a bit of magic to theirs, but let's take a look at Joburg's Braamfontein.

Brand Braam

Braam is an inspiring South African example of both an urban regeneration and neighbourhood rebranding project that changed the story of Joburg's once-stale inner city. The neighbourhood faced a number of challenges including vacant, dilapidated spaces, dense urban form, poor ablution access, crime, vagrancy and the overall negative "inner-city" association that came from years of central Johannesburg decay.

The regeneration project cleaned up the streets, but more importantly it transformed them into invigorated spaces of character and identity. Being true to what makes Braamfontein unique (and not trying to turn it into another Sandton), they attracted arty types, artists, photographers, designers, creatives - and even some of us cool marketers! Anyone with an opinion who is generally uncomfortable with boxes and rigidity can find a live-work-play brand experience in vibrant Braam. After all, isn't that what relevant brands are supposed to be - true extensions of who we are and why we are?

Neighbourhoods as experiences: live-work-play

Clever marketers know all about how brands should translate into human experiences, and Braam has been no exception. From the trendy, luxury apartments in the middle of bustling Joburg to the mixed-use open collaborative workspaces in The Hub and The Post, the colours of diversity on 70 Juta and Braam favourite, the Neighbourgoods Market - the experience is seamless and consistent. It's not so much the admiration of fine architecture and spotless streets that lovers connect to, it's just how Braam makes them feel; the fabric, the atmosphere, the experience.

Branding lessons from Braam

  • Your holistic offering must be relevant to those you are trying to reach or attract, otherwise it's just a waste of money on the wrong people.
  • Listen to your market and learn to spot opportunity - the organisations behind this neighbourhood rebrand and regeneration responded to 1) a need of their market for an urban mixed-use live-work-play neighbourhood 2) the need to bring to life a dead neighbourhood.
  • Focus on the experience you want to create, and be sure to have the products to back it up
  • Context is everything. The CBD context of Joburg gives Braam its history, architecture, urban spaces and social atmosphere. The regeneration worked with these, and celebrated the potential of the area. The results are differentiated from neighbourhoods like Sandton and relevant to a different set of people and needs.

If you find yourself drawn to certain places to live, work and/or play, think about what it is about that neighbourhood's brand that speaks to you  - you'll certainly find some great branding lessons in it!


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