But in one area I find it extremely hard to become enthusiastic about grayness at all. I’m referring to the blurred boundaries between the city and the countryside. Now don't get me wrong: I applaud growth and am aware that Zurich is a pocket-sized city when compared to a real megalopolis and needs to grow a lot before it could ever be rated a big city. And I also understand the folk who can't or won't bow to the absurdly high rents in Zurich, yet don't want to face an hour-long commute by cable car, postbus or ferry from the beautiful hinterland every morning. I can well imagine why they might be tempted to choose something in between.
But the sprawl or "agglo" as we call it, that anonymous gray area between two attractive opposites, between the city and the countryside, always depresses me. Neither one nor the other, just simply there, stuck between bipolar worlds. Beautiful shimmering urbanity with all its advantages on the one hand and wholesome, fresh rural life with all its charm on the other. Fresh air, the forest and a butcher who knew you from when you were knee-high to a grasshopper. The small bakery, the corner shop, and people you know by name.
Small-town provinciality has become so trendy that it is currently being celebrated in big cities everywhere under such headers as Urban Farming or Urban Gardening. Home-made jam, hand-knitted scarves, local produce markets, corner shops, self-made products are in big demand. It’s almost as if everyone suddenly wants to know the exact provenance of every product. A reflection, in fact, of a desire for genuineness and authenticity; and a trend which applies equally to brands.
Globalization has spread in leaps and bounds. Everything is available everywhere and at all times. The shopping promenades in cities have come to resemble each other without differentiation: H&M, Starbucks, McDonalds one way and on the way back Bodyshop, Nespresso as well as some shop that sells watches. This has led to a reverse trend that cultivates a fascination and a yearning for regional and local brands. The consumer is looking for authentic brands with their individual stories. Shops, products or businesses with an independent character and their own stories manage to stand out from the masses by their singularity and this encourages the consumer to identify with them. And this is precisely the reason why regional and local brands have such great potential. For in branding, as in everyday life, sometimes being small and select simply does count for more.
This article appeared in PUNKTMagazin. The Swiss magazine combines economics, investment and lifestyle and is published every two months. Branders CEO René Allemann writes a column for the publication. You'll find more information on PUNKTMagazin here: www.punktmagazin.ch
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Born in Zurich, René Allemann founded the consulting firm Branders in 2005. With 20 employees, the branding agency creates, maintains and manages brands. The Brander journal is published by the Branders Group.
The Brander is a publication of the Branders Group