Location, location, and location. That’s the mantra of marketers all across the world. However, we might not always appreciate the importance of location for business. In particular, we often ignore the social and psychological aspects of locality. Yet, locality is about much more than just geographic distance. Locale refers to social dimensions such as the role of space in our everyday activities. It suggests that the closer something is to our everyday activities, the more likely it is that we will form a connection to that something. The idea of a sense of place on the other hand suggests that we experience some things as psychologically closer to us than others. That is, these things have more emotional value to us. Importantly, both locale and the sense of place are key to understanding how consumers come to pay attention to products, services and brands.
A recent intellectual discovery is that locale and a sense place are also important for feelings of ownership a consumer may develop for different products and services. By feelings of ownership we mean the psychological state in which an individual feels a material or immaterial target is “mine” and part of “me.” The connection of proximity and “mine” may be that things located on and “growing from” a territory we know and understand both in terms of geography and culture may more easily fall with the realm of our psychological ownership.
Take for example the German beer market, which is well known to rely on the concept of regionalization as evidenced in the popularity of local craft breweries. When the production of beer is located in the consumer’s own territory, there is more readily the possibility that the consumer will experience a closer connection to the products of that brewery. This is even truer for beer brands that emphasize their regional character and corresponding values. Consider, for example, the meanings the inhabitants of picturesque Potsdam associate with Potsdamer Stange – a regional specialty of the area. The producing company strongly emphasizes the 200 year history of this light wheat malt that has a very special balanced taste to it, as evidenced in a recent field study by the authors. It is possible that for many Postdamer the Stange is familiar and provides a sense of home – it is “their” beer. In may well be that as part of the equation these people experience their impact and effort in their neighborhood as extending to the local brewery through various community processes – thereby contributing to the sense of ownership for the local beer.
This trend of regionalization can in fact be seen on other markets. Even globally operating brands capitalize on these effects by offering the sense of home in an increasingly globalized world. For example, why is it that US consumers tend to rather often select home brands when traveling abroad? We believe that selecting a brand they feel is “theirs” provides them with a sense of home and security. In other words, such brands serve as a psychological risk management strategy in the global context. There are spaces to dock your self to every once and while when exploring the unknown territories.
– Iiro Jussila (Lappeenranta University of Technology, Finland) and Marko Sarstedt (Otto-von-Guericke-University Magdeburg, Germany)