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How to authentically deepen a brands connection with communities

Authenticity is the key that unlocks the connection between brands and communities and brands are recognising the profound impact they can have on their communities through meaningful brand experiences. These experiences encompass the way a brand interacts with and enriches the lives of its audiences and the broader community. In this blog post we’ll uncover the strategies of two brands, Vans and LEGO, that have successfully woven themselves into the very fabric of the communities they serve.

Build authenticity by having a positive impact on people’s lives and their community 

Despite closing its doors this December after an 8 year stint underneath the capital, House of Vans’ cultural community still lives on in the form of gigs and live events worldwide. For those unfamiliar with the brand experience, House of Vans is an excellent example of a collective that entwined brand with community and blurred the line between where one started and the other ended. An installation which placed the local community at its heart was meant to last 3 years, and it lasted 8.

Established almost 10 years ago, House of Vans offered London’s community of skaters, creatives and artists the chance to build a den in the UK’s only underground skate-park. Completely free to enter, the installation re-purposed the once derelict abyss underneath Waterloo station. With their immersive activation, Vans provided their community with a space to come together and forge incredible connections all under the skate-bowl shaped sanctuary Vans constructed for them. 

Humans are naturally predisposed to want to believe in, or belong to something bigger. On their website, Vans named House of Vans as ‘a place where imagination lets loose over concrete bowls, art installations, workshops and concert stages, inspiring every person who runs, rolls, or stomps through its door.’ Manufacturing a space where creativity and unbridled imagination is encouraged, Vans gave grown-ups their own subterranean play-ground. Letting them run loose within a safe-space and creating a community that is both uniquely their own and also accepting of anyone and everyone who wishes to create. 

The true beauty of Vans’ activation lies in their investment into not only people, but places. Transforming a once abandoned no-man’s-land into a culturally relevant zone of collaboration where music, art, skating and people combine. Giving back to the community which housed it. This is how they’ve managed to remain authentic. Embedding themselves within the local community, they’ve created a legacy which is anchored in supporting the communities in which their fans exist. Vans, we applaud you. 

To bring us onto something more recent. Last year, LEGO were tasked with making the streets of a neighbourhood more playful with the help of the children of Harlem. Their immersive brand experience saw LEGO activating in the centre of Harlem, working alongside artist Hebru Brantley to create a playground inspired by lego creations crafted by local children. The installation centred around research they did into local children’s desire for more play. Born out of a local non-profit youth development organisation, The Brotherhood Sister Sol (BroSis) these children were equipped with LEGO blocks as their tools with instructions to let their imaginations run wild. 

All inspired by the desire to improve the local community, the dual mural/playground immersed the children of Harlem inside the world they had helped design. Fly Away Isles was introduced to the public on LEGO Group’s first World Play Day to offer the Upper Manhattan community a newfound site of play in the heart of their neighbourhood. This activation directly involved the community in the process of designing it – when we speak about authenticity, there’s not much more you can do to listen to their needs than literally allow them to craft it themselves, albeit through little blocks. 

With both cases, these brands have woven themselves into the very fabric of the communities they serve, creating bonds that are as lasting as they are genuine. These stories serve as blueprints for any brand seeking to authentically enrich the lives of the audience which experience them and make a real impact on the communities they touch.