‘Local’ in the literal sense must mean the same thing to most people, a geographical area, a street, village, town, city or region. At a push local could actually be a nation if you are talking globally. But local can mean so much more. You don’t have to be from a locality to enjoy a product from one of it’s population. However, it seems there is ever increasing importance placed on local produce. Tapping into customers emotions and sense of identity is a small part of the marketing machine which parts us from our cash. We value provenance and honesty in the products we buy, we like to support local business and enjoy the sense of pride this can evoke in our sense of local. We often have a romantic notion of ‘local’ from our childhood; the local sweet shop, fish & chip shop etc. In our late teens we might adopt a local Public House where we know all the regular faces, be part of a pub quiz team and may even be asked “your usual?” by the landlord as you approach the bar.
However, ‘local’ can have negative connotations of segregation, insular thinking and have a blinkered effect on anyone not already aware of the bigger picture. Businesses and brands can unintentionally create barriers and push people away. Slightly off the point, but that scene from An American Werewolf in London as David and Jack seek refuge from the foggy moorland in the local pub, The Slaughtered Lamb. If you’ve seen the film, then you’ll know that the pub falls silent, drinks are held in suspended animation while all eyes are turned on the outsiders as they stand nervously at the door. We’ve all been there!
This is a local shop for local people, there’s nothing for you here! – League of Gentleman
It’s important to retain a local brand or identity but equally important to remain part of a wider group, attracting ‘outside’ interest and while keeping your loyal customers. Physical distance is no longer a serious barrier to communication or collaboration (see.Twitter). No longer do we need to fear what’s not on our back doorstep, or wake up in a cold sweat after dreaming about the construction of the new road to London, linking us to doom and the destruction of our ‘local ways’.
When I look back at my spending habits when it comes to beer, I realise that the type of breweries I’ve been interested in has not so much shifted, but more that my awareness of what is available to me from my locality has changed. Local to me is West Yorkshire (UK) and if I was goaded sufficiently then I would say ‘The North’, and as we all know, West Yorkshire has a healthy crop of breweries capable of keeping a beer lover amorous.
As an added point, while I was writing this post, I was aware that my reference points are ‘local’, exclusive to those from the UK, television owners or those with an interest in film. But maybe this is the point that Matt is playing devil’s advocate on? ‘Local’ doesn’t mean you can only enjoy or comprehend beers from the town recorded on your birth certificate, and ‘local’ doesn’t necessarily make a beer “better”.