Retailer JD Sports reported that it lost £700,000 worth of stock - the equivalent of 200,000 pairs of trainers - during the UK riots this summer, on top of the damage caused to its stores.
The images broadcast around the world of the disturbances in London no doubt caused headaches for the capital's Olympics bigwigs.
According to research from Millward Brown conducted exclusively for Marketing, however, young consumers are immensely proud of the capital. Brands that tap into this affinity therefore have an opportunity to benefit from the spotlight on London during the Olympics.
'London is a vital shortor long-term strategy by which brands can anchor themselves to the key themes in the capital to connect with young consumers across the country,' says Anne Collins, research director at Firefly Millward Brown.
The opportunities to connect with young people across the UK through London associations are plentiful and varied. They include the use of brand ambassadors, showing an understanding of London life, aligning with a behavioural trend, linking with music genres and artists or associating with a place for which there is a strong affinity among consumers.
With this in mind, Marketing has identified five key trends from Millward Brown's extensive research into how 16- to 24-year-olds across the UK view the city.
1 - From Cool Britannia to Rule Britannia: the enduring power of royal associations
Recent affection for the monarchy may have peaked among fashionistas when they got their first glimpse of Kate Middleton's Alexander McQueen wedding dress, but the research revealed young consumers' love affair with the Royal Family is more than fleeting. It shows that April's royal wedding caught the imagination of young people (see Brand of the Year, page 14). According to Collins, young people across the UK registered a strong interest in London's heritage.
However, the Queen, not Kate Middleton, is identified as one of the capital's key figures, and is considered the face of London, a perception likely to be reinforced by her Diamond Jubilee next year, another major tourist draw. The research claims that young people believe the Queen embodies many of London's characteristics.
According to the report: 'She's a strong character and has stayed true to herself.'
It shows that young people's views of London are often more conservative than might otherwise have been assumed.
2 - London as a creative hub
The creative 'feel' of London was seen as particularly attractive to young people, who view it as the starting point for global trends and fashions. Brands such as Stella McCartney stand out as representatives of this aspect of the capital. Hackney is seen as the coolest and most creative part of the city, North London is viewed as hedonistic, while East London is associated with retro-cool. However, West London appears to have lost much of its former kudos and South London barely registered, with the exception of Brixton.
3 - The youth Olympics
The report reveals that young people have been engaged by the media coverage surrounding the run-up to the Olympics. Londoners rate the Olympic Park as the most exciting place in London, and non-Londoners rank it as the second-most exciting place. However, the research reveals that it is not the site itself that is generating the excitement, nor people's anticipation of the sporting event. Instead, the Games are viewed as the backdrop for a summer of fun, in the same way that the royal wedding caused widespread excitement and celebration.
4 - Representing London: brand ambassadors
Brands seeking to make a link with London in the run-up to the Games can benefit from associating with people that young consumers identify with the city. Collins says that connecting with the right personality is an 'optimum short-cut' to using the capital to reach young consumers.
According to the research, there is no 'one size fits all' solution when it comes to pinpointing a person who represents London to this audience. For brands with no official Olympic associations or athlete-endorsement deals, associating with famous Londoners could provide a way to tap into the Olympic buzz. Key London figures identified in the research include Kate Moss, Sir Alan Sugar, Lily Allen and Tinie Tempah.
5 - London pastimes: from Facebook to face-time
Brands seeking to align themselves with the energy of the capital need to connect in a relevant way with young people. According to the research, this means they need to show an understanding of what is happening at street level.
The research identifies the emergence of 'post-digital behaviour' as a key trend among this audience. This includes a hankering for real-world, rather than virtual, experiences. One manifestation of this trend is the cosy, atmospheric Speakeasy-style bar. Other examples are renewed interest in baking, collecting and photography. In East London, 'mavens' organise skill-swapping sessions, sourcing ideas for workshops and teaching each other skills such as playing the violin or badminton.
Spending time with family is also identified as important. This reflects the increasing importance of the family unit since the downturn in Britain, where many young people simply can't afford to move out of their parents' homes.
Despite the difficult economic climate, young people still have a view of London as a city of dreams and opportunities. In their eyes at least, the streets of the capital are paved with gold, not littered with looted JD Sports trainers.
TOP FIVE TIPS ANNE COLLINS, FIREFLY MILLWARD BROWN
- Act now Brands that have a direct or indirect association with London are starting to see the benefit already; the advantages gained will grow stronger as London takes centre stage as the host of the Olympics.
- There are different ways in which brands can achieve London endorsement, so there is a need to consider what the right path is for yours. Collaborating with an established or up-and-coming 'London' brand ambassador, aligning with a cultural or behavioural trend, or perhaps associating with a specific area of the capital could be the best way forward. It is vital to consider your brand assets and the way you communicate.
- Following the people route, and using a brand spokesperson, can be a short-cut to injecting the London feeling into your brand. There are many different ambassador types and celebrities can also be polarising in terms of appeal, which makes it even more difficult for brands when looking for the best fit.
- Brands that have the strongest affiliation with the capital tap into a 'truth' about London, demonstrate a tangible involvement in an aspect of the capital, or have a supportive stance. For example, Topshop supports London designers and Nike organises running events for Londoners, while Rimmel's website demonstrates a real understanding of the different ambience in each area of the city, and harnesses the power of London-based bloggers.
- There is also a need to address the key question of whether or not a London association will work seamlessly for your brand, or feel shoehorned. Brands need to examine their assets, and ensure they have a solid bridge to link to London in a way that will engage young consumers.