Called CommUnity, the consultancy will operate like a practice area of Unity. The work will be led by consultants with support from Unity and The Trajectory Partnership.
CommUnity has enlisted two consultants: Mark Herbert, a veteran of agencies including Weber Shandwick, Porter Novelli and Bell Pottinger, and Mark Gordon, former comms director at community engagement organisation Power to Change.
The consultancy will offer services such as research and insight, including a 'community brand' audit; strategic consulting; localised new product development and brand innovation; and local public affairs and engagement.
Unity said the launch is a response to the rise of "citizen thinking". CommUnity’s research suggests the pandemic will cause lasting change in behaviour and attitude, with an emphasis on society, civic responsibility and “the local”.
The survey of 1,500 UK adults in February found:
- Home working doubled during the pandemic and 25 per cent of us expect to be working from home in January 2022
- Most of us will engage in “hybrid working”, splitting time between the office and home, using the office for collaborative work with colleagues and home working for more focused productivity.
- 64 per cent want a great choice of local retailers
- 54 per cent would like more places where we could meet people and work locally
- We want big brands to do more in our communities, including working with local people to tackle problems and achieve opportunities (75 per cent), work with local government (70 per cent), and source and promote local goods and services (73 per cent)
- Attitudes toward brand involvement at a local level vary across the country, with those in the north east feeling most strongly (83 per cent) and those in the east of England least strongly (65 per cent)
- Supermarkets were seen to be the most actively involved in local communities (65 per cent) followed by restaurants/fast-food retailers (48 per cent) with gyms and utility companies (39 per cent), mobile phone companies (35 per cent) and media companies (33 per cent) scoring lowest.
Unity and CommUnity chief executive Gerry Hopkinson said: “What we call 'the local' is likely to become much more strategically significant for brands. Historically, local engagement has not been a priority for big brands and for those at the corporate centre, but the pandemic is likely to change that. Now is the time for brands to think differently about community engagement and to become more active partners with local government or other local businesses, as well as continuing the traditional philanthropic and charitable acts that support communities.”