WILLIAMSBURG | BROOKLYN didn’t ‘just happen‘ the way some people may believe. It wasn’t something magical, something arbitrary, accidental or something strange. The neighborhood didn’t just transform itself.
It was planned.
We planned it:
Back in 2000, we started a publication to promote the neighborhood (11211 Magazine). By 2006, we distributed half a million copies in both Manhattan and Brooklyn. The publication was usual as publications go. It was less of as exercise in journalism and more at creating a time capsule of free flowing expression with a single requirement: You Must Live In The Zip Code.
Prior to this, the printed publications in Williamsburg were only distributed locally, by the locals for the locals. Secondly, there were a number of brand personas we used to produce an awareness of a spawning artist culture through publishing and promoting events. Thirdly, we spear-headed the combining of the local businesses and local artists who would join together in a concerted effort to promote the neighborhood.
We (@11211 Magazine) led this operation over 6 years.
We solicited 500 fashion brand named businesses in Manhattan for advertising and got no where. We were forced to lean into getting to meet/m and get to know all of the local businesses and business owners. We reached out to artists, illustrators, writers and photographers and paid everyone for their contribution to the magazine. Advertising money was generated from the local businesses and was used to pay all artists and writers who contributed, sales staffing, printing and distribution.
Williamsburg had all the makings and raw qualities of the next big artist’s community. It was a fifteen minute MTA commute to Union Square with scores of near-empty loft buildings.
The strip (Bedford Avenue) has small and cute retail stores which you could rent for as little as $800. per month in 2000. A year before (1999) you could rent the same space for $300. per month. A year later (2001) the same exact space rented to Brooklyn Handknit for $3,000. per month. Brooklyn Handknit was selling their hats in Bergdorf-Goodman. Gentrification had arrived to Bedford Avenue.
Many of the industrial lofts were rented to artists and musicians and many deals that were under the table and off the grid. Illegal loft living was a hush hush to the 3,000 artists that lived there.
The first stop on the Brooklyn L Train is still Bedford Avenue—a very short train ride to the East Village. So, the location was ideal for a cool bedroom for creative executives working in NYC.
The subconscious and emotional elements we added to the Williamsburg brand were the deeper, subversive reasons why the hundreds of thousands of people came and talked about Williamsburg to others (Word Of Mouth). If we had to sum up the branding effort in just a few words, it would be that Williamsburg was a living embodiment of a new form of: The American Dream.
As a result, near the end of 2010-2011, a reported 15,000,000 national and international tourists came to visit Brooklyn through Williamsburg. We made that little piece of Brooklyn cool—cooler than ever before.
Mr. Iversen has this to say:
“When I asked Milton Glaser what he thought I should do in 2001, he told me: ‘Forget Williamsburg, there’s no money there. Go to SoHo. The businesses there would appreciate a fine publication like this on such a heavy weight paper.’ I thought to argue the point that Soho was done and Williamsburg was fresh and up and coming. He didn’t agree. I dropped the topic but knew in my heart of hearts about the tremendous potential Williamsburg could offer. I continued on with promoting and publicizing the neighborhood.”
To give a sense of scale, back in 2000 there was little interest in Brooklyn and the city wasn’t even keeping track of tourism. Then by 2011, 15 million tourists were recorded coming to Brooklyn and mainly through Williamsburg | Brooklyn. Today, tourism growth to Brooklyn has slowed a little.
(See: Global Brand www.CrainsNewYork.com/Brooklyn Blooms)
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