Detroit must rebrand itself, but do so while retaining its legacy

With the recent announcement by Gov. Rick Snyder that an emergency financial manager (EFM) will be assigned to the city of Detroit, the challenge becomes how does the anchor city of this region brand itself in light of its current financial situation?

The issues confronting our region are well documented.  Let’s not hide the fact that Detroit has an image issue — whether real or perceived — and since the entire region is interconnected to Detroit, so is the region’s overall image.

I’ve been fortunate to brand or rebrand many organizations — locally and nationally.  Recently, while attending an event in Detroit, a reader asked my thoughts on how I would rebrand Detroit in light of its current transformation and issues.

Great question.

Let’s keep in mind, Detroit IS an international, iconic brand.

For years, we’ve been known as the Motor City and Motown, et. al.  However, like many great brands, the challenge is to redefine it as the market continues to evolve itself because if you don’t, the brand becomes irrelevant.

Therein lies the challenge.

Detroit’s legacy will not and should not change.  However, our region needs to continue to redefine itself as the marketplace continues to evolve globally — not just the local market, but also national and international markets.  We now live in a global market now and if the city’s not properly positioned for the future, Detroit’s prospects will not shine and this region will not effectively compete for new business opportunities.

While Detroit’s historical core — manufacturing — will always define it, how should this great region define itself in the future?

A critical first step is to understand where you’ve been, followed by where you want to go and then decide how to get there.

Detroit has a good handle on where it’s been — a manufacturing giant that’s placed the world on wheels and birthed the middle class.

Now, the question becomes where do we go from here?

There’s strong support that Detroit can become a destination for creative types.  With its strong history of innovation and creativity–dating back to Henry Ford’s vision for transportation–many believe Detroit can still capitalize on this history of innovation—in a different way.

In other words, Detroit, with its unique canvass can and should attract a new generation of creative minds and young people.

Others believe this region is ripe for entrepreneurship and attracting small businesses in and around downtown.I was downtown recently and there is certainly a unique vibe in the Lower Woodward and Midtown areas with new restaurants, residences and businesses popping up.

In my opinion, there’s a balance where Detroit can leverage its creativity and innovation into encouraging entrepreneurs to tap into their core of “transforming” a great metropolis into one evolving as a leader in innovation.

With that said, how would I rebrand Detroit?

1.  Understand who we are as a city/region,

2.  Identify current strengths and weaknesses,

3.  Create a long-term vision, and

4.  Understand how to achieve this vision.

Detroit-area based executive coach, Ted Brassfield, president, Pathway to Potential, suggests that “Detroit rises like a Phoenix from the ashes” and focus on “Rebirth, Reinvestment, and renewal”.

Brassfield continues, “Invest in Detroit and be a part of Detroit Phoenix Rising!”

If I had to re-brand Detroit, it would be transforming a historical, great city into one that’s leaner, sleeker and quicker and has the ability to leverage innovation and creativity into greatness.

So, the brand defining idea might be, “Detroit, where innovation and creativity meet — come join us.”

Please share with me your thoughts and together, let’s build a brand that best represents the future of a city in transition.  Despite the many challenges we have, let’s try to focus on the future and determine the best way where we can all move forward — collectively.

I look forward to hearing from you.