How Our Determined Detroit Became Marketable Again


The neighborhoods of Detroit, especially in the downtown area, are in the middle of their own unique renaissance. Restaurants are opening left and right, commercial developments are breaking ground day-in and day-out, and younger generations are choosing to stay in the D rather than explore out-of-state. From Corktown to Eastern Market, downtown Detroit is experiencing the tides of change. 

From our (MCCI’s) perspective, we look at Detroit as a marketing evolution of sorts. Labeled as an embarrassment, a failure and unbearable in places, Detroit faced bankruptcy in 2013 and was at odds with much of the national media.

Today, nearly four years later, the Motor City is gaining positive national attention for its phoenix-like rise to commerce, tourism and overall economic growth. Within a few years, Detroit has been recognized as the first UNESCO City of Design in the U.S. in 2015, and National Geographic’s top unexpected food city in North America, Conde Nast Traveler’s six U.S. cities to watch for and one of the New York Times’ top travel destinations in 2017.

Together, Detroiters have better enhanced the city’s brand identity into one that’s resilient, go-getting and inclusive, spanning its bars, food, nightlife and sports arenas. Inclusivity, paired with cultural and geographic marketing positioning, is what is driving this city’s rebirth.

So what does “geographic marketing positioning” actually mean? Take Midtown, for instance. This downtown area is the headliner for the QLine and Wayne State University is its heart. If you want to have 100 beers at Hopcat, then Midtown is where you want to be. But Midtown itself was strategic in its commercial development, welcoming hip hotspots such as Grey Ghost and building upon gems that stood tall previously (Magic Stick) – why change a good thing? Midtown positioned itself as the hot ticket for Millennials, and working as hard as it can to attract this generation to live, work and play is surely paying off.

DETROIT VS EVERYBODY, first referenced in hometown heroes and rappers Eminem, Big Sean and Co.’s song of the same, is another great example of cities triumphing over stereotypes and pitfalls put in place by national naysayers. According to the clothing maker, “[the] brand embodies the pride and unapologetic spirit of our beloved Detroit.” As the song appeared on local airwaves repeatedly, Detroiters expressed themselves pridefully and unapologetically in all they do for their jobs, businesses, the way in which they raise their children, and most of all, for themselves.

To most marketers, the best advice given is to have a company’s executives and employees “live the brand”. Detroiters are, but are you living yours?