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Wednesday, January 14th, 2009

Detroit Roundup and Other Miscellany

The Detroit Free Press has an article about national and international journalists discovering Detroit. They included links to a number of articles, so I thought I’d include the summary here.

An amazing piece I linked to before from the Weekly Standard: Where the Sirens Never Sleep.

From The Guardian:

English language coverage from Der Spiegel: End of a Dream

From the Irish Times: Where the American Dream Breaks Down

From the Times of London: Mighty motor city, broken and humbled

From the Independent: From Motown to No-Hope Town

From the New York Times: Coming Home to Rough Times in a Tough Town

On a more pleasant note, for my readers in “the ‘Ville”, the Idea Festival now has a tool for people to nominate folks they’d like to see present. If you go to this web page, you can download a button to your browser bar. If you see and article or site mentioning someone you’d like to see, you can press the button and they’ll be added to the list. It’s part of a crowdsourcing experiment for them.

Our friends at Chicago Carless have another great post, this time dissecting the tourist info sites for Cincy and Chicago. He picks up on something I’ve long noted about Cincinnati as very telling: calling itself “CincinnatiUSA” instead of Cincinnati, Ohio. It’s like Cincinnati is embarrassed about what state it is in. It also points out again that solipsim you see there, for good (the regional flair it has retained in an era of Generica) and ill (the impermeability of the city to outside ideas). I once said that a world class Indianapolis would have to ultimate be a world class Hoosier city. Trying to cut yourself loose from your roots I think is ultimately a failed strategy. Is there nothing of Ohio good for Cincinnati, or vice versa? Mike also makes some very valid observations about the similarly challenged Chicago site.

Speaking of Chicago, check out this super-cool site about “fun with the CTA bus tracker“. Oh, and apparently the bus tracker has lots of fans in Norway. Who knew?

10 Comments

Cities: Detroit

10 Responses to “Detroit Roundup and Other Miscellany”

  1. Kevin LeMaster says:

    “Cincinnati USA” is an attempt to market the region as a brand not just on a local or national, but a global basis.

    Also, the region spans three different states, including a significant portion in Kentucky.

  2. The Urbanophile says:

    Whatever the goal, I’d have to say the brand is questionable at best, and raises more questions than answers. Sometimes what seems obvious locally makes less sense when you try to extend it to someone else with no outside connection. Hence the Chicago Carless reaction.

  3. Mike Doyle says:

    To expand on what Aaron said, yes I agree it’s a bad attempt at branding. A cardinal rule of branding is to concentrate on uniqueness, being the “only” of something.

    Adding that “USA” suffix just tells me Cincinnati is trying to be all things to all people. I think it’s pretty clear no city of Cincinnati’s size could ever hope to pull something like that off. Moreover, it’s been tried before (if I see one more “America’s City” roadside sign, that will be enough to last a lifetime).

    The city is Cincinnati, Ohio. The region is Ohio, Kentucky, and a little piece of Indiana. The brand should be built around out of what Cincinnati and its region are, and “CincinnatiUSA” simply doesn’t do that.

    To my mind, such genericism seems desparate, ill-conceived, or simply too unattainable a target. And let’s face it, there are far more potential Cincinnati visitors–for fun or for business–in the U.S. than outside of it. So the idea that the city’s CVB would choose a name almost guaranteed to sound wishy-washy to the domestic market is alarming.

    It just doesn’t strike me as a carefully crafted brand aimed at a thoughtfully segmented audience. It’s just not a believable monicker.

  4. Radarman says:

    CincinnatiUSA is a Chamber of Commerce concept, successor to the Chamber’s Blue Chip City concept which was successor to whatever went before that etc. etc. It’s not taken terribly seriously. That doesn’t mean that the city doesn’t need to find its essence and work with it, but the Chamber will not be the vehicle for that.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Me thinks you are thinking to hard and reading way to0 much into the “CincinnatiUSA” issue.
    Cincinnati already has an strong (good or bad) national identity.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Totally agree.

    At the risk of making the Indy people mad…Cinci brand identity (in the US anyway) is far stronger than Indy's brand identity, regardless of the campaign. Face it, Indy has the 500, the Colts and is the state capital. Cinci has the Reds, Bengals, Bearcats, Chili, P&G, Kroger etc. It has been a major city much longer than Indy.

  7. The Urbanophile says:

    anon 5:44, let me just say, without addressing the competition point, that I’ve always been on record in this blog of saying Indy has a weak brand. But I don’t think you strengthen your brand by trying to disassociate yourself from who you are and where you’re located.

  8. Jefferey says:

    Dayton and Columbus are more “Ohio” (or Midwestern) in character than Cincinnati is. Dayton movers and shakers probably recognized that with that “Get Midwest” branding concept (really too generic, but they were on to something). And Columbus has that tongue-in-cheek “Cowtown” thing going on.

    So I can see them not caring too much about an Ohio identity. Ohio is such a regionalized state anyway that it barely has an identity: “7 Cities in Search of a State”.

  9. Jefferey says:

    The Detroit stuff.

    Detroit had a history before the auto industry. It was a fair-sized midwest city and lake port. Yet what is stunning about the city is how little of that era survives. This is a big loss, I think, even beyond the abandonment that we’ve all read about.

    Cincinnati, Columbus, and even Dayton have fairly intact neighborhoods that survive from the 19th century. Detroit does not, and that was by design. Nearly all of these older neighborhoods that extended up- and down- river on either side of downtown were removed via urban renewal.

    The old churches are still standing, but one can tell by studying the old maps and comparing what was there that the city pretty wiped out substantial expanses of its 19th century residential stock. It’s like what happened in Louisville, but at a larger scale.

  10. Anonymous says:

    It’s true that Cincinnati once was the major metropolis of the American West. That was when riverboats brought trade down the Ohio River before railroads built Chicago into a city. Most people don’t know that, maybe even half the people in Cincinnati don’t know that. Being the center of criminal activity like putting cinnamon in chili doesn’t help their situation any. Get a clue Cincinnati, cinnamon belongs on your coffeecake maybe. Lawrenceburg has a neutral image worldwide, why not rebrand it Greater Lawrenceburg?

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