Built in Detroit
On a recent trip to Los Angeles, while flipping through the Times, I had one of those “damn, I can’t believe I’m seeing this” moments.
It was an ad.
It was this:
An ad for a Detroit-built product that’s on offer at a jewelry shop in Beverly Hills.
Here we are, entering the age of the Apple Watch, and smack-dab in the middle of it is an analog timekeeping device that’s out of Detroit.
Clearly, a Shinola watch is an aspirational object.
And when I sat on the plane going back to Detroit, I noticed that there were more than a few ostensible Millennials, women and men, who had Shinolas on their wrists.
The point here is not to shill for Shinola.
It is to make the point that here we are in 2015 and Detroit is being presented in not merely a good light, but a klieg light.
And it makes me wonder why the Detroit automakers don’t somehow capitalize on this, as well.
Yes, Chrysler went down this road with its 2011 Super Bowl ad with Eminem. It kept it up for a while with the likes of Ndamukong Suh and John Varvatos.
But somehow this Shinola ad does a better job of telegraphing the message: this is well-built and if you have one, it doesn’t matter if you’re in Stuttgart, Ingolstadt, Tokyo, or elsewhere, you can wear it with confidence and pride.
Shinola is based in the A. Alfred Taubman Center for Design Education in Detroit. It is a building of the College for Creative Studies. Plenty of designers who are working in Dearborn, Warren and Auburn Hills—to say nothing of Stuttgart, Ingolstadt, Tokyo, and elsewhere—studied at CCS.
That building, the Argonaut Building, was designed by the legendary Albert Kahn. It once housed the General Motors Research Laboratory.
You don’t get much more Motown than that.
And there’s Shinola. “Built in Detroit and Made to Last” is one of their slogans.
Shinola is capitalizing on Detroit. On it heritage of making stuff. On its growing reputation of a city where there is literally a rebirth of arts and culture, where arguably the word “renaissance” isn’t just appended to the name of a building. (Yes, a building that was initiated by the efforts of Henry Ford II and is now the headquarters of GM.)
Why the auto makers don’t do this is a mystery to me. They may want to resonate in New York and Los Angeles. But the people who matter there resonate with Detroit.
There is a growing concern among automakers that young people just aren’t as keen on driving as those automakers—as in people who are generally north of 45—find that even their own children, kids who have grown up with a highly satisfactory lifestyle thanks to the existence of cars and trucks, are largely indifferent to driving or, in some cases, even getting a license.
According to Sandor Piszar, Chevrolet truck marketing director, “We engineer and build our trucks with customers’ expectations in mind.”
The finalists for the North American Car, Utility and Truck of the Year (NACTOY) awards were announced at the Los Angeles Auto Show today, and because the choices are essentially based on choices predicated on design and engineering (after all, as the jurors drive the vehicles, it isn’t an issue of sales or marketing), the selections of the three finalists in each category can be considered among the best in class when it comes to those two functions.