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The Detroit Pistons teach us about using place in branding…

 The Road to Recovery: Putting a little Detroit flavor into the Detroit Pistons

Big Ideas:

  • Too many sports teams’ brands could be from anywhere at this point. 
  • If you have an identity, you double down on it. You don’t run from it. 
  • Brand management is on display here. 

Your brand is the thing people think of when they think about you. I learned coming up that everyone should have a definition of a brand that they use as a guide when they are thinking about branding and brand management. 

My definition is that a brand is the accumulation of all of the interactions your market has with you over time, good and bad. Keeping in mind that the good stuff adds up slowly, but the bad stuff can wipe you out in a minute. 

I bring that up because this story about the Pistons and how they are embracing the nature of black culture in Detroit to infuse the brand with personality caught my eye a few months back and I wanted to break it down a bit more. 

Life happens, so I return to it now. 

First thing, the Pistons are doing a really nice job of brand management here. Without asking the team in Detroit what they are going for, I’d say that the words/phrases they are attempting to get across to their audience are:

  • Detroit 
  • Personal
  • Relevant

I’m likely off on one of them, but it doesn’t matter for the point of brand management which is that you want to make certain that your brand comes through in everything you do. 

This means that every piece of content, every ad you run, and every decision you make is held up against that ideal. 

That’s what really stands out with the post-it note about “black culture”. 

Never forget what you want your market to think of. 

That’s on display. 

Second, if you have an identity, lean into it. 

I’ve bemoaned some of the places I’ve visited over the years and how you could be anywhere in the world, not necessarily any place particular. I’ve often felt that one of the big downsides of Nats Park was that more of DC wasn’t built into it. 

When you have a personality and an identity in your city or brand, lean into it. 

That’s what the Pistons are doing here. They are leaning into their city, the culture of Detroit, and the unique personality of the area. 

Good for them. 

Your brand should be uniquely you. 

Third, brand building takes time. 

A lot of teams and organizations think that they can only build their brand when there is a great show or a great team in their building, but that is far from the truth. You can and should be building your brand every day. 

You need to have your brand codes like the Pistons do with:

  • The logo
  • The retro logo
  • The blue and red
  • The chant of “Detroit Basketball” 
  • And, probably 1 or 2 other things.

These things need to be infused in everything you do and when you think you’ve done them enough, picture me yelling at you, “No. Use them on everything and use them more.” 

Key Take Homes:

  • Brand codes help you build a brand over time. You can’t overuse them.
  • Make your brand have a personality that reflects the city or place you are in. Place is an important part of branding. 
  • Remember that brand management is the job of making sure people think what you want them to think about you.