Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Real cities

The State of Michigan is on to something with the Pure Michigan campaign. I recently had the chance to hear a talk by one of the directors of the program. He stated that the campaign has achieved good brand recognition across the region and beyond. It’s had an excellent return on investment and even spawned numerous spoofs (search You Tube for Pure Michigan spoofs --  you’ll be quite amused). The State likes the spoofs, too. Bonus publicity! (And they are done my Michiganders and in a backhanded way complement what’s we Michiganders think is special about our state.)

The director mentioned that, while most tourists understand the ‘pure’ part as ‘unspoiled nature,’ some tourists are looking for authentic cities as well. He used the term ‘gritty’ and mentioned that the European tourists are especially looking for the gritty side of Detroit. I’m not sure about just how gritty they want it, but the idea did register with me on a later trip to Lansing. I was driving on W Saginaw, in an authentic part of town. It was actually nice to see a part of town that organically developed over time. Full disclosure: I was on my way to a strip mall to visit a local-but-still-big-box bookstore. (We don’t have big bookstores in our area, so a trip to a larger town always includes a visit to a big bookstore.) An authentic part of town with the hodgepodge architecture, small, local shops and eateries has a nice feel.

I recently had a meeting in Toronto. The meeting was right downtown so I had a chance to walk all around the downtown. Along with the steel and glass high rises, there’s block after block of low buildings hosting ethnic restaurants, upscale pubs and taverns, small specialty shops (vinyl record shops!), and lots of people enjoying it all. Seems just authentic enough without being over-run with shops of dubious specialties.  Not new and shiny but vibrant and real.  

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