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.

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:

S

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.

I

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.