Case Study: REVOLVE Detroit

Positioning: Retail Revolution


The most recent census figures showed that over the last 10 years Detroit’s population had diminished by 25 percent, and as residents exited, businesses both large and small followed. Basic economics principles clearly show that people and products are a key component of a successful city and to that end a comprehensive and concerted effort was being made to strengthen the Midtown and the center city areas with targeted business development and recruitment strategies – with truly amazing results. 

But even as these areas grew by seeming leaps and bounds, many of Detroit’s historic urban neighborhoods, a mainstay of the city’s remaining population for decades, languished in terms of local retail options as many commercial buildings sat vacant and under-utilized. 

These pocket neighborhoods represented a huge opportunity in untapped buying power due to significant retail leakage. The good news was that the ethnic and cultural diversity of these urban neighborhoods represented a myriad of opportunities for local entrepreneurs, niche markets, and emerging talent.

The Program

The Detroit Economic Growth Corporation (DEGC) wanted to create a program to foster the evolution and vibrancy of these neighborhood business districts. The program would work in tandem with local leaders, building owners, entrepreneurs, and artists to activate vacant storefronts with transformational businesses and art installations. As there were already several retail initiatives in Detroit, the DEGC needed a strong brand identity to differentiate it from similar operations. 


Working as the Brand Strategy consultant for Trent Design, Vivian Carmody led the discovery process that uncovered the essence of what made the program unique as well as developed the Brand Essence statement which led to the program’s name development - REVOLVE - and external positioning. The logo and all related marketing and communications strategies and tactics were created by the Trent Design team, based on the program’s unique assets.

Brand Discovery

The first step in the process was to pull DEGC key personnel and stakeholder representatives together to drill down and determine the facts that were unique to the program. Close to a hundred facts were listed. Following are the five unique attributes that were distilled from that session: 

1) Recruitment of locally grown retail 

  • Neighborhood focused
  • Complementary business mix
  • Long term
  • City-wide

2) Partnership driven

  • DEGC the driver
  • DEGC has been designed to make business success in Detroit possible (DEGC website) 
  • Local CDCs and Neighborhood Associations are key

3) Strong existing urban neighborhoods 

  • Historic significance
  • Consumer buying power already present
  • Walkable, dense
  • Closely knit and involved 

4) “Renegade” feel

  • Opportunity to do or try anything…. “It’s Detroit”
  • Urban pioneers with stories to tell
  • Artsy influence
  •  “Pop-up” effect

5) Infrastructure in place for success

  • DEGC tool kit
    •  Permitting
    •  Zoning
    •  Marketing
    • Vetting
    • Grant matching
  • Create framework for larger program

Resulting Brand Essence Statement

DEGC is recognized as the organization that sets the standards for business development in the greater Detroit area. By combining its expertise and resources with Detroit’s creative and resilient historic neighborhood community allies and on-the-ground leadership, a partnership is created that will foster exciting and radical retail experiences by offering exceptional opportunities to local entrepreneurs. DEGC and its community partners have the expertise, understanding, resources, and boldness it will take to create compelling and long-term retail success in Detroit’s historic neighborhoods.

Marketing Strategy

A social media strategy, a retailers marketing toolkit, a resource guide, guerrilla marketing, signage and a new CMS-based website ( were all developed.


REVOLVE’s brand value has grown exponentially over the two years of its existence. In fact, the Mayor of Detroit announced in the summer of 2014 that REVOLVE would be the lead program for his city-wide small business initiative.