Cuyahoga River on fire, 1969. (Image courtesy of

If there’s a city that is the butt of more jokes than Cleveland, I don’t know it. From burning waters (yep, that really happened–a long time ago) to crash-and-burn sports teams, my native city could use a re-brand. Or, so say the branders.

In this digital age, when we worry about our personal brand–imagine our grandparents pausing to consider what message they were sending with a profile pic?!–cities and states are also fighting to be presented in the best light.

Branding is such a big deal that Ohio’s Governor Kasich proclaimed that “Rust Belt” sends the wrong message; he likes “Tech Belt” for Ohio. So far that moniker hasn’t stuck.

My native place is rusty; its past is a bit sullied. Cleveland’s the opposite of slick: a brander’s nightmare. But we’ve been through the wringer (time and again) and come out tougher. Remember the “Cleveland: You Gotta Be Tough” t-shirts? The fact that native Clevelanders can wear defeat as a badge of pride, and laugh off the past while striving for a shinier future–that’s what makes me proud of my hometown.

Would you re-brand your hometown? Give it a catchy slogan? What would it be?

From “The Mistake On The Lake” To “Defend Together”: The Long (And Amusing) History Of Trying To Rebrand Cleveland — Belt Magazine | Dispatches From The Rust Belt

As the Cleveland Indians prepare for a postseason run as defending American League champions, fans are showing their support by purchasing T-shirts emblazoned with the slogan “Defend Together.”

Who needs branding when you’ve got this guy? (Image from

12 thoughts on “What our hometown’s brand says about us and a re-post from Belt Magazine

  1. Rochester NY started out as the “Flour City” because of all the 19th-century flour mills near the Genesee River Falls. As the mills folded up, Flour City turned into “Flower City” in recognition of the Ellwanger and Barry nursery and the lilac bushes at Highland Park. That gave way to “The World’s Imaging Center” in recognition of Kodak and Xerox. The city is now simply branded as “ROC City” because we have no outstanding themes to create a new brand upon.

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  2. I wish they’d bring back the “you gotta be tough” slogan! I think “Cleveland against the world” is the newest. This was a result of last year’s World Series – the Cubs having an enormous fan base. I think we can do better, and the T-shirt companies are sure making a buck trying! (,

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    1. Super nice stuff. I’d like that Brownie shirt for football Sundays. But no one outside would recognize the little guy, I don’t think. “Against the world”: meh. I think Crissie Hynde of the Pretenders wore the “tough” t-shirt on one of her album covers, so you’re in good company!


  3. I guess “pitstop” isn’t a very good calling-card for a town! MA is an interesting state. I took the train through some of is last summer. With all the old mills around Springfield, it does have a Rust Belt look. So different from Boston. Thanks for reading!


  4. What a great idea, I’m from the Uk, I have a town near me nick-named ‘doughnut city’ because of all the roundabouts it has on its road system.
    I’d like to feel prouder of the place I live, I’m not sure the British feel very proud of themselves at the moment.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thanks for reading! “Doughnut City”–that would just make me hungry. Hometown pride is a funny thing, isn’t it? If you feel tied to your hometown, when it takes a hit, you feel it, too. When it comes up in people’s estimation, you feel a sense of pride. That’s how I feel, anyway. Will be interesting to see how the changes shake out on your side of the pond. We writers are here to chronicle it all anyway.


  6. Never been anywhere near Cleveland – i’m from the North of England – but I do like an underdog town!

    Now…I’m off to Google that water that was on fire…

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Yeah, I love an underdog town, too. The burning river part not so much. At the moment, cities around the U.S. are putting in bids for the second Amazon headquarters (the first is in Seattle, Washington). There are a lot of questions as to how a headquarters that brings in so many jobs will change the economics and also culture of the chosen city. Will be interesting to watch that unfold. Is your city town in the North of England an underdog?


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