Superman’s Super Brand: can he save Cleveland?

Yesterday, the Man of Steel turned 75.  Most know Superman’s story—faster than a speeding bullet, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound.  Less well-known is that the superhero is not native to the lost world of Krypton, nor the Kansas suburb of Smallville.  Superman is a native son to Cleveland, Ohio, created by two friends on the city’s East Side.

While the city has not given Clark Kent and his alter ego much attention in the past, all that is changing, as they begin to recognize how they can re-brand themselves by aligning with Superman’s superbrand.

Co-creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster labored on their creation for years through the Great Depression before finally selling Superman to a publisher.  The Man of Steel became a bootstrap strategy for the Siegel/Shuster team, their own way out of economic hardships.  Today, Superman is a global phenomenon and a multibillion-dollar franchise. There are thousands of comic books, numerous TV shows and dozens of movies about the superhero.

Meanwhile, the narrative that haunts Cleveland—former empire of iron and steel, shipping and rail—has followed it for decades: the collapse of the manufacturing economy, the erosion of jobs, the exodus of residents.

Can the superhero once again provide that bootstrap strategy for the city of Cleveland?  Fans hope so.

Mayor Frank Jackson declared April 18th as “Superman Day”.  Everyone was urged to “Show their Superman” by wearing some article of clothing with the class “S” insignia.  Cleveland-Hopkins International Airport had cupcakes for travelers along with a birthday card for the “Last Son of Krypton” at its recently installed Superman Welcoming Center.

The city has weathered this recent recession much better than past slumps, as local industries have retooled and reinvented themselves. Old shops and factories have embraced new technologies.  For the first time in a while, there are grounds for optimism.

Superman himself has faced many struggles and always comes out the hero.  Hopefully, the alignment with his brand can provide the same triumph to his hometown.

Read more about the history of Superman and his brand.

Don’t miss the newest Superman installment as Christopher Nolan brings his own twist to the Superman brand this summer with Man of Steel.

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Paul Arterburn is a Co-founder and the Head of Product at Brandfolder, a Techstars Boulder 2013 company. In this capacity, Paul is responsible for overall product vision and execution. This includes managing the development and design processes, constructing and executing the product roadmap, and deploying code daily. Paul is nearing the magic 10,000 hour mark of coding through the dedication of learning 15 different coding languages over the past 15 years. Daring and scrappy, Paul is ready to leave the Web better than he found it: this is what drove him to found Brandfolder. Me in 3: • Movies people can’t believe I don’t like: Star Trek and Star Wars. • My secret talent: As a songwriter my first songs at age 16 were about all girls, and my latest about just one - my fiancé. • My first invention: A wrestling move dubbed 'The Bob Dole' still used across the state of Nebraska today.

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