Music To Our Ears: Pine Knob

What’s in a name? In the case of Pine Knob, a lot. And, with the announcement of its historic return to roots, there is much to celebrate as we look (and listen) back and ahead.

Of course, there has always been more to this venue than merely its name and iconic sunset/hill/tree logo. After officially opening in 1972 with David Cassidy of Partridge Family fame, Pine Knob soared above its billing as a “music theatre.” It was an experience. Though I came to Michigan in the late 80s, I heard nostalgic stories from the early days where people would arrive wheeling in coolers and carrying in picnic baskets for an evening of food and frivolity. Pine Knob was about community, making shared memories and, of course, great music. I didn’t have the opportunity to grill out on the hill but enjoyed the privilege of putting down a blanket and enjoying scores of artists over the years under the stars.

DTE’s name sponsorship in 2001 did make good marketing sense as the company sought to build awareness and brand equity in the marketplace. For some, the DTE Energy Music Theatre eventually stuck but for many not so much. And whether it was about dollars and cents or just good business sense by venue owner 313 Presents, moving forward, UWM and Trinity Health have become venue sponsors and their logos will sit beneath Pine Knob on the official moniker. Either way, the decision to bring the original name back is brilliant.

There are times, of course, when bringing a corporate name full-on into a venue name can work or at least be more palatable to the masses. We were involved, nearly 10 years ago now, in the renaming of what was at the time the Rock Financial Showplace as our client, The Suburban Collection, sought new, high-profile ways to build awareness for their new dealership “umbrella.”  It was an ideal fit as the venue was in the ‘suburbs’ and was known for ‘collecting’ or bringing together a wide range of shows, show vendors and visitors.

With Pine Knob, importantly, there is history – and positive stories and experiences that have been lived and been passed on to new generations. That is what makes for a great “brand.” Nothing forced or “commercial” here. Only authenticity, a great “product,” and the carrying on of a Metro Detroit tradition. See you there this summer.