Thursday, May 24, 2007

Who Controls Your Brand?

Business 2.0 did a ranking of places recently regarding jobs, and it was further distributed by CNN.

It listed Raleigh but with a 1.5 million population, so it was obvious for this area there were two problems. Apparently they used the Raleigh-Durham-Cary CMSA here, which involves two MSAs and a micropolitan statistical area, then pitted it back against other MSAs. In other areas, they appear to have disaggregated an MSA.

We called to see if the label could be changed, since the ranking obviously wasn't for Raleigh, which is maybe a quarter of that overall population. We did the usual, explaining this is a polycentric region, and the brand isn't Raleigh.

What was stunning was the response back by an editor. He wrote, "Raleigh is now and will continue to be how we refer to your region in our lists. No slight is meant to Durham, but it's simply not as familiar a name to our readers as Raleigh…. Should you succeed in raising Durham's profile higher than Raleigh's, we'll be glad to reconsider our policy."

Never mind that it isn't his right to play fast and loose with brand names or that he's absolutely wrong about Raleigh being more familiar (surveys show Durham is only slightly less well-known, which is remarkable considering Raleigh is a state capital, and everyone has to memorize those in school).

What is absurd is the notion that Durham can raise its profile while his magazine ignores it. Am I missing something?

He certainly isn't the first editor to play fast and loose with community identities, often substituting "city" when it's really MSAs that are being measured and truncating names just to "fit."

Our response to this editor was that, in our opinion, Fast Company and Forbes are more familiar than Business 2.0, but we won't be substituting their names in reference to his magazine, because we know how important that brand is to him.

Wonder if he would be as cavalier with the business brands his company covers?

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

It's a Wonder People Travel

A University of Michigan Customer Satisfaction Rating just found that airlines are more unpopular than the IRS. It's not all their fault… just the other week I got back from attending a Board meeting down between Pensacola and Mobile. While air travel involves only 9% of total domestic person-trips (165 million person-trips), it's a bummer right now.

It isn't because people aren't trying hard. The Delta crews were almost perfect on references to RDU rather than truncating it to Raleigh.

It's the logistics involved. Drive to the airport, long-term parking, schlep to the counter, checking bags, running the gauntlet through security, cueing up at the gate for boarding, boarding, transfer from one concourse to another for connecting flights, getting bags and a rental car, driving to the venue. And then it's all over again on the way back.

The flights themselves were flawless. But the overall reality of air travel is enough to make even the most extraverted, ADHD, can't-sit-still, gotta-go-gotta-go traveler, stay home.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Maps Are the Faces of Destinations

There's nothing more symbolic of a travel destination than a map. I remember when US troops parachuted onto the island of Grenada, all they had were "tourist maps."

Now, thanks to The Map Network, DMOs or destination marketing organizations like DCVB, are partnering to transform the idea of maps from those old tourism maps and then the map search engines that first launched on the Web now to truly interactive databases.

In Durham's case, DCVB created its new interactive maps from the official City and County GIS maps, so they are useful for far more than tourism. They can be reached via Durham's official website for visitors and newcomers or via TMN's catalogue of 90 different destinations, including 3 now in North Carolina.

The new maps can be updated in real time via the same databases DCVB uses to update the website overall. Initially there are three maps, one region-wide from Burlington to Smithfield and Roxboro almost to Pinehurst. Another zooms in on Durham in detail. The third zooms in on Duke, Downtown, Ninth St. and NCCU.

Users can tag sites, creating their own map, populate or un-populate with various points of interest, right click and grab and move the map with a cursor… go down to as much detail as exists or go out to the big picture.

TMN is owned by Navteq, the company providing the map backbone to navigation systems, so by the end of the year, these far more accurate maps will also have point-to-point directions.

Maps like those used for the drop onto Grenada in the '80s look about as ancient now as the cartography done hundreds of years ago.

Friday, May 04, 2007

10 Signs Durham's Image Issue Will Have Turned the Corner

DCVB has taken point over the years to address issues focused in about a 50-mile radius that undermine Durham's image as a place to live and visit. It often involves doing work that isn't so pleasant but made easier now with Durham Image Watch. The problem was documented by opinion surveys beginning in the very early '90s, and the progress has been slow but sure.

To maintain focus here are just 10 of the ways I'll know when we're turning the corner.

10 Signs Durham's Image Issue Will Have Turned the Corner:

Mutual respect for the differences in each part of the region and the unique cultural identity for each community will replace the undercurrent of negativity about Durham among residents in nearby communities.

The term Raleigh-Durham will be reserved for the airport, arrivals at RDU will be welcomed to the Triangle or to Durham & Raleigh and branding within the co-owned airport will reflect each as unique destinations.

Durham will be datelined for positive stories like those at RTP, Duke, NCCU, just as much as its datelined for troubling stories.

Great curb appeal and excellent way-finding in all Durham neighborhoods and districts will reflect the priority local officials place on image, economic development and crime reduction.

All postal delivery addresses assigned in Durham City or County will reflect Durham as the physical location, with the exception of historic Durham substations like Bahama, RTP, Rougemont.

News coverage of issues in various communities will be similar in intensity and tone and comparisons "apples to apples" in perspective.

Durham's unique diversity of opinion and ethnic diversity will be accepted as positively throughout the region as it is here.

Enthusiasts for individual communities or the region will accept this as a polycentric region that is not centered around any one dominant community.

Regionalists will embrace both/and, celebrating a family of distinct communities with both shared and differing priorities bringing the region closer on issues of water, air, traffic etc.

No community will be bullied by another to subsidize its project decisions, and events and assets termed "regional" will be those that can occur throughout the region rather than just draw from throughout the region.