Monday, July 21, 2008


I was told recently by an influential person that anyone who has moved to Durham or other communities in the Triangle after I did nearly 20 years ago doesn’t care about cities, just the region. I think they were trying to hurt my feelings:)

Seriously, one of the crucial elements of community marketing is to keep track of how residents characterize where they live because one of the first principles of marketing is don’t market a brand you can’t deliver. That’s why we encourage people to reserve the term Raleigh-Durham as the name of the jointly owned airport. When it comes to destination communities, there simply is “no such place.”

In the mid ‘90’s, DCVB picked up a question that a newspaper and television station first asked in the early ‘90’s on a survey and had polling professionals repeated it periodically.

Even though 40% of Durham’s population is new to the community since 1990, people continue to have very close ties to the community’s identity. In the scientific poll taken this past May/June, nearly 80% characterize where they live by the city or county of Durham and only just a little over 20% use the region or Triangle as one big area. The percentage has hardly varied and other survey questions have confirmed over the years that even people who think of the region, don’t define it as one big area but as a series of distinct communities.

It isn’t just Durham either. The percentage of people in Orange County preferring a specific city or town or county to characterize where they live is 77% and in Wake County 76%. This doesn’t mean of course that people aren’t proud of the Triangle or the State or the Southeastern United States or the US of A. It just means that when it comes to where people live, communities are communities and they are still very relevant.

None of this fazes those who hope by sheer repetition to argue otherwise though. I think they are caught in the trap of arguing that communities must be irrelevant in order for the region to be relevant, kind of either/or thinking. But those of us in destination community marketing must base decisions on sound research vs. force of will.

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