Monday, November 30, 2009

5 Images Document the American Tobacco Historic District from 1891 to 2009

What we now call the American Tobacco Historic District is Downtown’s front yard in some respects. It is also one area where aerials are unobstructed and images drawn or taken over a span of more than a hundred years show a remarkable transformation.

First a bird’s eye view rendering in 1891 showing the Old Bull Building and the beginning of the District’s tobacco heritage.

Then a shot in the 1950’s with the Lucky Strike factory in full production and the area where the DBAP and DPAC are now was populated with single home residential.

An image from the late 1980’s/early 1990’s after the Lucky Strike Factory had closed and American Tobacco had moved out of Durham.

An image of the District after an attempt by the owner to move the Durham Bull’s to Raleigh was blocked, resulting in construction of the new Durham Bull’s Athletic Park where the huge parking lot was in the image above. The owner had added an office building in right field, but the factory was still dormant and the area to the north used to park and maintain transit buses.

Seventy percent of attendance at the new DBAP is visitor generated and the visitors begin to make the area viable.

An image of the American Tobacco Historic District today with the factory transformed to offices and restaurants, the transit facilities relocated and the DBAP joined by the Durham Performing Arts Center. The result of $100 million or so in public funds and thanks to tax credits and Duke University, with even more leveraged in private investment.

And this is just Downtown's front yard.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Durham Earns Its Stripes!

Durham is the unidentified showcase in new print ads and videos by the NC Division of Tourism, Sports and Film Development.

Here is why this is such a milestone.

When Durham first jumpstarted DCVB as its marketing agency, two of its first challenges were to get on the radar and scrub up the Durham identity within our own state’s tourism organizations including what was then the North Carolina Division of Tourism.

With no Durham gatekeeper, quite often Durham was not listed at all or Durham based assets were parceled out to other communities. When Durham was included, the listings were woefully incomplete or out of date. In conversation, the hyphenated airport name was almost always substituted for references to Durham or truncated to just Raleigh. That’s what can happen without good marketing. A community can cease to exist or have its brand violated.

It was common to be in direct conversation with Division staffers in those days and have them refer to “flying into Raleigh” or “here in Raleigh (when we were actually in Durham or Charlotte, etc.) Even when politely advised to the contrary the misstatements were so ingrained that once was not enough and it took dozens of corrections and dialing it up into a crucial confrontation.

Back then, even with excellent leadership there, there was perceptibly a very Raleigh-centric point of view at the Division although not purposefully exclusive. And outside of Raleigh, it seemed most of the publicity about the State back then centered on the mountains and beaches. Media on press trips often were brought into Raleigh and then taken to Durham features without ever noting the feature wasn’t located in Raleigh and then whisked off to the mountains or coast. It wasn’t grasped that a person might visit Durham itself or wouldn’t stay in Raleigh and then be whisked off to the mountains or beaches.

That North Carolina’s cities were often ignored is especially interesting since 80% of the State’s visitor spending was being generated by the Piedmont region and its city-destinations. In other states in which I had performed destination marketing, there was often a similar centrism, but overall people working for the state went out of their way to avoid giving preference or focus on the state capital because they represented the entire state regardless of where they lived or based.

So getting this squared away was a Durham priority. It made no sense to launch promotions for Durham if the State’s information essentially contradicted or neutralized those promotions.

It took a lot of repetition to break those habits and establish Durham as a destination. But what a difference. Particularly in Lynn Minges tenure as Division director, Durham has emerged not only as its own unique destination but one of the State’s most attractive destinations.

Division employees are now often the first to clarify that Raleigh-Durham is an airport--not a place--and it isn’t located in Raleigh.

This year the Division is featuring State ads shot at Brightleaf Square in Durham and video clips feature Durham assets like the African American Dance Ensemble to represent performing arts.

What a difference 20 years makes. Durham has come a long way.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Why DCVB Pursued Green Plus Certification?

DCVB is pleased to learn it is the first destination marketing organization in the nation and one of the first two dozen overall to earn Green Plus certification from the Institute for Sustainable Development.

Essentially, this is a rigorous process evaluating organizations for not just how they treat the planet but how they treat their people and how they perform overall. All three are needed to be truly sustainable.

There are many reasons DCVB is often the first to peruse achievements like this. Here are just a handful:

  • Green is not new to DCVB. As early as 1990, soy-based inks and recycling were adopted right after start up as Durham’s official marketing agency in 1989.

  • Green activism is a key part of the overarching Durham brand that DCVB as the community’s marketing agency must deploy.

  • DCVB’s credo is “continuing and never-ending improvement.” Part of that is to embrace every new opportunity to excel.

  • Exposure is important and it helped that Duke University and the Greater Durham Chamber of Commerce were early partners with the Institute to forge Green Plus although it has now rolled out in many states.

  • A rigorous, independent evaluation like Green Plus is a way to learn where an organization can improve as much as how it is excelling, and DCVB has always embraced these opportunities.

  • Green Plus certification is good marketing. As Durham’s marketing organization, it makes sense that DCVB should strive to epitomize the very brand values it promotes as part of the community’s personality and character.

  • DCVB has 3,000 visitor related businesses and organizations as stakeholders and it can now set an example as well as mentor these small organizations through Green Plus.

Green Plus certification, as well as full accreditation to the best practices of community marketing plus more than 120+ other awards and recognitions earned in the past 10 years alone, also symbolize to the community that it can be assured DCVB strives for and achieves best practices and performs at the highest level possible.

And that it will never let up or stand down.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The 20 Year Decline In Local News!

Many dramatic changes have occurred during my time in Durham as head of the community’s marketing agency, e.g., Internet, Cell Phone/PDA Technology, Laptop Computers, Wireless Technology, Flat screen technology, Paperless Office, Websites, Green Technologies, 24/7 News, Global Information Systems, Desktop Graphics and Printer Prep, Smart Bombs, Social Media to name just a dozen.

But nothing has been more dramatic than the nationwide decline in the number of daily newspapers. The number of dailies reached a zenith around 1950, but declined by only 200 over the next forty years, mostly with the elimination of afternoon papers.

But another 200 dailies nationwide have been eliminated just since 1990.

This has occurred during the same period that television and radio news moved away from local news by expanding content to huge, largely unrelated coverage areas, I suspect to optimize ad revenues and sustainability. To me, the majority of so-called “local news” on local television stations hasn’t really been local for many “moons.”

So, losing local newspapers is leaving a vacuum in many places. Being “local” isn’t only about who owns it. It’s about the nature of its coverage. It’s about coverage by reporters and editors who live in and breathe the community. It’s about local community agenda. It’s about community reflection. It’s about community perspective.

And no, the newspaper in another community next door or across the state or nation, no matter how well intended, isn’t the same as a daily newspaper that focuses on a community without distraction.

But I’m one who believes as John Nesbitt wrote in Global Paradox that the more things go global, the more they will intensify at the local level.

And I wouldn’t be surprised to see the paradigm for local newspapers reverse in the near future.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Carbon Economy

This quick overview was shown at The Economist this week in D.C. It is a simple, graphical explanation of why this is such an important opportunity.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Aesthetics Ranks in Top Three Reasons Why Residents Love a Community

A Gallup poll on behalf of the Knight Foundation is surveying residents of 26 metro areas of varying sizes across the US to determine what factors create the most attachment to community for residents, regardless of income, marital status or age group.

It turns out that the top three factors are:

  1. Openness
  2. Social Offerings
  3. Aesthetics

It isn’t just aesthetics that is a surprise for many people, which is defined in the report as overall beauty and physical setting including parks, open spaces, trails, etc. It helps to ask people in a scientific survey because I’ll bet that based on news reports and public discourse, many people would have guessed public safety, transportation, etc.

By "openness" the survey is referring to what in Durham we call being “accepting.” It refers to a community’s overall openness to people from other countries, cultures, religions, lifestyles even and sexual orientation.

By "social offerings" the survey is referring to a vibrant cultural and entertainment centers, e.g., districts like Ninth Street and Brightleaf as well as an active downtown area overall.

Aesthetics isn’t a surprise to me nor are openness and social offerings. In public opinion polls, Durham residents always rank beautification and clean up as high priorities, although you wouldn’t know it from the low priority it has had with elected and other government officials over the years.

So the real question is why isn’t aesthetics a higher priority when it comes to local officials? More on that in a future blog on left brainers and right brainers.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

What is it with Motorcycles and North Carolina?

This aerial of North Durham countryside kind of says it all…

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Is Community Pride A Given?

Some people mistakenly think it is like cheerleading…that you generate it with a lot of hoopla or jumping up and down.

Most just take it for granted. Some use qualitative measures, but only a very few, like Durham, are on the forefront of scientifically measuring community pride as a benchmark.

Community marketing is beginning to catch on to the importance though. You can’t succeed at drawing sustainable visitation to a community if the residents who live there don’t deliver on the brand promise…at least not for long.

So 86% of Durham residents are proud of their community but is that standard low or high?

In my personal experience, that is extremely high. Now, thanks to some information gleaned from a Gallup Poll of 26 metros of varying sizes across the country, a benchmark is beginning to emerge. Gallup is posing the question as part of a three year “Soul of the Community” survey to find what makes residents “attach” to a community.

It turns out that Durham is truly exceptional when it comes to community pride. Compared to 86% in Durham, the average pride level for the 26 metros is 38%. The average of the six metros most comparable to Durham is 42%. For Charlotte and its surrounding metro area, the average is 43%.

So community pride in Durham is roughly twice as prevalent as these benchmarks.

Turns out the remainder, on average, are largely split between those who are uncertain or “not proud,” four and five times respectively of the proportion of Durham residents giving those responses.

The reason Durham excels in this measure is certainly not because it gets preferential treatment from the news media or that there are better cheerleaders here or that officials impose it.

To me it is simple. Durham has a unique and readily apparent cultural identity. It draws visitors and newcomers for whom that identity and its related values, emotional benefits and core strengths are a good fit and then it delivers on the brand.

But Durham can’t take this for granted. If Durham doesn’t foster that unique identity and resist the strong forces that would homogenize it, it will get caught up in trying to be like everywhere else and lose what’s special here.

You may not be able to create or generate community pride per se, but you sure can destroy the things that stimulate it.

The incredible level of community pride in Durham which has stayed consistently high now for nearly two decades of measurement is a tremendous asset and one that deserves nurturing.

Just ask the nearly 40% who are newcomers to Durham over that span.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Green Infrastructure Is Critical to Creative Class Communities!

(not to be confused with green technologies)

Durham is already widely recognized as a center for the creative class, a contemporary name for “knowledge” workers. These aren’t just jobs for artists, but all jobs that require thinking and/or creating for a living, e.g. researchers, doctors, lawyers, etc.

A new study by the Michigan State University Land Institute indicates that one of the key ways to stay that way is for Durham to invest as much in “green infrastructure” as it does traditional infrastructure like downtown areas, streets, water, sewer, etc.

Green infrastructure is different than green technologies. Green infrastructure is an umbrella term for cropland, trails, local and state parks, rangeland, rails-to-trails, private and public forests and water amenities like wetlands, rivers, lakes, streams and related activities like fishing, hiking, canoeing, marinas, etc.

Durham has a bigger challenge than most because it is a good size city located in a very small county in terms of land area. So planning to create and accommodate residential, office, commercial uses as well as green infrastructure is more complex here. But one thing in Durham’s favor is that more than a third of the land area is already set aside in watershed including rivers, lakes, cropland, etc.

People in economic development need to take note that places with great green infrastructure are associated with seven to eight times more metro job growth and those with water amenities in particular translate into 13 to14 times more jobs. Hopefully people in visitor centric economic development already sensed that.

Oh, another thing the report makes clear to economic developers who often bemoan taxes is that lower taxes may mean more population but not job creation or income growth. It also indicates that the old strategy of tax-based job attraction may only attract population but not employment or income.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Does Durham feel inferior? Research reveals just the opposite!

It isn’t uncommon for non-residents working in Durham to lecture residents that they shouldn’t feel inferior. And why is it non-residents applaud and Durham residents look puzzled?

Ahhhh?…cause we Durhamsters don’t – thank you very much! Never, ever mistake being unpretentious but fiercely protective of our community as feeling inferior!

Scientific surveys shows that over at least the 15 years since measurement began, Durham residents feel anything but inferior. They have high levels of positive image and pride in their community as much as 2 ½ times the norm in other places.

So why the presumably well-intentioned if more than a bit condescending public comments? The answer may be that with three in five jobs in Durham held by non-residents it may be hard to differentiate what residents truly think and feel about their community from what those who don’t live here, including many in the news media, may infer.

It could be that Durham’s refusal to be wronged or be a victim to persecution by the 10-15% of residents of nearby communities who are negative or extremely negative about Durham, is greatly misinterpreted.

But it is possible the “shoe is actually on the wrong foot.” It is more likely that feelings of inferiority are driving those who “bully,” and Durham-bashing ranks as a form of bullying. It is also possible inferiority fuels the frequent misattribution of Durham-based assets.

Maybe those who lecture Durham residents should direct their advice to those doing the bullying? For years, it has been pointed out that this small but potent group of negativists are giving the entire Triangle a “black-eye” with unsuspecting but vulnerable newcomers.

But even if it makes some people uncomfortable, Durham residents are going to stand up to injustice. It is just part of the overarching Durham personality and character. But don’t mistake this as feeling inferior.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

In 36 Months, Durham Brand Makes Mark With Residents and Non-residents Statewide

Exceeding all expectations and just 36 months since launch, scientific surveys show that 83% of Durham residents and 2.3 million adults, or 30% of all adults statewide recognize the overarching or umbrella brand for all of Durham. The brand is a distillation of Durham’s character and personality that can give all messengers a consistent and compelling voice. The benchmarking is done with a scientific survey by Nano Phrades.

I give credit for this to three things:

  1. The two-year, community-driven process that revealed the traits, values and strengths that both residents and external audiences attributed to Durham.

  2. Thousands of Durham messenger organizations and equal numbers of individuals who have adopted the brand on websites, in public comments, editorials and thousands of other applications.

  3. Bill Baker, author of a book on destination branding for communities that was written up in the Journal of Brand Management this month, who notes that DCVB did its job as Durham’s marketing agency and the organization on point to promote and defend the Durham brand.

    Bill states that “the huge difference is the way in which DCVB has stayed on course, and used the brand as a unifying force for the community” has played a role.

It takes years though to fully deploy and leverage a brand effectively, especially a community brand. But the first requirement for a brand is the distillation and that has to be organic, almost temporal or no amount of money and time will make a brand work.

To celebrate the Durham brand’s 3 year anniversary and to turn more attention to the enduring elements of the brand, DCVB has used the values, emotional benefits and core strengths of Durham’s personality and charter to create a new mini-poster.

Branding of course is just one element of an effective blend of marketing strategies. I am pleased though that DCVB has been part of a turnaround over the past 20 years and now twice this decade, Durham has been surveyed by North Carolina adults as having the most positive image among the State’s 5 largest cities.

By the way, the “Durham Is…” poster can be purchased for $2.95 which includes shipping and handling at or by dropping by the Official Durham Visitor Information Center in Downtown Durham.