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 When Durham was included, the listings were woefully incomplete or out of date.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.

1 comment:

Lynn Minges said...

Nice comments. Durham is truly a very special place with lots to offer visitors to our state. The arts, culture, music, and restaurants in the city are really unique and are attracting national and international acclaim. It is an pleasure to work with Reyn, Shelley, and the entire Durham CVB team.