Monday, September 20, 2010

Muhammad Ali’s German Auto Center

I had to get out early Friday morning. Fall mornings are great for a Harley ride, but this time the Cross Bones took me to a meeting of a board on which I serve. As I turned off Geer Street, I spotted a sign with the words in the title of this blog and smiled. The incongruity is so Durham.

The sign came to mind again as I read the excellent editorial notation in the Herald-Sun Saturday exposing a couple of Durham-bashing web posts by people in neighboring communities trying to scare ‘Bama fans about Durham. Reduced now to just 1 in 10 of the population of those communities, rants by people like this try to make up for impotence with the toxic spitefulness of back-fence gossips.

You could read between the lines, though, that the real issue shared by those non-resident posts is that they can’t stand that Durham is eclectic, kind of like that sign. Two of the core, overarching Durham values distilled several years ago following a two year process of community input and research (now a best practice) are that this community is diverse and accepting.

Scientific public opinion surveys during the process confirmed that Durham “owns” these values both in the minds of the vast majority of residents but also in minds of the vast majority of people across the state and country. In brand terminology, “owning” these values doesn’t mean Durham is the only place that does but the community is known for the way it manifests them.Capture

A sense of humor is also one of Durham’s values as summed up by the tongue-in-cheek, incongruity (if you like irony and don’t take yourself too seriously) bumper-sticker I spied as I was pulling away after the meeting (click on image above to enlarge.)

Being accepting doesn’t mean we don’t poke fun, as the Herald-Sun editorial writer did Saturday by referencing where one of the “posters” lived as “Stepford On The Amtrak (for those unfamiliar, that’s the polar opposite of eclectic.) A sense of humor and being “unpretentious” are also integral to the overarching brand of Durham.

For more information on the overarching Durham brand (meaning it is an umbrella personality stretching over hundreds of individual brands based here) including a more complete manual, check in with the Durham Convention & Visitors Bureau (DCVB.)

As Durham’s official marketing agency, DCVB was designated to facilitate it by the 20-organization Durham Public Information & Communications Council. If your community still confuses slogans with brands, I recommend the book Destination Branding for Small [and Large] Cities.

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