A project as rare and remarkable as the Durham Innovation District (aka Durham.ID) deserves an equally arresting approach to marketing -- and that’s exactly what a witty and buzz building campaign delivered. It included a distinctive brand, widely covered events, statewide attention to a compelling video, Bull City iconography and Durham-centric slogans.
First, a bit of background: Durham.ID achieves a first for North Carolina by situating a world-class life sciences research and technology hub amid a vibrant downtown while also connecting to a major university. Eventually, plans call for Durham.ID to feature 1.7 million sq ft of research, retail and residential space knitting together Duke University and the city center.
The project has the potential to become a Bull City icon. As such, the developers at Longfellow Real Estate Partners insisted on a distinct name and brand identity. The team wanted to shout “Durham” loud and proud as the city has emerged as a national mecca for smart, creative people and companies. But while the concept of being an “innovation district” -- a term defined by the Brookings Institute -- is important, the team wanted something less generic. And so, the streamlined and memorable “Durham.ID” was born.
The images supporting the Durham.ID brand moblized a strong black-on-yellow design to stand out, as seen on durhamid.com. The brand personality further emerged via signage that simultaneously touted and winked at Durham’s reputation as a creative hub.
But substance, not style, is most important to Durham.ID. And so the team laid out its ambitions and commitment with two wildly successful public events. First came a press conference and reception celebrating Longfellow’s $250,000 donation to a S.T.E.M. education center for kids located on .ID’s campus. For many, this community-minded event was an extremely positive first introduction to Durham.ID.
The team followed this with an even bigger event celebrating the grand opening of the Carmichael Building, the first phase of Durham.ID. Led by Mayor Bill Bell, a parade of city and county leaders, community advocates and researchers explained the vision and importance of Durham.ID. The event played out in the Carmichael itself, showcasing the buildings cutting edge wet labs, vintage brick interiors and a fleet of Durham.ID branded maps and banners. Press coverage was massive and helped establish Durham.ID as a pillar of the region’s economic future.
To cement this standing, the team began tirelessly reaching out through a grassroots campaign presenting to everyone from the Rotary Club to owners of nearby businesses. Advocates also reached beyond the Triangle. Durham.ID’s story earned a finalist spot in a juried statewide competition put together by the Institute for Emerging Issues spotlighting North Carolina’s premiere “spaces for innovation.” A punchy video (above) describing Durham.ID earned votes from the mountains to the coast.
In all, Longfellow and its creative partners NeoScape and GBW Strategies along with strategic allies such as Duke, Measurement Inc., the Greater Durham Chamber of Commerce, Downtown Durham Inc., the Greater Durham Convention and Visitors Bureau and others have developed an identity and profile worthy of Durham.ID’s thrilling ambitions.