There’s a flap brewing between the Durham Convention and Visitors Bureau and the city’s spirited downtown arts community over a new branding campaign for the city that features a colorful, five-pointed star and the slogan “Durham: Where great things happen.” Within hours of its release Friday, complaints started flying on the Arts & Business Coalition of Downtown listserv ranging from concern that it’s too generic to the more pointed “that’s pretty lame.”

I kind of agree. With all the character and attributes Durham has going for it (Duke, RTP, its blues and Civil Rights history, beautiful architecture and neighborhoods), this is a slogan that sounds like it could be from Anyselfpromotingtown, USA. So I called Reyn Bowman, president of the visitors bureau, and asked him to tell me why I’m wrong.

The logo and slogan, he explained, are just the tip of a marketing iceberg designed to infuse the campaigns of corporations, universities and groups across the community through more specific uses–like “Where great art happens” or “Where great research happens.” It’s a long-term process.

This campaign is the final product of lots of test marketing outside the community and facilitation with scores of people within the community (including the Independent‘s board chairman, Steve Schewel). They worked with Total Destination Management, the company that handled Australia’s “Put another shrimp on the barbee” campaign. The cost: $64,000, plus the cost of polling, all funded by motel and restaurant taxes.

“The way the star tested,” Bowman said, “it was representative of very colorful, creative people working together.” Wow–that’s digging pretty deeply into the collective subconscious about a cockeyed star.

So I realized this was my big chance. For the last couple of years I’ve been test marketing my own slogan: “Durham–Ya gotta be funky.” It’s based on something Brad Brinegar, head of the colossal McKinney ad agency, said about why he moved the firm from Raleigh to Durham: “Creative people need funk.” I think that celebrates what Durham’s really all about.

It didn’t fly with Bowman. “The problem with ‘funky’ is that this has to be overarching,” he says. “You’re talking about a lot of different things in Durham, from RTP to Duke to neighborhood associations.”

Maybe you have a better idea. Send your suggestions for a new Durham slogan to (put “Durham slogan” in the subject line) by Monday, Oct. 9 and we’ll share the best ones (and maybe some of the worst).

I don’t think Bowman will mind (too much). “Being fragmented is kind of Durham’s brand. We sometimes practice that to a high art,” he says. But he adds: “It isn’t always that effective. And in marketing, it’s nuts.”