Stepping away from a commercial view of marketing

At the moment I am reading the excellent Bite-sized marketing:  realistic solutions for the overworked librarian by Nancy Dowd, Mary Evangeliste and Jonathan Silberman. The book’s focus is on word-of-mouth-marketing and it is perfect for dipping in and out of.

Do you know anyone who needs to move on from the idea that marketing is some sort of grubby commercial activity? Ask them to consider this:

Marketing traditionally has been thought of a deceitful or overly corporate, but in actuality it is about communicating your values to your customers. Marketing for libraries is a powerful way for libraries to accomplish our goals and stay relevant. In her phenomenal book Robin Hood Marketing: How to steal corporate savvy to sell just causes, Katya Andersen says: “There is no nobility in preaching to an audience of one. Those of us working for the public good have an ethical responsibility to be effective and efficient in reaching as many people as possible.” As Andersen points out so eloquently, we have to see marketing as an ethical responsibility. If we know that the services and resources that we provide for people make their lives better, we can step away from our commercialized view of marketing and move on to creating marketing programs that we can be proud of and fully invest ourselves in.

 

What language do you use to talk about your library?

So what is this language?

It’s branding!

My first experience of being involved with a branding strategy was when I worked at Puke Ariki (the combined library/museum/information centre in New Plymouth, New Zealand). I found the whole process quite fascinating and I credit that as one of the factors that led me to become so interested in marketing. I’m not even sure why it was so fascinating – maybe it had something to do with stepping back from how we might have thought of ourselves and envisaging everything about what we thought Puke Ariki embraced. Something in that thought process really clicked with me.

Recently I was fortunate enough to hear Steve Bailey from Rabbit Creative talk about branding. It’s common for the logo to be equated with the brand, but a brand is more than a logo. Your brand encompasses everything you represent to a customer – or as I have seen it expressed elsewhere:

 “Brand is the intangible sum of attributes, the promise, the big idea and the expectations that reside in each customer’s mind about a product, service or company.”

Here are some of the points I took away from  the talk Steve gave:

  • brand development is the idea of coming up with something you can own and be passionate about – and it gives you ways to articulate this in the marketplace
  • if you have a powerful brand then your customers will act as advocates for you – just look at Apple. (The flip side of this is that it creates great expectations from customers!)
  • branding gives you the language to talk about your business – you need to simplify what you are all about but retain an element of intelligence and intrigue
Steve described the experience of working with a company who had a definite idea of what they wanted –  including the name of the company. After working with them a new brand strategy emerged and that company is now Healium. The name is evocative of what the company is about – holistic health services to lift the body and spirit. Check out their website http://www.healium.co.nz/ to see how the brand name and values are expressed in everything to do with the company.

These ideas are also explored in Alison Circle’s post that I have previously linked to http://blog.libraryjournal.com/bubbleroom/2011/07/13/marketing-creates-real-value/  Alison talks about how Edmonton Public Library developed a language as part of their branding:

Words are the tools that create perceptions and ideas in people’s minds. EPL has excelled in writing smart and clever. That is hard to do and hard to do well consistently. As they created theirShared Values Wheel, they challenged themselves to push through jargon, including phrases that — I’m guessing — would not be seen as jargon to most libraries. Thus Customer-Centered becomes Open and Human; Intellectual Freedom becomes Ideas Champion.  Love it!

For a very thought provoking read on libraries and branding check out Dr Steve Matthews’ blog post The Physics of Your Library Brand http://21stcenturylibrary.wordpress.com/2011/08/17/the-physics-of-your-library-brand/ I’ve talked before about the need to rebrand libraries to convey that we are more than just books. I am not entirely sure this means ditching the word library altogether – attempts at this never seem particularly successful, especially when customers still see physical books in a the physical space. But I do like the range of steps Steve describes to move the position of the library in the marketplace. Check it out!