I’m on the #brandlibraries working party – one of the LIANZA’s Strengthening the Profession projects. I couldn’t really not put my hand up for this project, seeing as I have been banging on about libraries and aspects of marketing for a while. However some stressful personal family circumstances made me doubt if I had the energy for this. Well I ended up applying, things have changed family wise and the project is now under way and I am part of the working party. Vye Perrone (Waikato University) is chairing the working party, and other team members are Sandy Green (Masterton Public) and Amanda-Jane McFadden (Tauranga Public).
I won’t be blogging about every aspect of the working party – that won’t be appropriate as the project is LIANZA’s and there are reporting requirements back to LIANZA Council. But at the moment I’m considering what branding is, and thinking about what it is we might exactly need to achieve.
The project aim is to “Create a strong, unified library “brand” aimed at decision makers, which spell out the economic and social value of libraries in New Zealand”
So let’s have a look at what some of my favourite library marketing gurus have to say on the subject.
In The Accidental Library Marketer, Kathy Dempsey (p. 125) says:
Branding is another important aspect to consider as you look at your overall marketing picture. That’s really about developing the “personality” of your product and service. How do you want people to see you? What characteristics should come to mind when people think of you?
In The Library Marketing Toolkit, Ned Potter (p. 37-38) writes:
Branding is the:
process of creating a recognizable product or service – building an identity which people understand – and marketing it as distinct from potential competitors.
(For libraries these are bookshops, the internet and other institutions people can invest time in).
The brand … is the sum total of everyone’s perceptions about what you do. It is the way people feel about your library, the way people describe your library to others. Clearly branding as a marketing practise is an attempt to influence this as favourably as possible. But the brand is in the eye of the beholder – in the eyes of the users and non-users of your library – so you can never fully control it .. To put it a simpler way, a brand exists in the way people feel about something; branding is an attempt to make these feelings positive
He also writes – and these aspects are key (p. 39,)
Ultimately the aim of an organization’s branding and visual identity is not just to give a good impression, but to help people position that organization within their lifestyle. It helps people make a decision as to whether something is “for them” or not … Branding doesn’t just increase use of the library by attracting new customers, it also increases the amount of use by existing customers, and influences those decision makers who hold the purse strings for library finance
Libraries are already a strong brand – and to most people, that brand means books. A recent US study* indicated that this association was only getting stronger – in 2010 75% of American’s associated libraries with books, which was up from 69% in 2005.
In his post on The Physics of Your Library Brand, Steve Matthews points out:
There are few brands in the world bigger than LIBRARY. Library is generic – they are all the same, they are interchangeable, they all function the same, look and smell the same as far as the public perception is concerned. LIBRARY is one of the biggest brands ever developed. It took centuries to create the LIBRARY brand – BOOK. It will not be replaced easily or quickly – “the bigger a brand, the more difficult it is to reposition it”
However strong brands don’t always survive. Libraries have been fighting threats to our brand for almost as long as I have been in the profession (and that is a few years now!).
But as Steve Matthews asks:
How can the library re-invent itself and change its brand to survive in the 21st Century technology and information marketplace? How can we apply physics to library marketing in order to move the library’s position in the marketplace?
One of his recommendations is:
On a national level, library associations must conduct marketing campaigns that change the LIBRARY brand to something other than BOOK
So we do already have a brand, the question is probably are we wanting to reposition it?
And for this project – is it necessary to reposition the library brand in order to meet the primary outcome of the project which is “libraries are recognised as core to a healthy and prosperous New Zealand” ? You could say it isn’t, but you could also argue that this is an ideal opportunity to attempt to do so!
Or should we focus more on a publicity/public relations campaign. And if that is the case what about the information about the “economic and social value libraries in New Zealand”? Presumably any campaign is going to need to have this information – so where will it come from? Are the advocacy pages on the LIANZA website developed well enough to draw upon?
We have an interesting challenge ahead!
* http://www.oclc.org/reports/2010perceptions.htm (see pg. 38)