BrandLibraries update for LIANZA 2013

Last week the BrandLibraries Working Party that I am part of presented an update to the LIANZA 2013 conference on the project.

The slides for our short presentation can be viewed below. The slides are pretty self-explanatory but if you have any questions do feel free to post them in the comments. The project is at an exciting time, with BRR Ltd currently in their Discovery phase, interviewing stakeholders and visiting libraries. Branding the libraries of an entire country, and taking into account all of the library sectors, is a pretty ambitious undertaking, and it will be interesting to see what BRR comes back to us with! One of the people I connected with at conference was Sarah Fry, from Nelson City Libraries. Sarah has a background in communication and journalism, and her comment  was that we should make sure we don’t send out too complicated a brand message. I think if it was left to librarians that is exactly what could happen – by engaging with BRR we stand a much better chance of getting it right!

 

You can also check out our January 2013 update to LIANZA Council on the LIANZA website.

 

#brandlibraries

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)

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!

Marketing is not cake decorating

 “Marketing is not cake decorating. It is not done at the end of a project. If it is done well, it is integrated at the beginning.”

I found this wonderful quote in a recent post by Alison Circle which includes some real gems about branding included in a webinar by Tina Thomas (Edmonton Public Library).

I have so much more I would like to blog about branding – in the meantime check out what Alison has highlighted http://blog.libraryjournal.com/bubbleroom/2011/07/13/marketing-creates-real-value/.

So it’s like YOUR Google?

At Massey University Library we have recently launched our Discover database –  which offers an integrated Google-style search of many of the Library’s article databases, ebooks, the catalogue, Massey Research Online and other resources, instead of searching each resource individually. Anyone can search Discover from our Library home page. Our publicity for Discover stepped up a notch this week at our Turitea campus with a simple but eye-catching display going up. We are starting to get more of branded look for our posters now using a specific template. We got the posters printed by our printery on campus so we could get some larger sizes, and had them finish them in a nice matt finish.  
 
 
The posters include quotes from initial student feedback:
 
 
 
Today we had a quick working party in the office to staple sweets to bookmarks and we then took them out to the Information Commons to hand out to students (felt a bit like channelling my inner flight attendant*). So that quick promotional effort reached over 100 students and it was a winner – we got several students asking us about Discover – one said “so it’s like your Google?” Right on the money. I think that actively distributing promotional materials with the added attraction of some candy is a technique that is well worth us trying again in the future.

 

 *In New Zealand flight attendants walk up and down the aisles distributing sweets before getting organised for landing.

 
 

One library (… insert as needed … ) to rule them all …

At the moment we are reviewing aspects of our subject guides on our library website – a project that is considering the use of Libguides. Seeing Anali Perry’s Scholarly Communication page on Arizona State University Libraries’  site got me thinking that maybe the Libguides software could be used to create a bunch of pages rather than just subject guides orientated at students. Brian Mathews takes this further when he asks Why not use LibGuides as your Content Management System? In this post he makes a further leap and explores the idea that academic library websites will eventually utilise a “universal design”:

I imagine in ten years there will be a definitive design that we will all use or purchase. Our sites will go the way of research guides. We all use to approach these differently, but then came LibGuides and the rest is history. (1200+ libraries in 25 countries use LibGuides—why aren’t you?) It seems that everyone is using this product these days—why develop your own clunky system when you can have something that looks slick and is easy for both patrons and content managers? In a matter of a few years LibGuides has quickly emerged as the solution for how we package resources by subject.

 So… what about a common Content Management System for us all? Drupal seems to be gaining traction—but it is a huge investment in terms of up-front time and expertise. I’m not ripping on it—it’s what we’re moving into but… what about just using LibGuides instead? What if we just used the LibGuides template for our entire library website rather than just as a wrapper for subject guides

I take a leap of my own now onto the subject of public libraries. Several public libraries in New Zealand have, or intend to, collaborate and use the same library system in a co-operative fashion. How far could we extend this? At the moment in New Zealand many local authorities are seeking to impose additional fees on library users which  threatens the concept of an accessible public library service. Would it be feasible to really strengthen the “library brand” and completely turn the idea of public library governance on its head. Shift the responsibility of the provision of public libraries from local to central government with consistent service delivery, fees, and sharing of resources across one mega-system. (Yep, the chances of central govt wanting to pick up that tab are zero, given that they consistently seek to devolve services to local government!). But could we be doing more of this ourselves? Working collaboratively on issues such as service standards, assessing the impact of our services and marketing messages for instance? What if everyone in New Zealand could have one library card they could use in any public library? How far would be willing to go to strengthen (and protect) the brand “library”?