Marketing Wrap-Up from ALA 2018: Best (and Worst) Vendor Exhibits and Librarian Marketing Experts

Arranged by what came to mind first....

1. Grammarly

Just SHOWING UP WITH SOMETHING COOL AND COMING TO ALA FOR THE FIRST TIME demonstrates a company's respect for ALA and its members, and provides a new technology to evaluate. (Note that Google and Nintendo have stopped coming to ALA.) Grammarly hooks on to Word or tags along as you go about your business on the Web -- cleaning your messes. Grammarly has broken the Microsoft Word monopoly on spell check. "Clippy" is weeping wherever it is.

Grammarly made their marketing lead, Greg Carpets, available to me for an hour-long discussion about the technology behind the product -- which has to do with neural networks and machine learning. They are employing folks who are both linguists and programmers, so wow. Grammarly learns, in aggregate, about English style, context, and so on based on its many users.

According to their blog, Grammarly is PRO SERIAL COMMA. Grammarly has a lot of funding and is going to be around for a while. They also tweeted a cute penguin at me -- so I have that going for me.

(I did not use Grammarly on this blog post, so do not judge their tool by any errors I may have made. Composing long treatises on a smartphone -- and composing on the awful Weebly interface -- will do that to you. I am trying to finish before everyone flies home from the #ALAAC18 conference.)
2. Library of Congress

Let's consider LoC a vendor of sorts, or at least wanting maximum contact with attendees.
Their sea of white columns at their booth on the exhibit hall floor made my heart go pitter-pat. They also block the view inside. If you could see past the columns you would have caught a glimpse of free hot coffee in the middle. Nice.


The third thing that comes to mind from the exhibits was the worst one. It is for a product that is a piece of hardware. This company takes up a lot of floor space near the center of the hall with a KERMIT-WITH-JAUNDICE GREEN canvas overhang that is a Fung Shui nightmare. They even have green carpet. Green, green, everywhere--I think the accent "color" is black? A demo station or two, a pull-up sign, and some cool foam frogs scattered around would have packed in the attendees. Trashing everything else would be a good start. Just trying to help. Ribbet.

4. Chat Chairs

Technology vendors like chairs. An ILS vendor had some particularly snazzy white pleather chairs that were cordoned off. This is actually a good business move so you can get serious business convos going and prevent foot-tired attendees from sitting on anything flat. I didn't see anyone in various chairs, but deals are happening to be sure. I saw an intense vendor-librarian conversation at the TIND open-source library-technology booth.

5. HeinOnline 

...wins for best give away at ALA 2018 in New Orleans. A Honda fit (see header). It is good because their product has wide appeal and attracting a lot of prospects is a good idea. Vendors don't realize that even 10 300$ GIVEAWAY will pack in the attendees. Attendees: STOP TAKING CHEAP SWAG FROM VENDORS; MAKE THEM WORK FOR YOUR VISIT. Bring your own (vegan) bag! Let your pals at the library buy their own pencils or write vendors if they want some. Just bring your alcohol or chocolate home to your coworkers.


Speaking of serial commas, the Chicago Manual of Style won for Most Clever sign. It was red-lined with corrections. It got the most traction of any of my sad posts on Twitter so that shows it may have been popular among other attendees. Their staff also gave out buttons that explicitly state that they are PRO SERIAL COMMA.
I also asked the brilliant question of where the company is based. IT TURNS OUT THE CHICAGO MANUAL OF STYLE FOLKS ARE BASED IN CHICAGO. It's a good first question for Who Wants to be a Grammar Millionaire, a free marketing idea for the publishers of the CMOS.

7. TLC's 3-D Printers
The best business development idea I happened to see was the offering of 3D printers by TLC: an established, independent "ILS vendor." 3D printers are a huge "marketing" opportunity. I have bemoaned on this blog the use of self-check machines at libraries and the placement of self-check machines feet or miles from the ref or circ desks. Patrons should have to walk the gauntlet past the ref and circ desks to get to 3D printers. Librarians and users have a reason to hang out by these devices together; and librarians can take on a teaching role.

Jamison Reynolds of TLC, who started in customer support at the company 15 years ago, told me that the machine can be assembled / reassembled because it clips together. I just liked that they were prettier than ones I've seen; they are transparent lucite(?) and you can see what is happening inside. I am not sure WHO HAS MORE FUN WITH 3D PRINTERS LIBRARIANS OR TEENS (above)?

8. Lulzbot

Lulzbot won for references to internet culture. Look it up yourself.

9. New Orleans Tourism

New Orleans board of tourism had the BEST EXPERIENTIAL MARKETING at ALA 2018. There was a Tell Your Story space where you could record a little video about your Nola experience. Somehow THE VIDEO PROCESS HAD SOMETHING TO DO WITH ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE HA HA. It took several attempts to figure out the sponsor of the booth, so they get huge props for not having A TABLE WITH BROCHURES with crocodile tours on the front. I did a video about my dad playing in a pickup band with a creole member of Duke Ellington's band: a New Orleans brush with greatness indeed. Barney Bigard was his name. 

10. Imagination Playground

I hate calling play-stuff "good marketing" because it is just good business. Build lifetime customers. Here is a product demo by an attendee (pic below). It's a modular system and made of safe materials.

"ALSO GOOD FOR CATS?" The sales rep gamely tells me that is a good idea.

PR Xchange Awards & Exhibits 2018

The PR Xchange Awards recognize the best public relations by libraries in the previous year. Many winning entries were on display at the ALA Annual Conference 2018 in New Orleans. Sponsored by LAMA's Marketing and Communications Community of Practice, the awards are co-chaired by Lesli Baker and Mark Aaron Polger (pictured below). The event also included a ceremony that included the John Cotton Dana Library Public Relations Awards Reception. Polger, who has been interviewed on this blog, is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of the new open-access, peer-reviewed journal Marketing Libraries Journal, which was launched in Fall 2017.


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