Why did you become a librarian and what do you like about the career of librarianship?
I became a librarian in 2000. I love playing detective and teaching people how to “find stuff” and critically evaluate what is high quality and what is junky.
Assuming Information Literacy (InfoLit) was your first stab at librarianship how did the marketing issue become important to you?
Marketing information literacy takes time. It requires buy-in which can take years. It is much more than creating a brochure and flyers. I would target specific departments and attend meetings and discuss the benefits that InfoLit would have on their department and their students and the courses they are taking. I think selecting a target group to promote InfoLit to is the first step. Asking questions to learn about their needs and then developing information literacy lessons to address their needs should be the next step. Constantly tweaking your infolit lessons and classes to address your target market’s needs is key. For me, it’s making sure before, during, and after that the particular classes' needs are met. Creating the promotional material is the fun part. Asking questions and analyzing the data is the important parts that drive the marketing forward.
Why should librarians care about marketing?
We work very hard to develop extensive collections, services, resources, and we build elaborate web sites. We need to use marketing to ensure that we are properly addressing the needs of our users. Without marketing, we are working very hard, but with a blindfold.
What are the biggest competitors of libraries?
Do you get ideas from beyond the library world publications, examples for marketing?
I look at marketing in the corporate world for inspiration. I look at stores such as Starbucks, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, Dunkin Donuts for inspiration.
What gap is there in the writing about marketing by librarians?
There is a gap in an academic journal devoted to marketing by libraries and librarians.
What problem does the new journal that you are co-editing solve for librarians?
The Marketing Libraries Journal is an open access peer-reviewed journal for library marketers that hopes to present marketing research examples of practical case studies that are specific to libraries. Most marketing articles focus on big business. Library marketing is different since we are not concerned with profit. The 5 “P’s” are a little different for us.
What is the desired outcome?
To present different perspectives on how libraries and librarians incorporate marketing into their daily work and in their strategic plan.
Why should someone make it the #1 choice for their research?
It’s not the #1 priority (to do marketing in libraries) but our role is to serve library users. We need to ensure that we meet their needs, or else we are wasting our time and making our library users very dissatisfied.
A lot has been said about tactics in the library world, what about strategy? For example, if you had to choose one or two would it be marketing to freshmen, marketing in the library, social media (not just Facebook). Or?
Marketing is all about strategy. It is all about planning with a list of goals and objectives. If I were to market the library to freshmen as a strategy, I would have invited myself to meetings in student government, the residence halls, and offer services there. I would try to target all first-year college writing classes and make it mandatory for them to have a library assignment. Unfortunately, not all first-year college writing instructors are library advocates so this is why marketing is important….and this is why marketing needs to be well planned, focused, and must be strategic.
Are there any organizational issues or processes that are conducive to success in marketing?
In order to be successful, marketing is easier with buy-in, teamwork, and with $$$$$. It helps to have someone who is talented in graphic design, and before the marketing starts, it needs to be driven by data. Data drives decisions and data drives people to conduct marketing activities. Without data, it’s not marketing.
What organizational challenges related to marketing?
What do you think about librarians blogging?
Blogs may replace the traditional newsletter. I think they are a great idea. I think microblogs (like Twitter) are probably better.
Can you tell me about staff commitment of time to marketing?
Most library employees have too much on their plate so they do not have enough time to engage in marketing activities or marketing strategy.
What about getting the director behind the idea of marketing?
Getting the director on board is the most important.
How do you distinguish marketing from customer service or outreach? Or do you?
Outreach is about relationship building to get library advocates. Marketing is about connecting library services and resources with library users. Outreach is an element of marketing. Customer Service is an element of marketing. Marketing is the umbrella that covers these branches (promotion, publicity, outreach, advertising, customer service).
Please site specific examples of implementations that had measurable results or were popular, at your own libraries and others that you love.
Please see: Using Relationship Marketing to Develop a Successful First Year Library Workshop Program (Polger, 2015).
What tips do you have for library websites?
Please see: Student Preferences in Library Website Vocabulary (Polger, 2011).
What are the problems and solutions for academic libraries?
Limited resources. Limited time. We are overstretched. Marketing is not a priority for academic libraries. Academic libraries may feel that we do not have to market since students will just “come to the library” because they have to. We are no longer the monopoly. We need to get involved in marketing the library.
What do you think about involving students in creating campaigns - - social media, events, signs...? Do you have any examples?
I think asking students questions and getting data from them is very important. We also ask student employees as well. We often ask students for feedback on our marketing activities or any promotional materials before they are printed. We also ask general library users but we also like to target student employees. Student-led library tours, library ambassadors / library advocates who are students connect better with the general student population.
Can you say anything about statistics?
Statistics drives decisions. Statistics supports our activities and our marketing activities.
Can you name an idea that took risk or was cheeky?
De-Stress Event (coloring books and button making). We did not do proper market research to find out if the students really were interested. We took a risk and it was a success. We should have done background research. It could have been a failure.
What are the three things a library should never do in marketing?
What should they do?
What are recent trends in library marketing?
What can do vendors do at the discovery platform level that might help libraries market themselves or succeed?
Help us in providing local branding for our discovery platform. Help us in tailoring the colors and the overall design so it looks like it is part of our library web site.
What one thing do you want people to know about what you contribute to library land. What is your vision.
I am interested in helping to improve library users’ experiences when they enter the library building, when they interact with library web sites, library signage, library promotional material, and library spaces.
Recommended Library Marketing Sources by Mark Aaron Polger
Marketing Library Services (MLS) Newsletter
ACRL- Marketing the Academic Library
The “M” Word- Kathy Dempsey
ALA - Marketing
Library Marketing Toolkit by Ned Potter
The Accidental Library Marketer by Kathy Dempsey
Marketing and Social Media by Lorraine Mon and Christie Koontz
Marketing Today’s Academic Library by Brian Mathews
Crash Course in Marketing for Libraries by Susan Alman
Marketing Concepts for Libraries and Information Services by Eileen Elliott de Saez and Eileen Elliott de Saez
Library Marketing That Works! by Suzanne Walters
Selected Publications by Mark Aaron Polger
Polger, Mark Aaron, & Okamoto, Karen (2013). Who's Spinning the Library? Responsibilities of Academic Librarians Who Promote Library Management, 34(6/7), forthcoming.
This focuses on outlining the roles and responsibilities of librarians who are charged with marketing as part of their duties. It focuses on their duties and responsibilities.
Polger, Mark Aaron, & Stempler, Amy F. (2013). Do You See the signs?: Evaluating Language, Branding, and Design in a Library Signage Audit. Public Services Quarterly, 9(2), forthcoming.
This article focuses on best practices when developing new library signage. The articles themes are about focusing on consistency, being friendly, non-punitive, verbiage, and how to develop a consistent visual identity (i.e. a brand). I define brand as the unique identity a company or any organization possesses that sets it apart from its competition. Branding involves a logo, a consistent set of font types, colors, a mascot, a brand statement or slogan. Branding is about the recognition of a product or service through its visual identity (i.e. a catchy name, phrase, logo/picture, etc)
Polger, Mark Aaron, Okamoto, Karen (2012). Off to Market We Go: A Content Analysis of Marketing and Promotion Skills in Academic Librarian Job Ads, Library Leadership and Management, Volume 26, Issue 2, 1-20. This is a content analysis of job postings that advertise librarians who will be specialized in marketing duties for their libraries. This focuses on what employers expect of these prospective candidates.
Polger, Mark Aaron, Okamoto, Karen (2012). Selective (and Subtle) Marketing of Library Instruction. In C. Smallwood, V. Gubnitskaia, and K. Harrod (Eds.), Marketing Your Library: Tips and Tools That Work (183-191), New York: McFarland & Company. This is about the marketing process when planning information literacy classes with faculty. It addresses the “before the class”, “during the class” and “after the class” activities that relate to marketing information literacy to faculty.
Complete list of Mark Aaron Polger publications >>
I am excited to be in the Proquest database and even more so to be honored with publication by ALA's Reference and User Services Association. The editors of Reference and User Services Quarterly say:
When Spenser Thompson said he’d like to devote this issue’s marketing column to “personas,” I have to be honest—I had no idea what he meant. But his description of “watching the movie” to see how different people use and perceive the library is really intriguing. Much like sportscasters “roll the tape,” to get a better look at a play, librarians can also watch the movie to design better marketing experiences.…
Librarians are good at marketing, which is clear from a mere glance at the ACRL Library Marketing and Outreach page on Facebook. The new Library Marketing Journal that is accepting submissions now and promises to be a hard-core addition to what librarians can learn from each other.
In addition, the ALA’s Libraries Transform Campaign is a comprehensive set of tools for library marketing. The ALA put a lot of money and effort into this campaign and it shows. If you want to see how to do things the right way at the campaign level, pull this material apart. (You can also find out how to participate in the campaign by making social media videos, press releases, and using their graphics.)
There are several non-librarian-authored sources that can help you figure out how to market your library’s services. Here is a bibliography of sources have influenced my thinking over the years.
The Copywriter’s Bible
Learn about the history of advertising and how to write prose that dazzles and convinces.
An email marketing platform for libraries that comes with templates and how-to articles.
Please Understand Me: Character and Temperament Types
One of the most enduring and accurate personality tests. You might imagine what the type of your intended target is and work from there.
The Ape in the Corner Office
People are like monkeys. Facebook’s success is to me exhibit A of this fact. The way people behave "inside the building" impacts business and the marketing "product" an audience sees.
AdAge is a bible of the ad industry and highly entertaining. Although a lot of what you see is expensive to produce, you can steal concepts to market your library when you have no money.
If you are political or have a distaste for marketing, you will love this. AdBusters has satirical ads that are framed as "culture jamming." I am sure most of the people who read it have some connection to the ad industry. That’s what my gut tells me.
Hubspot makes a platform for corporate marketers. The people at this company are masters of digital marketing. Their enterprise software helps marketers track how people have interacted with the company through time (in person or online), and provides "landing page" and email functionality. You can also get a lesson in Inbound Marketing process on their blog. This concept includes the idea of attracting Web visitors who don’t type your organization's name (nor a book title, in the case of a public library) into Google. You also can get familiar with content marketing and email marketing here. The How to Create Personas blog post is a great place to start on the Hubspot website. (You can also read one of my posts on creating personas for libraries.)
New York Times Marketing & Ads Topic Page
They have a way of simplifying things and stay clear of horrible marketing jargon.
The Archetypes and The Collective Unconscious, C.G. Jung
People are living out “archetypal” scenarios which are not unique to a given individual, says Swiss psychologist CG Jung. Archetypes are a way of thinking about the dramas human beings play out. As I see it, marketing is about drama and finding a way to participate in people's narratives. This is a stretch, but I really like this book so why not include it?
Harvard Business Review
It's Harvard, for God's sake.
I suggest setting up a Slack team-messaging account and sharing sources like these among your peers. They are good conversation starters.
These are the main points of a presentation I gave at the Library Marketing Communications Conference 2016 called "What Libraries Can Learn from the Best Companies and Ad Agencies".
Never missing out on a chance for fun or a new technology, librarians are already exchanging ideas on how to bring Pokemon Go players to their libraries. Libraries have done amazing things with hot apps. For example, Burlingame Public Library was written up in the New York Times for their #bookface social media posts. But that is so 20 minutes ago! It's "Go" time.
1) Library Aware, a digital marketing platform provided by EBSCO, sent out an announcement today about free materials to get Pokemon Go going. I am not sure if it is open to non-customers but you may want to write to the email on that landing page and see it any EBSCO customer can take advantage.
2) A librarian, Erin Washington at Spartanburg Methodist College, was already working on a digital scavenger hunt that she is going to rename LibraryGo.
Since all the "kids these days" are meandering around doing PokémonGo, I thought I'd design a game called LibraryGo. I had already been working on an augmented reality library scavenger hunt using Aurasma, so I really have just relabeled it "LibraryGo" to cut down on the explaining time involved at the beginning...they'll all know what PokémonGo is even if they haven't played it.
If you haven't used Aurasma before, it is basically a way to link online content to an object in the real world (I used signs, a statue, a student ID card, and a screenshot, for example). If you've used QR codes for scavenger hunts before, it's basically the same idea but is just more fun. When you walk around and use the Aurasma app, it feels like you are pulling images and videos out of the air when you find a "trigger".
It is free to set up an account in Aurasma and fairly easy to create Auras. (My suggestion is to check the "lock" feature when you create an aura so that the students don't have to keep their phone hovering over the trigger to make the content play.) If you would like to see my auras, download the Aurasma app and follow "eirini52105".
The is the sheet I will give students to begin their search for "LibStops" (rather than PokeStops). Feel free to adapt this however you like, and borrow/edit my "LibraryGo" logo. The students will also receive one of our library iPads that will have the Aurasma app pre-downloaded for them. If you don't have iPads to hand out, you could easily do this with phones as long as one student per group was willing to download the Aurasma app. This activity *I think* will take about 30 minutes, and I was considering doing a Kahoot Quiz as their "Pokémon Gym" battle for the remainder of class time, or perhaps the usual database demo.
I just wanted to share this idea, in case anyone is looking for something creative/new to do for beginning of the year funtivities and/or library orientation. Feel free to email me back if you have questions or need help. Or let me know how you decided to adapt it! Maybe we can share ideas.
Way to go Erin!
3) Pokemon Go at the FDR Presidential library was covered by LibraryJournal's InfoDocket
4) School Library Journal has posted an excellent write-up on applications of Pokemon Go and policy implications.
Though Pokémon GO is still new, libraries are already joining in the fun and connecting with enthusiastic patrons. The New York Public Library was quick to blog about the game, offering an introduction to game play and some tips about finding relevant locations in and around the library. At the Thomas J. Harrison Pryor Public Library in Pryor, OK, the staff has used social media to advertise the library’s Poké Stop and has started dropping lures to attract players.
You can also join the often humorous and always entertaining LMAO (ACRL's Library Marketing and Awareness Outreach group on Facebook) to see if people begin sharing the results from their libraries.
Marketing is a movie that is about members of your community. For example, imagine a first scene in which the lead character describes libraries as “antiquated and irrelevant.” In the last scene, the protagonist tells the librarian that the library has changed her life and hands over a sizable donation.
Personas - a detailed portrait of a potential user - bring marketing to the level of film and allow marketers to imagine how an organization can be part of the drama of a person’s life. Persona's must include everything about the individual: what kind of car they drive, what they do with their free time, and much more.
Critically, the marketing movie is about the person(a) and what they want – success, a job, fun – not the library and its attributes or what librarians do to save the day. It is important to ask: What does this specific character want out of life and what happens to them (library-marketing interventions) that inches them closer to their goal?
The persona is a distinct concept that companies use to understand the market and their needs. Marketing Personas are not a demographic per se. Personas are not “men 40 years old who make X amount of money” or a “students that work two jobs.” Demographic profiles are very useful in deciding who to target and what to tell them. Personas move the marketing frame of reference from statistics to story.
In my experience, personas are helpful because they can produce new ideas: opportunities for effective marketing that will change what the protagonist does or thinks. By building a persona, you have a new angle in your efforts to move a character from one plot point to the next—the journey from stranger to champion. These moments happen when the character may not even be looking for the library, but library marketing channels (social media, bumping in to a library champion) offer avenues that fill a need the protagonist already has.
Techie Tom’s Boring Life
In my neighborhood, I see young people walking to and from the Caltrain station. Many are probably tech workers because I live near the Silicon Valley and the train goes to Mountain View (where Google and other companies in tech are). Let’s create a persona for a member of this group called “Techie Tom.” He passes the library every morning and evening, but he doesn’t go in or drop off books. He is wearing casual clothes and a sci-fi T-shirt. Like many of us, he finds the commute boring. In fact, his state of mind in general is bored with life.
As with film, something unexpected happens to the main character. Techie Tom sees a piece of paper on a tree that was not there before. He has to stop because it does not look like an advertisement; it looks like a string of computer code. Moving closer, he sees an IF/THEN statement that says if he is bored of his commute, then he should download some free science fiction books from his library (Overdrive eBooks in this example).
if ( YOU HAVE A BORING COMMUTE )
Download a free book right now at your local library with OverDrive at library.org/commute. }
Moments later, Techie Tom buys a sugar doughnut at the coffee place next to the Caltrain station. He sees the same code on his coffee sleeve (or he sees the same sign on a bulletin board). This time he has a minute, so he pulls out his phone and signs up for OverDrive. Voila! This is your movie’s turning point and the library has a new user. Tom is hoping to get out of his dull life and the library kicks off the story. The book inspires him to build a space ship in his garage to win a girl’s heart, but that part of the story doesn’t matter to the library staff.
Bubbly Beth Wants a Social Life
Bubbly Beth is attending the pre-freshman program at your university. She is very extroverted and very anxious about college and simply must get in to the sorority of her choice. Perhaps she is afraid that she will miss out on kicking off a vibrant social life. The library staff provides a solution by being actively engaged in the pre-college program and signing her up to work at the greeting desk where she can meet everyone! She runs into the captain of the football team – a secret bookworm - in the library and love blossoms. But that doesn’t matter to us.
The Acts in Your Movie
Marketers call the movie plot – how someone gets from being a stranger to a champion - the Buyer’s Journey. A marketing-focused library picks what “act” the person(a) is in, and what plot-points will move him/her to the next step. Ideally you catch the person before they are deciding whether to go to Starbucks or your library and make them develop a preference for you. Through their experiences in social media, signs on trees, whatever, they start to use library services.
After the credits roll, we see Beth or Tom looking at a funny picture on the library Facebook page and laughing out loud. This is the last step in the Buyer’s journey that is known as the “delight stage”. The movie continues and the stage is set for a sequel.
Did you get on the exhibits floor and check out the latest technology demos? What kind of interaction did you have with your tech vendor? Was it productive or satisfying? Did they hear what you had to say and did you understand what they were pitching? If not, you may want to consider these tips next time.
(Full disclosure: I worked for a libtech vendor for several years.)
If Marketing Matters to Libraries, “Sales” Does Too
If I worked at a library and the library director said she was going to take a half a day off and play tennis with the university heads, I would say “great.” I would understand that my director is looking out for the library. She is doing her part to get her bosses to open their minds and their checkbooks. The library director may have a terrible serve, but she may “return” to the library with a new piece of information or commitment. Relationships are key market research moments.
The Director’s relationships may not seem to have anything to do with marketing but they are closely tied. If you think your library has no sales people, you are mistaken. Anyone in a position to deal with users or funders is in a position to prompt them to use or fund a new service. The way forward is getting to know the specific world someone lives in, and offering him or her the right solution. Getting to Yes is part of the library director's world.
Library directors can share what they know about the priorities of the city or college, not in terms of any lofty official documents, but what the actual people running it have to say. This information sharing, in which the heads of libraries move beyond a staffing need-to-know policy to a must-know policy. Give librarians a stake in the success and have them think about what they can do to support you (as the lead persuader of funders). This can means suggesting service tweaks, adding stats to reports, bundling services or classes into a neat package, or changing the names of events or classes. Librarians can ask themselves how their marketing efforts could help the director reach their goals.
The Sales Gap
Marketing may get new visitors to the front desk in search of a new service, who then require librarian intervention to start using it. For example: if there is a social media promotion sign on the info desk, that one librarian or communications person put there, any staff member should be prepared to explain and encourage participation. I encountered this situation myself, and when I asked, was told that the promotion was "just a thing." The librarian’s lack of knowledge was a missed opportunity to gain a new customer of a new service. In other words, the information gap between the marketing and the sales (librarian) can render marketing useless. User awareness changes but behavior does not.
Strumming a Fat E-major Chord
There are many ways to encourage staff to utilize personal relationships to enhance library viability. Let's try an example of a staff member who is on the front lines rather than the director. If he tells the director that he is taking a few hours off to go rehearse with a student rock band, the director should say, “great.” The director finds someone to fill in and asks the librarian to report back. Learning what is on the minds of the community counts as market research. No report, no more music.
Social Media Relationships
Relationships come from digital relationships too. Librarians also build relationships on social media, but not just on their feed. Taking 30 minutes a day on social media is not unrealistic, nor is it only for the "social media person" at the library. They can spread the library presence to a community Facebook page. This is also great market research. If there is a collective need expressed in an online group then a service can be designed to meet that need. If there is an event, the library staff can show up. Librarians are experts in their own interests and obsessions. This expertise. lends credibility to their posts on various Facebook pages. Remember, you want to connect with people that are close enough to use your library. A post could be about suggesting books or events about a subject interest. It is not “a call to action” alone or social spamming. These suggested opportunities for interaction come in the context of sharing legitimate knowledge.
If you can’t convince your director to let you play hooky in a band during the work hours, report back on your weekend conversations. If you meet someone at the party and tell them what you do, what is their reaction. Do you use our library, why and why not? Even better an open ended question like “what do you think about libraries?” Pew reports on libraries – which librarians love for their rigor - may say that mobile technology matters, and librarians may build a marketing program around it. But that doesn’t tell the real story of your community. What do your users say about mobile and what apps are their favorites?
Part of the work deliverables of a librarian can be a report on what they are hearing in the field, plus any news about the audience that may be published. For example, what is the hot place or activity on campus? What are the strains on a local community? All this of course is a market-focused (by which I also mean marketing-focused) strategy that looks outward for opportunities and not inward for operations. The price tag here is the time and energy of the staff. Are you willing to spend an hour of the week finding some piece of information from the field or in conversation that you can bring back to a manager meeting?
The mandate set out by the ALAs Libraries Transforming Communities and the accompanying Libraries Transform ad campaign are to create nd trumpet outward-facing libraries. A library-wide practice of bringing in new information from outside – market research - is half the battle in marketing. Your day-to-day may focus on the day-to-day administration, creating of services, or running events. However, going the extra mile to integrate with your community and work campus or city relationships will bring in new ideas and knowledge that will make services and content more imaginative and effective.
"Who are you talking to and why do they care?" This is a good question to start with if you are trying to get the attention of an audience and get them to do something. I mocked up some sample ads to demonstrate this point. Most important is the process is how I got to these cute - and I hope effective - ads. I used a series of questions called a creative brief that is used in various forms by ad agencies worldwide.
In this case we are talking to freshmen (and we know what they care about, if you know what I mean). They also care about getting through the agony of their first college research paper, especially if they do not consider themselves research enthusiasts or writing experts (most of them!). It's likely that they will walk in to the library in some state of overwhelm. The ad seeks to connect them to a solution at their library.
While our hope may to be to connect them with a particular database, keeping it general helps in two ways: they don't have to learn a product name and they will connect with a librarian to start the conversation. Alternately they can go to the URL (at the bottom of the ad) that could open a chat box or explain how to get to a database(s) for a given purpose.
In short here are the creative brief questions I tried to answer. Who are we talking to and why do they care? What do they believe? What do we want them to believe? What makes us different? What do we want them to do? What's the one thing we want to say to them? What tone do we want to take (provocative, fun in this case)? Many briefs have many different approaches, but these are a few common ones.
Once you have these answers you can make anything from a billboard to a long story based on your single creative brief. If you feel like your piece is going astray, go back to your creative brief and fix it. My post on library branding talks about how to apply these principles in another context.
The most important question links your business/service goals with marketing. That is: what are we trying to achieve? In this case we could say that our impetus in general is to encourage contact with librarians (to keep the library surviving) and get some ROI on the investment in databases. Ultimately your business and marketing goals should dovetail, and marketing smartly will give you an edge.
...Or what does library branding have to do with Volvos?
“Brand” matters to libraries, but it is a term that is used in many ways. Without a template or a firm definition, finding yours can turn into an endless brainstorm or arrive at a notion that is not a brand. The benefits of having a brand – persuasiveness and inspiration - are lost. Here is a way to brand your library that is consistent with how the biggest agencies in the world do it, with some of my pet peeves thrown in.
1. Start with the unshakable belief that a brand is an idea—not a logo, mission statement, object (a high tech device), or a list. This will get you to a true brand that has unique benefits. “High Tech” can describe an object but is it an idea? Or enough of one? Hint: High-tech is a gray area between idea and service. "Relevant" may be the idea behind high-tech.
2. Come together and ask what is your library really about. Make a list of ideas that could be a library brand. Freedom is an example. If you can’t think of one, ask: “If the library was a car what kind would it be?” If it was a Volvo, what ideas does that evoke? Is it durable, practical, liberal, trusted, or something else? Make a list of all the ideas that various cars in the marketplace can carry: joy, freedom, fun, family, tradition, intelligent, cool and beyond. The market is so crowded with ideas you may find one that works. You can also ask what kind of Volvo your library might be. Doing this as a group is great because it brings out emotions about the library and can uncover things a survey could not. If you stick to the rest of the list, it won't be an endless exercise.
3. Choose one idea only. This is the hardest step and the deadliest. If you have two competing ideas, such as “education” and “community”, do you have the stomach to choose just one? It’s scary to do. Trying to hedge your bet is not helpful. Being everything to everyone is a wonderful goal, but it is not a brand – or even a marketing message. Metaphorically speaking, how few table legs do you need to hold up a table? Just one. That’s how to narrow the list. If you leave the room saying our brand is "X and Y and Z" you have a mission statement.
4. Do the Brand Stress Test. Ask if the idea is helpful to your business goal, which I define as improving relationships with funding bodies -- even if the relationship with users contributes to the health of that relationship. If it is not, or has conflicting meanings for users and funding bodies, go back to a previous step. (Note that opposite ideas such as Cutting Edge or Carrying Tradition may be useful in a given context--depending on what your audiences care about.) Then ask: "Can we be that one idea?" If you answer yes, and the idea matters to the audiences, you are in a fabulous place. If you discover that your idea is an aspiration – what you almost are, but not quite – you may want to consider changing service to support branding. Branding the library may be an exercise that makes the organization more focused!
5. Do the emotional impact test. Make your idea inspiring or choose one that is. Does “information” inspire anyone but librarians? Is it even an idea? Brands are not bland.
6. Ask if you can own the idea in relationship to other choices that users and funding bodies have. That would mean Barnes and Noble, Google, student commons, or the children’s park. If your idea is “high tech”, it may be a fatal “us too” idea. This exercise is tougher than ever because for profit businesses know that Making the World Better or Common Good are valuable ideas. Non-profits have trouble owning it. Finding a brand position goes a long way to automatically refute the argument that "Google already does that."
7. Do the umbrella test. If the idea is fun, can all of our services be “spun as fun.” If our idea is freedom, can our services be paths to reach it? This will make your idea believable and give you a path to where it’s fine to leave the realm of ideas and get into concrete services and benefits with your supercharger called brand.
If you a looking for an introductory book about branding check out The Brand Gap. I will discuss the statement “the library brand is books” in a future post.