Message Design, Branding & the Library’s Story
From blog postings to press releases, the key to message design is understanding the desires, wants, needs, and interests of the audience. How will your communications convince people to check out a book, seek help from a librarian, or participate in a program?
Thousands of blog posts and email announcements go unread everyday. How will you engage your patrons in information worth reading, viewing, or hearing?
Watch my narrated slide show at Vimeo (on the right).
In this section, we'll examine the design of communications and explore the stories that bring library products alive.
Each of the following questions will be addressed on this page. For quick access, click on the question of interest.
- What's the message?
- How are marketing and communication related?
- What's a client-centered approach to communication?
- What’s the story behind the library, the service, the user?
- What’s the central message for the service offering?
- How can the message be most effectively conveyed?
- How do you connect services with library user needs?
- What informational approaches are useful in message design?
- What educational approaches are useful in message design?
- What persuasive approaches are useful in message design?
- How are communications used in times of crisis?
- What is branding?
- How can a brand be used to define the library in the minds of users?
- How is a brand created?
- What design standards will be followed for communications?
- How does branding fit with other aspects of marketing?
Each library and service has a story to tell. However it's making a personal connection with the audience that makes this story meaningful. People are what make the library and its services come to life. Users want to see examples of how the library can make their lives easier, more enjoyable, or more meaningful.
The photo below is courtesy of the Utah State Library (Flickr). It shows the circulation desk at the University of Utah's Marriott Library.
Example: The Lafayette College Library was looking for a way to increase use of their Personalized Research Assistance (PRA) service. This service provides individual research consultations with reference librarians to help students with library research. Their marketing campaign was aimed at reaching students in a humorous way. They created collectible postcards as a way to publicize PRA sessions.
According to Rebecca Metzger, "PRA cards get the faces of reference librarians out to students in a comedic format that shakes up the stereotype of librarians as stodgy and serious, hopefully making us more approachable. The service and its publicity strategy developed hand-in-hand."
Each semester all students are mailed the current postcards that feature reference librarians superimposed on movie or TV skills that reflect pop culture (an example is shown blow). To view the cards, go to the card gallery. To read the entire article, go to Library Marketing blog.
Barber and Wallace (2010 3-4) suggest conducting a communication audit to examine the many ways the library is communicating with the public. They suggest questions in the following sixteen categories:
- Accessibility - Can people easily navigate the library building and website?
- Brand/Identity - Does the library have a clear consistent image?
- Customer Service - Is the library staff committed to excellent customer service?
- Listening - Do staff members listen and act on feedback?
- Decor, decoration - Is the library well-light, uncluttered, and attractively decorated?
- Display - Are the books displayed effectively? Are shelf-talkers used?
- Local Ownership - Does the library reflect the diversity of the community and act on its behalf?
- Message - Does the library have a message that is effectively communicated?
- Media - Does the library have a media presence?
- Outreach - Does the library have a presence in the community outside the library building?
- Programming - Does the library actively offer and promote programming?
- Print Materials - Are there an effective number of clear, attractive print materials containing the library's message?
- Signage - Is the library easy to find?
- Telephone - Does someone answer the phone and act on calls?
- Website - Is the website message consistent with other library communications?
- Body Language - What is the unspken message being delivered by staff?
Read How to Prove a Library’s Relevance: MCPL’s Brilliant Brand Strategy by Jim Staley. Think about the strategies they used. How could their approach be used by other types of libraries?
A key element of marketing is the design, development, testing, application, and delivery of informational, educational, and persuasive messages to meet specific communication needs.
Communication is the most visible or audible of marketing activities. Through communications, library marketers inform existing or prospective customers about service features and benefits, the channels through which service is delivered, and when and where it is available.
Examples: Below you'll see a brochure from Virginia Commonwealth University library, a school library secrets poster from the Unquiet Library, and a bookmark created for Christchurch City Libraries.
The scope of marketing communication is far-reaching. Some people still define it narrowly as the use of paid media advertising and promotional fliers. Today, marketing includes the use of social media, virtual connections, as well as word-of-mouth. The location and atmosphere of the physical and virtual library, branding features such as the consistent use of colors and graphic elements, and the quality of customer service all contribute to an impression in the patron's mind that reinforces or contradicts the communication messages.
According to de Saez (2002), communications should be developed with one or more of the following categories in mind: cognitive, affective, or behavioral. The communication could
"aim at making the user aware, or at changing user perceptions, or actually encouraging the user to do something... (however) creating demand before the information service is readily available, or before there are sufficient materials to meet the users' requirements or personnel to staff the service, leads to frustration and rebounds badly on the library or information unit."
The AIDA model (awareness, interest, desire, action) is an effective approach for thinking about library communications for marketing products, services, and programs. de Saez (2002) suggests that timing is important.
- Awareness (cognitive stage). Start by attracting attention. A service may be valuable, but it won't be used if potential users are unaware of its existence. From signs and posters to email messages and Facebook postings, knowledge comes first.
- Interest and Desire (affective stage). It's essential to analyze the audience to determine what types of communications will trigger interest. The benefits of the service could be highlighted in an infographic or a video could show happy people attending a program.
- Action (behavior stage). Convince users to participate by providing incentives, personal attention, or staffed exhibits. Get people to commit to a service.
Example: Tree Talks for Beginners is a program of The Genealogy Center at the Allen County Public Library. Think about the AIDA associated with this program.
It's useful to become familiar with some of the large advertising news services such as Advertising Age. These provide general information about marketing that you might adapt for your own situation.
Keep your communications focused on the needs of library customers. It's important to tell people what they need to know, not a laundry list of what you want them to know about a service or program.
Handley and Chapman (2011, 72-73) suggest that content-rich messages should contain the following six characteristics:
A client-centered approach to communication captures your audience's imagination. If you set at TRAP (timely, relevant, active, personal), they'll be engaged in the communication and won't be able to escape the idea.
- Timely. When your audience reads the flier or views the video, there should be an opportunity to act immediately. They should be able to access a resource online, text a request on their phone, or call for a reservation.
- Relevant. The communication should convey the necessity and meaningfulness of the service through real-world examples that match the audience's experiences.
- Active. Your communication should show people taking action and experiencing the resource or service. The audience need to see that benefits that come from choosing to participate.
- Personal. Your audience should seem themselves in your communication. Users should think, "this service is for me!"
Example: The Visual Libraries project is a collaborative, visual library project.
"A collaborative, visual project which encourages you to sign out a Visual Library Book and ‘Leave Your Mark’. A Visual Library Book is whatever you want it to be, a sketchbook, a journal, a diary, a notepad. You can ‘Leave Your Mark’ in whatever way you want, ranging from drawing, writing, sewing, adding photographs, markings, printing and sticking. How you make your marks is entirely up to you. All we ask is that you have fun with the different themes. Just borrow it on your library card with other books and materials. If you are not already a member, just ask the staff to help you.
45 Visual Library Books have been placed in Portsmouth Central Library and each has its own theme ranging from; Portsmouth, My City, When I Open My Eyes, Whilst I Was Waiting, Love, What’s in My Pocket and Memories. The intention is for you to feel free to explore the Visual Library Books and choose a theme that you like. "
Brian Mathews (2009, 3) suggested this type of experiential approach to promote a library chat/instant messenger service.
"I suggest designing an On My Buddy List campaign, highlighting several influential students that fit into different user segments (an artist, an athlete, and a popular fraternity member). Using a campus wide mixed media package, including web, print, and video content, show these students using the instant messenger service throughout the day: texting on a cell phone, late at night in a dorm, on a laptop during class, and even using a computer in the library. The context of these IM conversations should be humorous, informative, and relevant, highlighting a wide variety of library services, not just research assistance. I would also consider printing inexpensive napkins for the library cafe featuring intriguing questions and encouraging users to message the librarians in order to find out the answers. All students who use the service during a particular semester could also be entered into a monthly raffle as well. Additional coverage in the campus media outlets, such as newspaper, television, web portals, and radio, could also support the promotion.
This type of campaign demonstrates the value of the chat service by showcasing the user; students are the focus, not the librarian. It emphasizes the convenience of the chat reference with the actionable goal of convincing students to add the library account to their buddy list and ultimately to ask a question. By illustrating real-world questions and answers, students can envision themselves using the service as well. The objective is to introduce them to the library's services early in the semester, rather than at a point of frustration or anxiety."
Brian Mathews (2009, 3-4) states that these types of "experiential" approaches shift us "away from simply telling students what they should know about the library and instead shows them how the library applies to them."
Start with a story. Storytelling is a powerful means of communicating an idea. Stories engage, inspire, and provoke action. An authentic story touches people with conflict and resolution that ring true for readers.
Example: Testimonials are a great example of storytelling in marketing. Real stories tell the true story of customers, staff members, and the joys of the library.
Elisabeth Doucett (2008, 4) states that
"A library's story is the articulation of the role it plays or wants to play in its community. To create a powerful story, the library needs to identify a role that no one else can duplicate. The story is meant to inform anyone considering using the library about what makes it special and worth visiting.... A meaningful story will motivate potential patrons to come to the library because they are seeking what the library provides."
Dowd, Evangeliste, and Silberman (2010) suggest developing library stories with three acts:
- The Beginning. Establish the central character, explain why the story is important, introduce the trigger event, create a challenge.
- The Confrontation. Present a couple obstacles or turning points that keep the story rolling.
- The Resolution. Resolve conflicts, ask people to act.
Example: The Multnomah County Library website contains a page asking for library users to share a brief story about how the library changed their life. You can read their stories.
Example: Minnesota libraries put out a call for stories. Check out their call flier.
Consider incorporating media into the stories.
Example: The Libraries for Real Life is asking for people to share their stories. You can also watch stories.
Example: The Chelmsford Public Library asks users to submit their text stories. In addition to posting patron stories, they also provide links to videos of authors telling their stories.
Example: The state of New Jersey turned storytelling videos into a contest. Check out the videos on Facebook.
An online form works well for people to submit their text stories.
Example: The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh provide a page with guidelines and a form. They also link to stories that have been submitted.
Dowd, Evangeliste, and Silberman (2010, 34) suggest a few questions to guide story contributors:
- What's your most memorable experience at the library?
- Why do you visit the library?
- What have you learned at the library?
- How have librarians helped you?
- How does the library save you money?
- How has the library changed your life?
- What would your life be like if you didn't have your library?
- What is the best class you've taken at the library?
- What is the best program you ever attended at the library?
- Did you discover a book at one of our public libraries that changed the way you look at the world and your place in it?
- Did you meet someone significant at the library?
- Did someone amusing make your day?
Lisa Cron (2012) in the book Wired for Story contends that brain science can be used to hook readers and engage them in your cause. Her suggestions can be applied to telling your library story. She suggests using your story to change the way people view the world.
Rather than using fictional information or fake scenarios she suggests using real people's real experiences. She stresses that stories are about a human experience. Telling the story of your library building isn't as exciting as sharing the experiences of the many users of the library.
Brian Mathews (2009, 127) suggestions that every campaign have the following elements as part of the story:
- Surprising. Gain attention by presenting the unexpected.
- Relatable. Make the message relevant, authentic, and true to the audience.
- Tangible. Incorporate a tactile element such as a coupon, handout, or give-away.
- Experiential. An interactive element such as a game, puzzle, or engaging story line creates a feeling of involvement.
- Shareable. Get people talking and sharing. Create Word of Mouth by incorporating novel or cool components that people will want to share.
- Measurable. Build in assessment. Count how many hits your YouTube video receives and how many people LIKE the promotional page.
Examples: Besides using words, you can also tell library stories visually. In Take Pictures, Tell Stories, Cindi Trainor shares examples of how photos can be used as a create way to share library events.
Read Tell Me a Story.
It provides a different perspective on storytelling libraries.
What visual stories could you tell about a library?
Read a series of articles from WebJunction Central about Telling the Library Story.
Write the story of a library?
How can telling a story bring a library alive?
Read How One Library Is Using Content Marketing to Capture the Imagination.
Think about the importance of content in marketing.
Although there are many ways to explain a product or demonstrate a service, it's important to create a concise central message that communicates the main ideas.
A Public Awareness Campaign focuses on promoting awareness of the value of libraries, librarians, or the services that are offered at the library.
Example: The @yourlibrary is a well-known marketing campaign from the American Library Association. This campaign encompasses a number of initiatives including National Library Week, Library Card Sign-up Month, I Love My Librarian. There's also been a series of @yourlibrary focused campaigns including Step Up to the Plate, Connect with Your Kids, Preservation. You can download the official ALA @yourlibrary logo shown above right at the ALA website.
In her Non Profit Marketing Blog, Katy (2012) suggestions four things to make a message better. CRAM these steps into your message:
- Connect to things your audience cares about. Identify a shared value. Make people feel good about themselves or powerful.
- Reward readers. Identify and offer a compelling reward for taking action. This reward should be immediate, personal, credible and reflective of audience values. What great things will happen if you participate?
- Action is requested. A good call to action should be specific and feasible.
- Messenger matters. The messenger should be someone the users value and make a connection with such as a passionate champion, devoted volunteer, or admired user.
You should be able to convey the essence of the message in a headline that could be used in the newspaper, on a flier, or on a web page. This headline should grab the attention of readers, convey the key ideas of the message, and entice the readers to learn more.
Dowd, Evangeliste, and Silberman (2010, 56) suggest the following hints:
- Use present tense.
- Use an active voice, which saves words by using the subject and verb together.
- Use short, to-the-point words.
- Make positive statements.
- Omit articles and avoid abbreviations, exclamation points, and other punctuation.
- Use important numbers only. Write numbers as numerals, except for one.
Sometimes it's difficult to come up with ideas. Go to Library Quotes for a database of quotes related to libraries. Use these as the basis for some headline brainstorming.
Brian Mathews (2009) suggests that location and timing are criteria to a successful communication.
Location involves identifying those places where the audience is most likely to encounter the message. An understanding of the specific target audience is critical. Where do they work, study, and play? The library is a logical location. However to attract new or infrequent visitors, other locations may be more effective.
Timing is another critical factor. This is particularly important when dealing with seasonal topics or students within the constraints of the semester system.
Think about who should convey the message. While the authority of a library figure or celebrity might be useful in some situation, other campaigns might benefit from customer testimonials or the endorsement of a library mascot.
Example: The Elburn Town and Country Public Library District has it's own library mascot called Watson. The mascot appears at the website, is incorporated into games, has a theme song, and shows up at library events. Children are encouraged to send letters or email to Watson through the library website. Click the image below to go to the website.
The purpose of creating a meaningful central message for marketing is to connect services with library user needs. This can be difficult when trying to market an existing service.
"College and university libraries invest a significant amount of funding and staff time in institutional repository projects with the goal of collecting, preserving, and disseminating the intellectual output of their communities. Institutional repositories are often built without an expressed need for such a service; for this reason, libraries must actively promote them, educate users, and liaise with faculty to ensure success. Technical services and public services librarians have equally important roles in instituting and ensuring the success of institutional repositories in their communities." – Gaffney, 2008
Read Involving the Library and Campus Community in Institutional Repository Projects by Megan Gaffney.
What can you learn from this article about marketing products?
Many of the messages used in marketing are informational. They provide the customer with information about products and services that are helpful in making decisions. The communications may provide information about the features of databases, the agenda for a program, or the contents of a kit.
In Content Rules, Handley and Chapman (2011, 4-5) stress the importance of creating quality web content including words, images, tools, and other types of information like videos, blogs, ebooks, and podcasts. They provide three reasons that online content is important in marketing:
- The notion of marketing to your customers by interrupting them repeatedly with advertising or other marketing messages is simply not enough any more.
- Customer behavior and expectations are shifting. Create online content and optimize it. People expect content from blogs, Twitter, Facebook and other forms of social media.
- Everyone is the media. Everyone is a publisher. Speak directly to your audience through quality social media content.
Handley and Chapman (2011, 8) suggest using website content to:
- Attract customers.
- Educate buyers about a purchase they are considering.
- Overcome resistance or address objections.
- Establish your credibility, trust, and authority in your industry.
- Tell your story.
- Build buzz via social networks.
- Build a base of fans and inspire customers to love you.
- Inspire impulse buys.
When designing quality website content connected with marketing, consider the following content rules by Handley and Chapman (2011, 15-16). Examples are related to library settings.
- Embrace being a publisher. Become accustomed to creating content for your library users. Help users locate materials through pathfinders, develop tutorials to help them learn databases, and create programs that inspire.
- Insight inspires originality. Think about the unique aspects of what the library can offer. Use the library's story to connect to customers.
- Build momentum. Create content with intent. Match new website content with target segments.
- Speak human. Communicate with your audience using their language. Be conversational and avoid buzz words.
- Reimagine; don't recycle. Don't just republish materials from other sources, create your own original works. Use contests as a way to generate new content to share.
- Share and solve; don't shill. Good content doesn't try to sell. Instead, it creates value by positioning you as a reliable and value sources of information.
- Show; don't just tell. Don't just tell people you have good resources and services in the library, show them! Provide examples, scenarios, testimonials, and interviews that demonstrate the value of the library.
- Do something unexpected. Incorporate surprise and fun into your content. Use comics and contests to keep people coming back.
- Stoke the campfire. Ignite interaction and conversations. Request input and post feedback on your website. Involve your library users in the library.
- Create wings and roots. Ground your content in the library's unique perspective and point of view. Encourage readers and website participants to share that they're learning at the library.
- Play to your strengths. Focus on those social media tools and content areas that meet specific objectives and address target audiences. Focus your attention on developing content that will have an impact on library use.
Example: Rather than a marketing campaign that simply states "Read To Young Children" provide blogs, videos, resources, and articles that stress the reasons why reading to young children is important. Provide tips for new parents, model reading in storytelling seminars, and give parents practical ideas for reading at bed-time.
It can be difficult to come up with new content associated with products, services, and social campaigns, Handley and Chapman (2011, 74-82) suggest 25 approache to developing relevatn content:
- Chat with customers.
- Interview luminaries.
- Share real-time photos.
- Ask customer service.
- Monitor search keywords.
- Monitor social media keywords.
- Research online.
- Trawl industry (library) and related news.
- Get inspired by your own passions.
- Go behind the scenes.
- Go to an event.
- How-to content.
- Best practices or productivity tips.
- Research into your community.
- Dig into the archives.
- Invite guest posts.
- Check out your competitors.
- Create regular content series.
- Mine Facebook, LinkedIn, SlideShare, and other social networks.
- Start a meme.
- Offer your two pesos (do a review).
- Channel your inner surly teenager.
- Host an event
- Curate the voices of many.
- Curate from elsewhere too.
In many cases, customers are simply unaware what is available at the library. Informational approaches stress availability and access.
"College and university libraries have noted that when polled, users seem pleased with virtual reference services, but statistics are typically not as high as expected. A boost in marketing towards target markets could include educating the public about the service and how it can meet it's needs." (Almquist, 2011, 163)
There's a direct connection between educational messages and marketing services. Even though a customer may be aware that a product is available, they may not use the product because they don't know how to use it. Communications that provide basic instructions or guides can be useful in convincing customers that they can easily learn to use the item.
Example: If students can't locate books, they'll be unable to check them out. Simple instructions near the online catalog help users access information. Watch as screencast from Colby-Sawyer College.
Videos are an effective way to communicate an instructional message.
Example. The InformationSmack YouTube channel at Western Illinois University Libraries uses video as a way to educate clients and encourage library use. For instance, the Locating a Book (Brains on Book) features a zombie locating a book.
Persuasive arguments can be be used to convince customers of the usefulness of products. These approaches may include showing statistics related to the quality of databases, featuring testimonials from happy customers, and highlighting the reasons why the library is a good choice for a particular product or service.
In Split-Second Persuasion: The Ancient Art & New Science of Changing Minds, Kevin Dutton (2011) identifies five simple elements of instantly effective persuasion:
- Simplicity: Keep the message short, sharp, and simple.
- Perceived Self-Interest: Connect the message with personal interests and needs.
- Incongruity: Surprise people with an unusual message.
- Confidence: Speak with authority.
- Empathy: Convince people you're on their side.
Example: The Clinton Presidential Library provides online access to Clinton's radio addresses. These would be useful to history scholars as well as educators teaching about the Clinton administration. However, most people aren't aware that this service is available online. A persuasive message would highlight the features of this audio gallery, highlight key examples, and feature ways these could be used for research or in the classroom.
Every library faces an occasional crisis with the potential to impact the reputation of the library. According to Suzanne Walters (2004, 120-121), a well-managed crisis can enhance the reputation of a library. She recommends the following rules for handling crisis situations.
- Always tell the truth
- Be as forthright as possible.
- Have a communication plan in place in advance.
- Convey that you care.
- Move quickly. Do not act confused and stunned.
- Do not utter just any comment. If you do not now what to say indicate that you do not know at this time - but get answers quickly.
- Do not avoid the press. Seek opportunities to get in front of the press to tell your story.
- Make every effort to gather the pertinent facts.
- Enact the necessary measures to revolve the situation.
- Appoint the staff members to act as a crisis communication team, if necessary.
- Educate staff members about your crisis procedure.
- Be as objective as possible.
- As the crisis passes, do an analysis and summary report. Evaluate your response and identify suggested improvements.
- Work to restore your image.
According to the Ohio Library Council,
"not everyone loves libraries! Not everyone uses libraries or finds them worthy of funding. Sometimes successful public relations involves overcoming negative attitudes."
Branding concerns how users identify and recognize products and services. It involves establishing a link between the library and a logo/slogan/phrase. Then, developing a profile that can be used to build loyalty. However keep in mind that your brand is only as good as your reputation.
The American Marketing Association (AMA) defines branding as a
"name, term, sign, symbol or design, or a combination of them intended to identify the goods and services of one seller or group of sellers and to differentiate them from those of other sellers."
Elisabeth Doucett (2008, 11) describes a brand as a kind of shorthand for describing the attributes or emotions associated with a library.
"A brand tells a story about a product or service in a very short, concise way. It tells potential users what they might expect to get from the product if they decide to use it... (In attribute-based branding) a library talks about the size of its collection or its new building or the good customer service provided by its librarians... (In emotion-based branding) a library might tell its patrons that it provides them with a connection to the community."
Dempsey (2004) stresses that a library brand is much more than a logo, it's the "space you've captured in the minds of customers".
Elizabeth Doucett (2008) identified four key elements for an effective brand:
- A clear, meaningful, unique message
- An attention-grabbing visual identity
- Consistent use
- Ongoing effort to keep the brand honest
In the Age of Persuasion, O’Reill and Tennant (2009, 3) state that
"Branding is at the core of all marketing. Different marketers have their own take on what branding really is, but to me, it means defining what a product or service promises and how it differs from the competition. For example, a Volvo is just a car, but when the idea of 'safety' was added, its brand was defined. Nike is just a running show, but the powerful idea of 'personal achievement' was attached to every single advertising message they sent out, and that gave the famous footweave is own personality."
Read Building Brand Exposure via Partners and Activity Incentives by Christina Weyrick-Cooper. Think about what goes into launching a new library brand.
Read Peters, Anne & Kemp, Jan (2014). Ask us anything: communicating the value of reference services through branding. Public Services Quarterly, 10, 48-53.
By communicating the special market position of a product, branding is used to differentiate from the competition by showing the unique value of a product with the intention of increasing the market share. An effective brand can have an immediate and emotional impact on the customer.
Example: A message might communicate the professional skills of the librarian in locating quality information.
Example: A common concern is that people are using the Web rather than the library to access information. The Ohio Web Library project developed a promotional toolkit focusing on the slogan "Stop surfing... Start finding!"
Brian Mathews (2009, 87) points out that "brand represents the idea, while branding is the recognizable image". He identified three layers of the brand strategy that provide a well-rounded approach.
- Visual. The logal and slogan are the elements we use to represent our library publicly.
- Value. We reach users on an intellectual level through meaningful appeals that demonstrate the worth of our services.
- Emotional. We want users to have particular feelings, impressions, and desires related to the library experience.
Example: Mathews (2009) uses group areas as an example. The slogan "The library is where groups come together" is a visual way of sharing the idea that the library has a place designed for collaboration and that is feels good to have a place specifically designed for this activity.
Explore the following examples were provided in Mathews (2009).
- Visual: "Why search anywhere else?" A large pile of print journals are connected via wires to a computer. The screen displays a simple search interface and links to PDF documents.
- Value: Millions of articles at your fingertips.
- Emotional: Research is easy when you look in the right place.
Example: Quiet Study Space
- Visual: "The best view on campus." An attempt at irony here, the image is a quintessential library desk filled with books, notes, and a laptop. It is secluded, yet warm and comfortable. To th e side is a large window with a spectacular view of the campus.
- Value: Everything you need to study.
- Emotional: The library has a chair for you. No distractions - just you and everything you need.
Example: Leisure Materials
- Visual: "You never know what you'll find." William Shakespeare, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Dave Chappelle, and Spider-Man are seated in your library's cafe. Feel free to substitute other cultural icons.
- Value: While the library is primarily a scholarly resource, many DVDs, CDs, video games, comics, and fiction books are available for checkout.
- Emotional: The library collection offers something for everyone.
Branding makes a product easy to identify through a name, slogan, tagline, symbol, or design. Some marketing plans contain a branding plan that focuses specifically on establishing a library brand.
Before jumping into brand creation, it's essential to talk with people outside the library to gain perspective on your library. What do the users, stakeholders, and other community members think of the library products and services? Talk with staff members about their thoughts about the library. Weave the stories of users and staff members into the brand.
Brands are made up of some or all of the following elements:
- Tagline, slogan, catchphrase.
- Graphics and Shapes.
- Scents and Tastes.
- Movement or Animation.
Start with a name for your marketing campaign. What's the overall theme and approach? How will the brand be remembered.
A slogan or tagline is an essential element of a brand. It should reflect the mission, be easy to remember, and connect to the value of the library by its users.
"When seeking branding options, libraries tend to use standard names such as Ask a Librarian, AskNow, or AskRef. It is best to choose a brand that will reach the widest audience while remaining true to the service, so library jargon should be purposely avoided in order to make the brand as transparent as possible. Connecting the virtual service to the library's other reference service identities has its advantages." (Almquist, 2011, 163)
Use the following questions to help you evaluate your tagline:
- Is the line easy to remember?
- Does the line reflect the mission?
- Does the line emote a positive emotional feeling?
- Does the line feel comfortable and natural?
- Does the line reflect the character of the library?
- Does the line set the library apart from other libraries and organizations?
A logo is a graphic, symbol, or trademark that represents the brand. An effective logo should be immediately recognizable to customers. It's important to keep a logo simple but at the same time appealing and striking. Think about how your slogan and logo work together.
Example: The logo for Knox County Public Library is an excellent example of a simple design with an effective message.
Before creating an organizational logo, it's important to check with the larger organization such as the town council, university, or hospital. Some agencies require that department logos meet particular requirements in terms of fonts, colors, or visual elements.
Example: The American Library Association uses the branding element @YourLibrary as a slogan that has become well-known.
Typography plays an important role in the consistency of materials. Choose a couple fonts and styles to use in communications related to the brand.
Graphics and Shapes play an important role in branding. Beyond the slogan and logo, think about how lines, shapes, and images will be used. Again, consistency is the key. What width lines will be used? How much space will be provided around elements in publications?
Colors can bring a brand alive. Think about what colors complement the logo. Stick to a main color and a couple accent colors. Also think about how these colors will work with the typography.
Sounds can play an important part in a campaign that include audio elements such as public service announcements and videos. The key is selecting or creating sounds, music, and spoken word that complements and is integral to the message. Avoid sounds that will distract.
Scents and Tastes can be a part of the physical brand. The smells of chocolate chip cookies can bring a baking theme alive.
Movement or Animation can bring life to a campaign. Think about motion elements that could be incorporated into a web banner or video program.
Example: The Cougar Social Media Showcase took place at the University of Houston Library Pavilion. The logo below was used for the mini-conference.
Read Hitting the Spot by Christoper Cox in The Serials Librarian.
Notice how branding was used as an element of promotion.
Whether creating materials yourself or outsourcing to a graphic designer or videographer, it's important to established some design standards. If you work for a corporation or university, it's likely that they already have requirements that have been established. You should have standards in three areas: organization, editorial, and design.
Organization standards. Your organization may already have established standards for use of the university logo, capitalization of school names, and other requirements. Visual identity elements may include use of colors, typography, and standard logos. They may require certain elements to be show on all university documents. In other cases, these elements may not be used. There may be separate requirements for print, web, and multimedia.
If no standards are in place, create them yourself. Choose two fonts (one serif and one san serif) to use in different sizes in your publications. Pick three colors that serve as the basic colors in all documents. Create different sizes of your logo. Post all of this information on your website on a page called "media specifications" or "visual identity".
Editorial standards. For anything that's not covered by organization requirements, it's a good idea to establish your own rules. Will department and room titles be capitalized? Will staff member titles be included with their names? This may seem like a lot of work, but consistency is the key to professional quality marketing materials.
Design standards. Create rules for use of logos and slogans. Create guidelines for categories of documents. For instance, all tutorials may use the same typography and logo. How-to brochures will all use the same template with matching layout, colors, and logo. Although flexibility for individual projects is fine, when people look at library promotional materials they should identify them with the library.
Example: Examine Rutgers University Libraries Visual Identity page.
Read Ruiz, Miguel (2014). Graphic design in libraries: a conceptual process. Public Services Quarterly, 10, 36-47.
Think about the role of graphic design in the development of effective marketing materials.
When brainstorming ideas for a brand-driven campaign, it's useful to think about the big vision of the library and it's purpose. Mathews (2009, 93-96) suggests themes such as the library for productivity, peers, refuge, therapy, and self-discovery.
In a 2011 blog posting, Brian Mathews shared a visual to represent his thoughts on how the brand portfolio is connected to the message, delivery systems, and audience. You may also want to watch a video explanation of the brand portfolio concept.
In many cases you can adapt pre-packaged materials developed at the national level:
- Scoot Around@yourlibrary focuses on patrons with limited mobility.
- Express Yourself: Ask a Librarian links to some fun images with taglines.
Read Case Studies for three examples of plans specifically geared to branding.
Think about your own plan for a brand.
Abram, Stephen (2009). Can all this 2.0 stuff help libraries with promotion and communicate our values? In Mark Gould (ed), The Library PR Handbook, ALA Editions, 39-42.
Alman, Susan W. (2007). Crash Course in Marketing for Libraries. Libraries Unlimited.
Almquist, Sharon (2011). Distributed Learning and Virtual Librarianship. ABC-CLIO.
Barber, Peggy & Wallace, Linda (2010). Building a Buzz: Libraries & Word-of-Mouth Marketing. ALA Editions.
Betz, Brie, Brown, Stephanie Willen, Barberi, Deb, & Langendorfer, Jeane M. (2009). Marketing library database services to end users. Serials Librarian, 56(1-4), 250-254.
Cox, Christopher (2007). Hitting the spot: marketing federated searching tools to students and faculty. The Serials Librarian, 53(3), 147-164.
Cron, Lisa (2012). Wired for Story. Ten Speed Press.
de Saez, Eileen Elliott (2002). Marketing Concepts for Libraries and Information Services. Library Association Pub Ltd.
Dempsey, Beth (2004). Target your brand. Library Journal, 129(13), 32-35.
Dowd, Nancy, Evangeliste, Mary, & Silberman, Jonathan (2010). Bite-Sized Marketing: Realistic Solutions for the Over-worked Librarian. ALA Editions.
Doucett, Elisabeth (2008). Creating Your Library Brand: Communicating Your Relevance and Value to Your Patrons. ALA Editions. 1-37.
Dutton, Kevin (2011). Split-Second Persuasion: The Ancient Art & New Science of Changing Minds. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
Gaffney, Megan (2008). Involving the library and campus community institutional repository projects. Serials Librarian, 55(4), 568-576.
Handley, Ann, Chapman, C.C. (2010). Content Rules. Wiley.
Humphrey, Megan (2009). Amplify your messages through partnerships to research broader audiences. In M. Gould (ed). The Library PR Handbook, 69-71.
Lovelock, Christopher & Wirtz, Jochen (2010). Service Marketing. 7th edition. Prentice Hall.
Mathews, Brian (2009). Marketing Today’s Academic Library. ALA Editions.
Matthews, Joseph (2002). Building a library balanced scorecard. The Bottom Line: Determining and Communicating the Value of the Special Library. Libraries Unlimited, 119-142.
O’Reilly, Terry & Tennant, Mike (2009). The Age of Persuasion: How Marketing Ate Our Culture. Counterpoint: Berkeley, CA.
Scott, David Meerman (2011). Web-based communications to reach buyers directly. The New Rules of Marketing & PR (third edition). Wiley, 35-134.
Siess, Judith (2003). The Visible Librarian. ALA Editions.
Telling the Library Story. (2012) WebJunction Central.
Weingand, Darlene (1999). The place – how to connect the customer to with the product. Marketing/Planning Library and Information Services. Libraries Unlimited, 115-132.
Woodward, Jeannette (2009). Creating the Customer-Driven Academic Library. ALA Editions, 86-109.