Marketing

Brand and branding in the academic library

I have an uneasy relationship with the concept of ‘brand’ in the library context. On the one hand, I think it’s often misunderstood. I think it’s the kind of thing on which marketing consultants from outside the industry put far too much emphasis - on the list of things to fix about library marketing, I bet our users wouldn’t put ‘brand’ that high up… On the other hand, in the academic sector that I work in, most traditional marketing goals are already being fulfilled fairly successfully: academic libraries are often full, well-used, and well-regarded. So that allows us some time to consider some bigger questions - for example, what is our brand and what would we LIKE it to be?

Before we go any further let’s sort the definitions: ‘brand’ is not colours or logos or slogans.

Your brand is the perception of your library, your services and your collections in people’s minds. It’s how people think and feel about who you are as an organisation, and what you do.

Branding, on the other hand, is the process of trying to influence people’s perceptions of the organisation, and the way they regard your brand.

At my place of work I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently, as I’m attempting to sketch out some marketing principles for my library. Before I can create a strategy for what we want to say and how we want to say it, we first have to understand what we want to BE and whether that involves changing from how we are now, or not. It’s easy to get side-tracked into an existential crisis.

I also want to know how both students and staff at the institution view the Library. We know how they rate certain services, and our UX work tells us a lot about how they use our facilities. But as to how they would describe the library, how they perceive us, what they would say our brand is - I don’t know, and I’ll like to ask, but I’m not sure exactly how to go about it. (Any ideas for this gratefully received.)


Slides from #dffu2018 on Branding the Academic Library

I was honoured to give a keynote on this theme in Billund, Denmark, towards the end of last year. We discussed what brand was, what community was, and marketing strategy. The slides from the talk are below:

The UX Project mentioned in the slides above, Understanding Academics, is written up by my bosses Vanya Gallimore and Michelle Blake, here.

The trip to Denmark was an absolute pleasure, especially because we got to stay in the LegoLand hotel…

Thank you again to the Danish Research and Academic Libraries group for inviting me to speak, and to Christian Lauresen for his insight into Danish libaries, as well as to Jan Holmquist for his translation skills!

The key to good library marketing is *campaigns*

The title of this blog post is the opposite of click-bait: it says everything. It's the tl;dr not just of this post, but of successful library marketing per se.

One-off marketing almost never works, because people seldom act on a piece of marketing the first time they see it. When you see an ad, even a good one, you don't rush out and buy / do the thing right away. If you have Netflix for example, think about when you got it. Was it the first time you saw an ad? Or did you become more and more aware over time, and then eventually circumstances were right and you signed up?

In Library marketing terms we have to try and achieve the same thing. Build awareness over time of relevant services. Appeal to people at the right time. If we just push out lots of different messages all the time, this is too much information and its too dispersed - there's nothing for anyone to hold on to, and think 'this is for ME'. So 9 times out of 10 (at least) the successful marketing, the things which have impact and make a tangible difference to the Library, are in the form of campaigns. What does this mean in practice?

Campaign marketing consists of delivering the same message, tailored across different platforms, for a sustained period of time.

So your users see the message once, and they register it. They see it again somewhere else and they decide to act on it. And then perhaps a week later they see it again and that's when they change their behaviour, and do something they weren't going to do before. You need a week or two of focus on the same message to make that change happen.

Examples of great campaign marketing

I was at the PPRG Marketing Awards Conference last month, and the one thing which united virtually all the award winners was campaign marketing. You can see all the presentations on the PPRG website but here's some key examples.

Hampshire Library Services. Hampshire undertook a really comprehensive campaign to promote the free digital magazines service they had, which wasn't being used enough. You can view their Prezi here - it's well worth a look. Here's an example of their campaign visuals:

Hampshire Library Services campaign visuals, taken from their Prezi linked above

Hampshire Library Services campaign visuals, taken from their Prezi linked above

The key thing about these four ads is the visual style is so striking, you'd easily associate one with the other if you saw them seperately. So again, perhaps the first time you see the ad you think 'oh that's great, free magazines at the library!' but that still isn't enough for you to ACT. Then you see the second one and it reminds you of the first one, you associate the two, and it's the second push you need to go and actually download an e-magazine.

And downloading e-magazines is exactly what people did based on this campaign. Here's a key stat:

Hampshire stats.PNG

That's the thing about campign marketing: it really, really works.

Another great example was from Islington Library and Heritage Services. Take a look at the #islington50s slides here. They had a one-month campaign, with a set number of social media outputs each day, a clearly defined set of objectives, and both a library-user and non-library-user audience in mind.

Here's the slide on the impact it had:

Click the pic to open the entire presentation in a new window

Click the pic to open the entire presentation in a new window

I love the details that their Local History Centre was rushed of its feet as the impact of the campaign spread through the community!

The final example is local to me - York won a bronze award for our UoYTips marketing campaign. We ran our academic induction as a marketing campaign in 2016, and it worked so well we've built upon it for 2017. There are all sorts of reasons why we did this and why it worked - but again the key thing is, it was a campaign. Key messages over a concerted period of time. Here's a video I made that has the audio from my talk, plus a more video-friendly version of the slides:

Or if you'd prefer, just the original slides...

Next steps

If you want to run a campaign, here are some things to think about.

  1. Your campaign needs to be the primary focus of your comms for a concerted period of time. It doesn't mean you don't talk about anything else, just that you keep talking about the subject of the campaign
  2. The same message needs to go out across multiple platforms, but it may work better when tailored for each - you wouldn't neccessarily use the same phrases, words or images for twitter, an email, a poster on the Digital Screens, and Facebook
  3. A strong call to action is important. It's not enough just to pique people's interest - they need to know how to easily take the next step to engage with your campaign (visit a website, come to an event, fill in a form, whatever it might be)
  4. Don't just measure outputs (tweets, posters etc) but outcomes - what happens as a result of your campaign? This takes time but it's worth it because you can build on what works

What makes you act on a piece of marketing?

The title of this post is something I often ask delegates in marketing workshops. It's rhetorical, usually - I'm trying to get people to think about how seldom marketing makes them change their behaviour. Think about how hard it is for marketing to get YOU to do something you weren't already going to do, and you see the scale of the challenge we face when marketing libraries.

That's why putting up a poster and sending a tweet doesn't constitute having 'marketed' something. If seeing a nice poster and a tweet about how good something is would not be enough to get you to take a (new) action, then chances are you users won't act either.

For this post though I'm keen on exploring this issue non-rhetorically. I want to hear your answers. I've set up a google form because I figure people may be more comfortable doing this anonymously. I'm interested in what makes you act on a piece of marketing. If you did something you weren't going to do because of an ad or a campaign or anything else, what did you do and why did you do it? From the results I hope to learn things we can apply to library marketing.

Here's the form. I'm aware it's really inelegantly phrased, there's probably a much more succint way of putting all this... (If you'd like to share the question with anyone, the link is https://goo.gl/forms/IxalsAl2swfME5v52)

Thanks in advance to those who fill this in, I appreciate it. I'll come back and anaylse the results in a future post.

A guide to the best free sites for cc0 art and stock photography

I recently wrote a guide for my library's blog on the best sites for high quality, free, and public domain images. I've recreated part of it below.

These sites are hugely useful for marketing purposes, as you can use them in websites, posters, slides, on social media (but NOT insta! That needs your own photos on...) and so on, completely legally and without shelling out any cash.

The sites listed below contain images which have been made Creative Commons Zero (also known as CCO) by their creators, are available to use by anyone, however they like. The images are in the Public Domain and can be reproduced, incorporated into other works, modified, and reused, without needing permission and in most cases without even needing to credit the author.

Free to use stock photography

Pexels

Pexels is the CC0 site I go to first when creating slides or websites. It's good on technology particularly, but covers loads of areas well, with stock photography that is far above the average stock shots. It has tens of thousands of pictures, including the ability to search by colour, and also has a sister site dedicated to CC0 video.

A selection of images found using pexels.com's colour browsing facility

A selection of images found using pexels.com's colour browsing facility

Stocksnap

Once you start using CC0 image sites you get used to seeing the same stock photography appearing on many of them (it comes with the territory, as the fact that the copyright has no restrictions means any site can pick them up and use them - you could start an image bank right now using CC0 images if you wanted to), but Stocksnap seems to have a few more pictures which are unique to it. Thanks to Hilary and Luke who showed me this at the PPRG conference. Here's the 'recently added images' from today:

The most recent additons to StockSnap.io

The most recent additons to StockSnap.io

nappy.co

Nappy describes itself as “Beautiful, high-res photos of black and brown people. For free” and this is a rare thing: stock photography is often VERY white. Thank you to @AgentK23 for giving me the heads-up about this site.

Photos from the ‘Work’ category of nappy.co

Photos from the ‘Work’ category of nappy.co

finda.photo

finda.photo (that's the actual URL as well as the name) searches through lots of other CC0 sites in one go, including the excellent UnSplash. As well searching by keyword you can browse by colour, collection, or original source.

Images from the 'Glare' category of finda.photo

Images from the 'Glare' category of finda.photo

Interestingly after I tweeted this, Unsplash got in touch with a reply, and pointed out that finda.photo only searches a relatively small percentage of their photos:

I had no idea this was the case! So, worth going direct to Unsplash.com too.

Gratisography

For some pictures that are about as far away from tired stock photography cliches as it is possible to get, head over to Gratisography. Quirky, odd images, of extremely high resolution and quality, free to use in any way you see fit. There's really nothing quite like it.

Gratisography. Not your average stock photography site

Gratisography. Not your average stock photography site

RawPixel

A new site for me is RawPixel. They got in touch after reading an earlier version of this guide and I'm happy to include them - if you work in design this site must be a godsend. There's a real variety here, not just in terms of the images but the way they're grouped and organised - check out the Boards section to see what I mean. Just for this image alone I will be using their site again - images of teaching seem to be almost impossible to find!

Finally a decent image of 'teaching' happening! And they've ever-so-helpfully left a lovely big copyspace on the board for you to write in whatever you like...

Finally a decent image of 'teaching' happening! And they've ever-so-helpfully left a lovely big copyspace on the board for you to write in whatever you like...

UKBlackTech

These aren't cc0 - they're Creative Commons Attribution - but I wanted to include them because they're a set of tech-focussed images focusing on BAME protagonists. It's great that UKBlackTech have made these available for free.

Download these images at ukblacktech.com

Download these images at ukblacktech.com

Free to use art and artwork imagery

An absolute ruddy masterpiece, from 1565, available to you, reader, to do with as you please, thanks to The Met

An absolute ruddy masterpiece, from 1565, available to you, reader, to do with as you please, thanks to The Met

  • New York Met

    375,000 images of artworks from The Met's collection to use, share, and remix without restriction. And it's the New York Met, so they have some of the most famous paintings in the world, like Bruegel's The Harvestors from 1565. 

  • Walters Art Museum

    Because the Walters owns or has jurisdiction over the objects in its collection and owns or customarily obtains the rights to any imaging of its collection objects, it has adopted the Creative Commons Zero: No Rights Reserved or CC0 license to waive copyright and allow for unrestricted use of digital images and metadata by any person, for any purpose.

  • Riks Museum Amsterdam

    The Dutch Rijkmuseum in Amsterdam has opened its collection to the public with the majority of its photographed artwork being released under a CC0+ license that requires attribution. You must create a free account in order to download.

  • Getty Museum

    Thousands of images of artworks are available for download, without charge, under the Getty's Open Content Program. Look for the Download button under the image.

  • Yale Center for British Art

    The Center provides free and open access to images of works in the public domain and certain other materials, and hopes to encourage further the use and reuse of its public domain resources by all who may have access to them.

  • Europeana Collections

    Europeana provides an extraordinary 8 million images which are completely free to re-use, covering the areas of Art, Fashion, Maps & Geography, Migration, Natural History, Music and others.


If you have any more suggestions for great CC0 sites, let me know with a comment below and we'll add them to the list.

How important is library branding? And other marketing questions...

Ahead of Internet Librarian International, where I'm running a workshop next week, I had an interesting chat about marketing with Caroline Milner. The Q&A is reproduced below because I thought there were some good questions!

What are the biggest challenges libraries face when marketing their services?
There are so many! A big one is that we have so much to offer - we're complex organisations, but complex marketing messages rarely work. So how do you boil down what we do into messages people can easily understand, without dumbing down? And not just understand our messages, but see how we fit into their lives? Another problem is constantly battling against the wider narrative that libraries are irrelevant or dying. Library use is astronomically huge when you compare it to other cultural activities, but I bet 99% of the public wouldn't guess that.

And of course, a major disadvantage libraries face is that most of us have little or zero budget for marketing. Everything we cover in my workshop costs time, but almost none of it involves shelling out actual cash, because for most libraries it's just not an option readily available to them.

How important is library branding?
It depends how you interpret branding... I don't think branding as in visual identity as important as other people say it is.

It's not that it isn't good to have great branding, it's that there are so many other things we need to get right before the branding becomes key from the user's point of view. If your message is simple, clear, focuses on the benefits, and has a good call to action, but looks average, that will be 20x more effective than most library marketing even if the branding is perfect on all those other examples. It's the message, and its relevance, that matters to the users.

The library branding should reflect the library brand. It should communicate who you are. It should help users identify us and remember us. Beyond that, the exact logo or colour scheme is really not that big a deal. The people who say it is are often (not always, but often) the people who make money as branding consultants.

What about the interaction between marketing in the physical space, and marketing online?
Library marketing works best when the two go hand-in-hand. You want people to see the same key message more than once. The online marketing should hook them in, but the messages in the building should reinforce those messages and deliver on the promise. People need to be reminded of the same things in different contexts.

How much emphasis should library marketers place on social media?
Loads and loads. It's hard to talk in general terms - for example, social media for a Law Library that almost exclusively markets to the Law firm it is attached to is less vital than social media for a public library trying to reach thousands of people in a geographical area. But for most libraries, social media was the last great marketing silver bullet. It was the last big thing we could do that completely revolutionises and improves our communication with users. From now on it's really all about making several small changes to affect greater results.

Don't get me wrong, social media can't exist in isolation. It's not as simple as just being on all the latest platforms and posting about the library. But used strategically in conjunction with other channels, it can be hugely productive. It suits libraries really well.

What about involving stakeholders – getting their buy in, and their active support? 
We mustn't forget to market upwards - an absolutely key stakeholder for libraries is the person or group who holds the purse-strings, or who decides on the future of the institution. We need to talk their language, and communicate how what we're doing with the library aligns with their aims. 

More generally, the stakeholders are our key user groups, and those groups are everything. Not just in helping you spread the messages - word of mouth marketing is the most effective marketing of all - but also understanding what those messages should be in the first place. Understanding the different segments of your audience, and tailoring the communications to each group accordingly, is a huge part of what we cover in the workshop. A small amount of marketing segmentation goes a long way.