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.

UX, ethnography and possibilities: for Libraries, Museums and Archives

I spoke about UX last week at a Welsh Government event in Aberystwyth, the annual Marketing Awards for the Library, Archive and Museum sector. It was a rare chance to talk to an audience not just of information professionals, and I had a great time. I'm really hoping some of the User Experience in Libraries movement now spills over into museums and archives too...

My presentation consisted of an introduction to UX, examples of 7 ethnographic techniques, a brief section of user centred design, and then several instances of UX-led changes - things people have done to tweak or change their services, based on ethnographic fieldwork. For this part thanks to Andy Priestner, Jenny Foster, Ingela Wahlgren and Carl Barrow for their examples, and it also has in it a bunch of things we've done at my own place of work. The final section consists of some next steps, for those wishing to dip a toe in the UX waters at their own institution.

I had several interesting conversations after my talk, with some people who were already doing UX (we agreed it can really energise the workplace) and some people who wanted to try it out. Two completely independent and unrelated chats with people from the museum sector were about using UX with people in difficult situations - one was around early onset dementia, and the other was about returning to work after periods of incarceration. I don't know if ethnography is already used in these settings but it sounded potentially fascinating, and an angle to this work I'd never considered.

There was also an absolutely brilliant presentation from Mari Stevens, who is Director of Marketing - Tourism and Business, at the Welsh Government (having started off in the library sector). Her slides were ace and she was a hugely impressive speaker. The scope and scale and ambition of her marketing plans for the country I found absolutely inspiring. The presentation was half in English and half in Welsh with live translation into ear pieces for those like me who needed them - the translator did a pretty amazing job too.

It was great to see the National Library of Wales, which towers over the town like, as Penny Andrews put it, a massive BOOK FORTRESS.

Huge thanks to Jane Purdie for inviting me to Wales (we've been trying to sort this out since 2015 so it was lovely to finally make it happen) and to everyone at the event for being so welcoming and asking insightful questions, and for giving me lots of ideas for good marketing practice to take away with me... And if you DO start doing UX at your institution, please get in touch to let me know how it goes!

For the last time, Google is not our competition in libraries...

There's a very famous Neil Gaiman quote among librarians and lovers of libraries: "Google will bring you back, you know, a hundred thousand answers. A librarian will bring you back the right one."

I found this on Jennie Stolz's Pinterest page. Click the pic to go to there.

I found this on Jennie Stolz's Pinterest page. Click the pic to go to there.

You see it on social media. You hear it used as a soothing balm at library conferences. More than one library has it printed on their floors.

There are various different versions of the quote - often people will attribute Gaiman with having said a million answers from Google, and pretty much no one puts in the 'you know'. In order that I, a librarian, could use the RIGHT quote for this article I...

Well, I Googled it. Obvs.

Because how else would I find it? I don't want to put us as libraries and librarians in competition with Google for loads of reasons, but we still do it a lot. I contributed to a SWOT analysis on libraries in LibFocus and someone put the Gaiman quote in there too:

An excerpt from a crowd-sourced LibFocus article - click the image to read the full thing

An excerpt from a crowd-sourced LibFocus article - click the image to read the full thing

The thing is, most people aren't seeking 'right answers' on Google. They just want basic or general info. Here's what SiegeMedia discovered were the top 15 searches on Google in 2015 in the US, if you exclude brands and porn (the top 5 if you don't exclude them is Gmail, Craiglists, Amazon, Yahoo [why?!] and porn).

Click the pic to read the full article on SeigeMedia

Click the pic to read the full article on SeigeMedia

How many of those have a right answer a librarian could bring back? The weather, obviously - but you'd find that out by Googling it. Perhaps a librarian could find you a more reliable dictionary, that could be a 'right' answer. What's on at the Movies, cheap flights - again we'd at least go online and search, if not specifically Google.

In the UK in 2015 according to Google itself, the top 5 searches were 1) Cilla Black, 2) Lady Colin Campbell, 3) Rugby World Cup, 4) Jeremy Clarkson and 5) Paris. Is there a right answer to 'Cilla Black'? Right answers are not what Google is for. More broadly, people aren't searching Google for things they used to come and find at libraries.

The reason the Gaiman quote includes a 'you know' is this wasn't some grand written statement, it was part of an answer to an interview question he was asked upon becoming honorary chair of National Libaries Week in 2010. The full answer, with the Google part right at the end, can be seen in this video:

What a great quote that whole thing is! Fantastic. He GETS it. This isn't some well-meaning but misguided celeb talking about how much they loved the smell of books as a child in their local library. This is someone who understands how libraries are about social inclusion. I love the full answer. I think Gaiman is brilliant. I just wish we, as a library community, hadn't quite latched onto the Google part of it so much, as the dichotomy isn't helpful.

Also, I don't personally think I can find the 'right' answer in most of the situations I find myself in, even as an academic librarian helping people are who ARE actually after very specific information. Our role is more about helping people find answers for themselves - not in all cases and branches of the profession, but in most - as a couple of people pointed out on Twitter:

Of course this dichotomy isn't somehow Gaiman's fault or exclusive to him, you see it everywhere among librarians. This tweet from Internet Librarian International encapsulates a sentence you hear a lot about libraries and competition:

(It was reflecting something the speaker had said rather than Martin's own opinion.) I find this rhetoric troubling for lots of reasons, many of which I've spoken about before but the idea of Google as competitor just won't go away...

Here are my issues with it:

  1. As discussed above, people don't now use Google for things they previously used libraries for
  2. Google doesn't do what we do. It precisely the human element of libraries that will ensure they endure
  3. If Google IS our competitor then we will lose every battle, forever
  4. Ultimately, to pit libraries against Google is to reduce libraries to their most basic function (provider of information) and indeed the one which IS most easily replaced...
  5. ... and then try and convince people not to replace us with Google by telling them Google is not any good, when in fact - for all the troubling things about Google, and there are many - it IS pretty good at bringing back info of sufficient quality that most people who are non-specialists find it to be excellent for their needs
  6. Related: no one ever won any friends by slagging off something useful (that they themselves use every day)

The fact that Google and the internet more widely has made it so easy for people to access information without needing to physically visit a library is a GOOD thing. So I'd like us all agree to stop trying to make it into us versus them, and focus more on the things we can do to cater for the needs of our users and potential users. They don't need us to find them info on Cilla Black but they DO need us for plenty else. 

Google could find 100,000 things for libraries to do next, but only our communities can find us the right one...