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Marketing your library – Instalment 8

Making a mark: library branding

Have you ever had a jingle you couldn't get out of your head? Are there logos that you immediately associate with quality? Have you ever chosen a manufacturer because someone who worked for that company was nice to you? Then you've experienced successful branding! While branding is generally considered to be the realm of the commercial world that doesn't mean libraries can't or shouldn't modify the same sorts of strategies to market the library and its resources.

What is branding? More than a logo

Most folks think of a brand as a snazzy logo, but branding is much more than that. Branding is a set of components such as a logo, but also includes the library's name, the library's slogan, the name of a specific service, expectations, web page templates, regular events, colours, etc. Branding is anything that gives your library a distinct identity and creates a connection with that identity in a user's mind. Ideally, whenever a user hears your slogan or name or sees your colours, web page template or logo, they automatically associate that identity with your library – and hopefully that identity is a good one!

Why brand? More than a feeling

It is hard for librarians to wrap their minds around the concept of having to drum up business. To us, it's obvious that a library adds value to a community or campus, but to folks that have never been introduced to a library before; they are often intimidating and scary places. Branding should establish an identity and define a sense of place that isn't scary or intimidating. The goal is something like this: a student needs a good place to study in the cool and quiet and they automatically think of your library; a user needs reliable information on a medical condition and they automatically think of your library's reference service; or a user sees your library's name on a resource and knows that it is a quality tool.

How to brand? Easier than you think

But before you start, think long and hard about the overall message you want your brand to stand for, such as your library's mission statement. Do you want to brand your library as an intimidating scary place where librarians are seen as gatekeepers or a dynamic, living, growing organism that welcomes users to come in and explore where friendly professional help is offered if they need it? Avoid making the message overly complicated or convoluted. You can't be everything to everyone, but you can deliver consistent customer service and create an atmosphere that speaks to your library's identity and place in the community. You want everything about the brand to be geared to what you want people to think about and feel when they experience part of that brand whether it's the logo, slogan, building, service or even you!

You do not have to start by hiring a fancy consulting firm or paying thousands for a professionally designed logo or slogan. Even though brand marketing is a complex set of elements, you can start with just one aspect. Starting can be as simple as getting the name of your library on everything you can, including flyers, buses, web pages, the phone book, posters, business cards, bookmarks, etc. You can also start with one particular service. Begin by applying your brand to one specific service and build around that service. But remember, your brand is your promise to customers. If you break that promise you will lose new customers and old customer loyalty.

Once you establish what your brand is, then you have to constantly monitor and manage it. The brand should come from your library's core values, be relevant to user needs, be adaptable as circumstances change and be consistent throughout your library. The payoff will be immense though. Branding allows you to create an emotional tie to people. It is all about creating a relationship with people and making the library as central to their lives as going to the market for a loaf of bread but hopefully much more pleasant.

More ideas

  • Make sure any graphics you get come in formats and resolutions for both print materials and web pages.
  • Maintain a look and feel consistent with how you want people to view your library.
  • Position your library as an integral part of your community providing important and free services to all.
  • Don't let up. A successful branding strategy takes consistent care and management.

For more take a look at "Target your brand" by Beth Dempsey.