Books is Not Your Brand

Businesses and organizations have some pretty recognizable stuff. McDonald’s has their hamburger. Nike has their swooshy logo and their “just do it” tagline. Google has their search engine. Apple has the iPhone.

These things – products, logos, and taglines – aren’t brands. They are products, consumables, and marketing projects. They are things the company produces.

But what’s a brand? Here are some definitions:

  • “A brand is a person’s gut feeling about a product, service, or organization” (from gist brands)
  • “… your brand is a story, a set of emotions and expectations and a stand-in for how we think and feel about what you do” (from Seth Godin)
  • “The perceived emotional corporate image as a whole” (from JUST Creative)

So when I hear someone say that a library’s brand is books, it irks me a bit. Because it’s simply not true. Yes, books are a very recognizable thing that libraries have; a major “product,” if you will. But having a collection of books is just one thing we do out of many.

And these days, you can get books pretty much anywhere: at Walmart, at the grocery store, or through a click on my Kindle app. Having access to a bunch of books isn’t really a unique thing anymore.

I love what Blackcoffee says about brands and products in their blog post, A Product is Not a Brand:

“Many companies fail to achieve their branding goals because they mistake their brand for their product, service or technology. Simply put, a brand is none of these! A brand is an experience that lives at the intersection of promise and expectation. Your products are a way to deliver upon that promise. Forget features, concentrate on the unique experience you can provide.”

Don’t mistake a major product – your book collection – as a brand. Because it’s not. Even better – go the extra mile (or two, or three) and work to define your library’s brand. Then see where that takes you!

More information on Branding:

Book image by Dawid Palen

One Difference between Twitter and Facebook

Somebody recently asked me about Twitter for their library (which lead to my last post and this one). As I was answering her question about social media strategy, I said (a version of) this:

Facebook is a bit more conducive to “branded conversations.” Facebook can be highly visual, and the conversations are a bit more contained and threaded (i.e., comments and likes go underneath the actual post). If you’re not into one conversation, move to the next.

Twitter, on the other hand, is just the raw conversation as it happens. Sure, it can be visual and sorta-kinda threaded now, but it’s still (in my mind, anyway) pretty much real-time text-based conversation.

What’s that mean? For Facebook, you can insert some branded, “market-y” stuff, and not really bother anyone (as long as you have other content too!). It’s expected.

But with Twitter, if an organization starts sounding market-y – if they are mainly using Twitter as a broadcast tool to push out their programs and services – those tweets will stick out like a sore thumb.

That’s a great way to be ignored – fast – on Twitter.

Megaphone pic by Gene Han


Make your Stuff Obvious

This sign was at our local shopping mall. Like any good blogging geek, I stopped and took a picture of it – to the chagrin of my kids, I’m sure (“Mom – Dad’s taking pictures of signs again!” – eye roll!)

But the sign made me think of a few things that I thought I’d share:

  1. The sign is nicely done – large, easy-to-read words.
  2. Just an interesting side-note – the sign’s in the shape of a smartphone. A few very short years ago, a phone that did wifi wouldn’t have made any sense. But we all easily get it now, don’t we?
  3. The message is clear, the service is obvious, the sign is hard to miss. You know exactly what they’re advertising.

Contrast that with the average wifi sign in a library. In most of our libraries, we make little, tiny, dinky-winky signs that say “wifi.” Usually provided to us by our wifi vendor. If we have signs at all [hmm… I wonder what our wifi signs look like? I’ll need to check].

But at the mall … where they really want you to stay awhile … the wifi sign is HUGE. This sign was almost as tall as me, folks! And right out in the walkway, standing close to the food courts (one place people would possibly use wifi for an extended period of time).

What do they want you to do at the mall? Stay awhile. Eat some food. Use their free wifi. And buy more stuff!

Now translate that to a library. What do we want our customers to do? Stay awhile? Eat more food (if you have a cafe)? Read/watch/listen to/download more content? Ask us questions? Attend our events? Probably all of those things (though I’ll bet most of us don’t spell those goals out quite like that).

Define what it is you want your customers to do, then make your branding, your promotion, your signage – what you want people to do while engaging with you – make it obvious.

What Happens when your Personal Brand Grows Up #Blogworld

BlogworldPanelists – Peter Shankman and Jelena Woehr, Social & Community Communications Manager, Yahoo! Contributor Network

Just an aside. Peter started off with this: “everyone knows me, so I won’t introduce myself.” Dude – no offense, but I don’t. I think you wrote a book? I just found your website to link to your name… Go ahead and give a brief introduction next time. Just sayin!

Now onto the panel discussion. This panel was sorta kinda about millennials, their personal brands, and being a good employee while maintaining a personal brand. So discussion floated around those concepts.

Peter – entrepreneurship is the new MBA. I disagree… anyone can get an MBA, most people don’t have what it takes to be an entrepreneur. Or maybe I missed the point :-)

Millennials – 1 in 4 move back in with their parents…

People over 25 – more college grads are unemployed than those who have a high school degree.

Get a real job, then go home and work on your business.

Peter – claimed that CEOs don’t trust millennials, so a new employee needs to gain a level of trust. Don’t embarrass the company you work for.

A lot of talk about trust…

Millennials need to learn that for the boss, “it’s all business, never personal.” Bosses have to make business-oriented decisions, and you won’t necessarily be their friend. Instead, find a job that you love, then post that. That loyalty will shine through. But don’t fake it.

Giving a comparison between Anthony Weiner and Elliot Spitzer. Elliot did something wrong, then disappeared and owned it. He’ll be forgiven. Anthony didn’t own it, and will probably never be in an elected position again. The point – own your mistakes.

Mentorship is important. Ask “what did I do wrong,” learn from the mistake and fix it. The mistake won’t come back to bite you, but the lie about it will.

Gave some examples of bad use of social media … people getting fired, bad dates, etc. Point – be smart. Do better work thatn everyone else (which isn’t hard – just try a little harder than everyone else). Do that, and you will be noticed.

Jelena told a funny story – two guys in the woods, and a bear starts chasing them. One guy said “run!” The other guy said “what’s the point? The bear’s faster – we can’t outrun it.” The first guy said this: “I don’t have to outrun the bear. I just have to outrun YOU.” Point – just outrun the next guy, and you will do ok!

ou can get away with a lot with your personal brand, as long as you still produce (i.e., produce good content, good results, etc).

They claimed young adults have a 2-3 second attention span… this panel had some good info, but you had to tone out some of their big blanket statements that weren’t really accurate (i.e., the attention span thing, the MBA thing, etc.).

Q & A:

How to write better – take a class, read good books. Travel? Seriously? Travel is cool, but travelling will not help you write better. Thankfully, someone else piped up and said “write a lot, get people to critique you.” Thanks Mr. Attendee Man!

Older people in business – they have something that millennials don’t. They have experience.