Businesses and organizations have some pretty recognizable stuff. McDonaldâ€™s has their hamburger. Nike has their swooshy logo and their â€œjust do itâ€ tagline. Google has their search engine. Apple has the iPhone.
These things – products, logos, and taglines – arenâ€™t brands. They are products, consumables, and marketing projects. They are things the company produces.
But whatâ€™s a brand? Here are some definitions:
- “A brand is a personâ€™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 libraryâ€™s brand is books, it irks me a bit. Because itâ€™s simply not true. Yes, books are a very recognizable thing that libraries have; a major â€œproduct,â€ 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 isnâ€™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:
â€œMany 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.â€
Donâ€™t mistake a major product – your book collection – as a brand. Because itâ€™s not. Even better – go the extra mile (or two, or three) and work to define your libraryâ€™s brand. Then see where that takes you!
More information on Branding:
- The Library Brand 2010Â from OCLCâ€™s Perceptions of Libraries, 2010: Context and Community – OCLCâ€™s report about how our customers think of us.
- If Books Are Our Brandâ€¦,Â a Public Libraries Online article by Carson BlockÂ – interesting discussion about how libraries need to change that â€œbooks is our brandâ€ perception.
- How to Prove a Libraryâ€™s Relevance: MCPLâ€™s Brilliant Brand StrategyÂ in Marketing Library Services. An article describing how Mid-Continent Public Library (my library as a kid!) changed their brand from books to Access.
- Infographic: mapping brand experience, from MB Piland Advertising + Marketing (a branding expert in Topeka, KS) – A handy infographic about brand mapping, and some ideas about where to start with branding.
Book image by Dawid Palen