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:
- The Library Brand 2010 from OCLC’s Perceptions of Libraries, 2010: Context and Community – OCLC’s report about how our customers think of us.
- If Books Are Our Brand – a Public Libraries Online article by Carson Block – interesting discussion about how libraries need to change that “books is our brand” perception.
- How to Prove a Library’s Relevance: MCPL’s Brilliant Brand Strategy 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