Sunday, December 18, 2005

Happy holidays!

I am off to the great Buckeye State and to my family, and I won't be returning until early January 2006! During that time, I'll either be posting a heck of a lot more or a heck of a lot less. I wish you all the best during the holiday season.

I'll leave you with this terrific article from the University of Michigan's University Record, which features an interview with a professor who explains the rituals and psychology surrounding holiday gift-giving. Marketing and buying decisions are always less about the stuff being consumed and more about how customers feel about and perceive those exchanges. Some holiday food for thought!

Best wishes!

Battle of the brands

Looks like IU and Ball State are squaring off in the branding arena, according to this article. Ball State is touting its Intel ranking as Most Unwired Campus with its Cutting Edge Cool campaign, while IU is celebrating its Newsweek designation as Hottest Big State School. Most interesting in this article is the importance of word choice in the ad campaigns. A Ball State freshman thinks his school is "trying too hard" and explained that if you have to say you're cool, you're probably not, a sentiment shared by another student mentioned in the piece who wasn't crazy about the wording, but enthusiastic about the overall campaign. Hmm... Did Ball State not test this slogan out on its target market?! While I don't know for sure how Ball State developed the slogan, it's a good opportunity for a general reminder: The only cool that matters is what your patrons think is cool, and overlooking their points-of-view is definitely not cool.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Hallelujah! More on customer evangelism.

Micro Persuasion had a nice post about what I would agree is a terrific article from U.S. News & World Report by James Pethokoukis on how to create a force of customer evangelists who will sing the praises of your company (library) and spread their enthusiasm to others.

This is an important trend in marketing we need to keep in mind, or, better yet, act on! Promotion via evangelism is a perfect marketing strategy for librarians in particular because it's all about building authentic, two-way relationships with patrons and communicating your vision and passion to them, which I've found most librarians are eager to do anyway. In fact, many companies now have designated "evangelists" in their ranks (!!). One such evangelist who works for TechSmith (software developer responsible for products like Camtasia), says that her job is all about relationships. As the author says, "What does she do for these people to help them keep and spread the faith? She tries to reply to each and every E-mail, forwards problems or complaints to product specialists, invites the customer evangelists to groups beta-testing new products, and, of course, supplies the occasional tchotchke." This is about more than just touting the benefits of the library. Even though every staff member performs a marketing role, wouldn't it be wonderful if every library who had one person devoted to spreading the word like this?

I bet for many of us, we already have a good sense of who are best customer evangelist candidates are, such as frequent users, members of advisory boards, etc. But do we give them the rhetorical, technological and other tools and support to help them pass on their enthusiasm to others?

If you want to learn more about this significant trend, get more info from those who wrote the book on the subject! Ben McConnell and Jackie Huba also created a discussion guide to supplement the book and their blog has a section of Essential Reading to explore.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Marketing to today's undergrads

The Kept-Up Academic Librarian points to 2 absolutely fascinating articles on what drives today's undergraduate market (here and here). It's amazing to me how sophisticated these spenders are, but also how reckless they can be.

The first article from BusinessWeek concerns the MySpace phenomenon and how students use online social networks to connect in the real world. Marketers are trying to get inside these potentially lucrative communities, but doing so requires new and more subtle approaches. Ads that scream "I'm trying to sell you something," won't fly, and instead have to be skillfully woven into the context of the community. Students are very keen on picking up sales pitches, and won't tolerate it.

As natural connectors, information-providers, and community builders, these online worlds would seem to be a logical fit for libraries. To some degree, this is already happening with blogs and the like, but we ought to remain aware of the fact that for our younger patrons, the virtual and real worlds are not all that separate, which should impact our marketing approaches.

The second article is all about undergraduates' conspicuous consumption habits. Students today are spending heaps of cash (well, a lot of credit anyway) on dining out, lattes, and electronics. Some may place the blame on marketers for student's penchant for consumerism, but after reading the article, it's clear that some of this trend comes from students' readily-available cash flow (a.k.a. mom and dad). In fact, lots of marketers out there are concerned with quality of life issues (for in-depth details on Quality-of-Life Marketing, see this article by Dr. Joe Sirgy). Whatever the reasons, students are clearly more savvy and demanding when it comes to consuming products and services, which we see plenty of signs of at our service points. For example, for many undergrads I've worked with, I've noticed that waiting a day or even hours for a book to become available is like waiting for an eternity. Consumption that goes on outside the library certainly impacts what we do and how we do it, as these articles show.

Public library marketing briefs

A few tidbits about how some public libraries (mostly from the Chicago area) are marketing away:

  • School libraries target students' interests: Details how one librarian turned a corner of her school library into a "Coffee House" and snuck in some info literacy too!
  • Meadows library is tailored to city: The importance of understanding the demographics of your patron base is highlighted here.
  • Community Library makes pitch to teen readers: Neat marketing and programming ideas from how one library celebrated Teen Read Week, which included talks from a comic book writer, a video game playoff, and an Open Mic Night.
  • Library strives to be heart of community: This library features a used book store, cafe, gift shop and a conveyor belt/item sorter for returned books. Why? As the library director said, "We're no longer just a place to come and find books...People expect there to be more activity, instruction, education and enrichment."
  • Patrons share library pride: The Des Plaines Public Library is a hopping place, due in no small part to its outstanding collections. One patron even said the library had a better DVD collection than Blockbuster. This library seems to know who its competitors are and are stepping up to them.

Marketers are taking over the world (and you're one of them!)

Did you know that everyone in your library is a marketer (including you)? Well it's true! I was glad to see this article from MarketingProfs that describes how everyone on staff is performing a marketing function of some sort. This is also why internal marketing is so important and should be a part of your strategy. The author's remarks sum it all up: "Weave the work of the marketing department into the daily lives of all employees: Make sure everyone knows core messaging and value propositions; teach everyone to think like a marketer; provide easy mechanisms for people to report market feedback and needs into the marketing department." Exactly!

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Cool nametag!

Scott Ginsberg wears a nametag 24/7/365 to make him and his self-created brand more approachable. His exploits are detailed in his Hello, my name is BLOG blog. His posts drive at how to be an effective communicator and from what I've read so far, it's fascinating! A summary of his thoughts on what makes a brand approachable is on WOMBAT, an offspring of WOMMA. The name tag idea and the subsequent homemade personal brand intrigues me because as librarians, we don't just "sell" our services, we sell ourselves. Our personalities are just as much a part of our service transactions as our nifty databases and spiffy books. How we present ourselves personally can make a lot of difference in whether or not patrons come back.

On a somewhat related note, WOMBAT is now digestible in podcast form.

Thinking outside the car

Thanks to Steven Bell for his thoughtful comments on my last post. He's dead on about reading outside of the library literature to generate creative ideas. In fact, Steven has an actual "keeping up" philosophy that is immensely useful for recharging your creativity. In his comment, he states, "I think many of the creative ideas simply come from being influenced by something you read or see, and morphing that idea into something new for your environment."

This thought stuck with me and came to mind when I read over a blog post sent to me by my colleague Dan Ream (always on the lookout for the unique and/or unusual!). The post is from a blog run by VCU's very own (and very renowned) AdCenter. The post features a picture of a guy driving around with a Starbucks cup glued to the roof of his car. When people try to warn him that he's driving around with a cup of coffee up there, he smiles, waves and says, "Happy Holidays from Starbucks." Now, if that's not taking something from out there in the environment and morphing it into a new idea, I don't know what is. This driving advertisement just took a regular ol' cup and displayed it in such a way that just its placement drew heaps of attention. Messing around with context and turning the ordinary into the unusual is a terrific marketing tactic and one that I know we can put to good use in libraries.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Creativity is key, the rest is just details

The more I have thought/pondered/obsessed/wondered about marketing, the more I have come to realize just how important creativity is in the marketing process. Think about it: great marketing is contingent upon coming up with breakthrough (a.k.a brand-spanking-new and creative) ways to meet people's needs. That is incredibly tough work considering that most people's important needs are already met, most of the time anyway, and that marketing has been honed to such a science that odds are if you can think if it, it's already been tried.

Which leads me to a post on my favorite blog of all-time: Creating Passionate Users. I had been wanting to write up a post about creativity, and Kathy (author) already did it (and much better than what I could have done)! Kathy wrote an insiteful post, Creativity on speed. The gist of her point is that "When you're trying to make creative breakthroughs, slowing down gives the rational part of your brain all the time it needs to stop an idea before you're barely aware of it. When it comes to building/creating/playing something you didn't even know you were capable of, speed is your friend." This was surprising to me, but a relief as well since I have no problem finding shortages of time to test this out. She also references an interesting article written by a movie sound guy entitled, On Being Creative, which ends with the following 3 tips for being creative:

  • "Learn your craft thoroughly."
  • "Begin each project with few assumptions about the methods you will use. Let the needs of the project, most of which you won't know until after you've gotten your feet wet, determine your approach. [I can vouch for this one!]"
  • "Experiment as early and as often and as inexpensively as possible. Make lots of mistakes when mistakes are cheap." [I'd love to see this encouraged by more organizations!]
This post dovetails with a previous one from Kathy that has to do with adding sliders (basically, a metaphor for finding breakthrough opportunities). She concludes the post with tips for finding new sliders, which essentially help you to think outside the sliders (you'll get it when you read it). Her posts are long, but they're the only long blog posts I actually digest completely because they're just so great.

I'd really like to hear what strategies you use to get your creativity in gear. Any tips or resources you'd recommend? I know you're out there doing creative things, so come on and share what works!

[Update: I found a web site ( that has collected some creativity-enhancing tools and described how and when to use them. Maybe you'll find it useful too.]

[Another update: I just noticed that the current issue of Marketing Treasures has an article devoted to brainstorming techniques.]

Time to perceive how we're perceived

Hurray! I've been waiting for this to be available online for a while and now it is! OCLC's report,Perceptions of Libraries and Information Resources (2005), is up and ready for viewing! I've only heard an overview of this report from our University Librarian and haven't read it yet, but now you know what I'll be doing today! This kind of research is absolutely invaluable to us as we try to find the best way to position our services so that they pop up on users' already cluttered radar. Ok, enough of reading this post - go ahead and check out the report. :)

[Update: George Needham, Vice President of Member Services at OCLC, et al. speaks up about this report and the 2003 Environmental Scan on Talking with Talis (MP3, 44 mins.). (Found via AcademicPR listserv).]

Friday, December 09, 2005

Take the Google taste test

Seth Godin pointed out an interesting experiment going on where customers blindly search 3 search engines (Google, Yahoo! and MSN) and choose which results seem most relevant. Google is ahead in with 42% of votes, but it is interesting to see that Yahoo! (31.18%) and MSN (26.82%) are holding their own. Seth suggests that the reason for this is consumers' perceptions: Consumers buy into the idea that Google is better because it seems better due to things like design, etc. Marketing, and particularly marketing intangible services like libraries, is largely about managing perceptions, a fact that's important to keep in mind as we think about what image we're putting out there for patrons.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

"Cultural Programming for Libraries" - a PLA preconference

The ALA Public Programs Office announced a PLA National Conference preconference event called, "Cultural Programming for Libraries: Linking Libraries, Communities and Culture." The event will "prepare library staff to conduct high-quality humanities programs for the public, and will take place Tuesday, March 21, 9 am - 5 pm and Wednesday, March 22, 9 am - Noon in Boston. Advance registration for the PLA conference and related discounts will be available through January 11, 2006. To register, visit"

See the PLA preconference brochure (PDF) for more info.

Libraries finding a niche as community builders

Every marketing success story involves people finding a niche that they are uniquely able to fill. In the case of Los Angeles public libraries, that niche is the role of community-builder. A local news article describes how LA libraries have achieved a 70% boom in usage over the past 10 years. Despite seething racial tensions and a destructive arson fire that damaged over a million books, the libraries have experienced a renaissance due to sound market research, creative programming, and a lot of hard work! Librarians initiated more than 180 neighborhood meetings to assess what the community would like to see in their new library buildings and designs. Once built, librarians took to the task of addressing the most pressing of its patrons needs: a sense of community. One way they did this was by initiating "Coffee and Conversation," a library program that invites anyone to stop in and talk about what's hot in the news. Librarians also help new immigrants adjust to life in LA by offering popular citizenship classes and collecting needed foreign language materials. Matching up needs and services is marketing in a nutshell, which is what this article touchingly illustrates.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Better to blog?

Does Your Company Belong in the Blogosphere? is the question asked in the recent Harvard Business School Working Knowledge. Articles on the topic of corporate blogging are increasingly common, but this one is especially good. As the author describes, there are three major benefits to company (institutional/library) blogs:

  • Influencing the public "conversation" about your company [library]
  • Enhancing brand visibility and credibility
  • Achieving customer intimacy
The author also gives helpful advice for getting the best use from your blog, all of which are good (have a distinct focus and goal, feature an authentic voice, etc.). One interesting example comes from Sonyfield Farm, an organic yogurt company that hosts various blogs directed at different target audiences including blogs like Baby Babble, Strong Women Daily News, the Bovine Bugle (check out the pics!), and Creating Healthy Kids. This targeted approach is the way for libraries to go, in my opinion, and there are lots of creative ways we could segment our market of users, other than the traditional categories of teens, adults, etc. For example, if your library is in a particularly scenic locale, why not write a blog featuring information resources for hikers and outdoor enthusiasts?

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Open source lessons from Amazon & Firefox

If I hadn't been behind in my blogging last week, I would have mentioned this "wow" news from that was picked up by some Church of the Customer posts (here and here). Basically, Amazon is rolling out this wiki feature that allows customers to create and edit product information, which, it's hoped anyway, will be more valuable and robust than the current Reviews. The feature is pretty hard to find, but the COC posts have some screen captures to illustrate what they're up to. More recently, COC talked about another Amazonian innovation: threaded discussions. Gets you thinking about what we could do with the good ol' catalog, doesn't it?

These new developments are some of many marketing maneuvers designed to get patrons in on the act (for regular readers, you already know I'm a fan of this approach). Take Firefox's latest open source marketing campaign that asks avid users to create and submit video testimonials (phase one). The second phase of their campaign will invite students and professionals to send in their ads. Neat!

Monday, December 05, 2005

¿Sabes español?

The Association of Hispanic Advertising Agencies (AHAA) announced in a press release last week that Hispanic print and television advertising grew a significant 4.7% between 2003 and 2004. Hispanic buying power also reached $686 billion in 2004, according to the release. Whew! Odds are, many libraries are feeling the effects of this population's growing needs. In fact, last week the San Bernardino County Library launched its bilingual iBistro system, which allows patrons to locate and request items in Spanish as well as English (article here).

In order to keep up with the growth of the Hispanic population, it's important to stay current with relevant market research. The AHAA has a fantastic PowerPoint presentation (pdf) available that describes this market's demographics, purchasing behavior, where the group gets its information as well as marketing implications--fascinating!--not to mention, very useful for your own marketing efforts. There is a lot of opportunity for librarians to get in early on serving this growing group of current and future library users!

Friday, December 02, 2005

Basic training for spreading the word

Check out this great new blog from WOMMA called WOMBAT (Word of Mouth Basic Training).

Found on Candi's great LibTalk blog.

Hit the perfect PR pitch

WebProNews had a fairly decent article about achieving positive results with PR for people who are not PR experts. Essentially, the article describes how to move beyond tactics to a PR strategy. "When you adopt the core PR strategy discussed in this article, you are then free to move beyond tactics and pay closer attention to the perceptions and behaviors of your most important external audiences, the very people who could hold your professional success as a manager in their hands." The point is to select the appropriate vehicle for your audience in order to do one of three things: "Change existing perception, create perception where there may be none, or reinforce it."

Heaps more marketing news cropped up this week that I'm going to have to get to next week so stay tuned...

Corporate librarian wrap up

In honor of the last day of "corporate librarian week," I was poking around on SLA's Website and found an interesting division that may be useful for marketing purposes. The Advertising and Marketing Division of SLA "is concerned with the collection, retrieval, and dissemination of information devoted to advertising, marketing, and related disciplines, and in the management of libraries and information centers in these areas." To that end, they have a lot of interesting resources on their Webpage including The Branding Resource and Web Resources.

A blog called Data Obsessed written by a librarian working in a consulting firm in New York caught my attention because of its insights into issues particular to corporate librarians' work. While not every post is directly related to corporate libraries specifically, the author does highlight items that can influence marketing planning in those settings. Plus, it's just fun to read a blog from the coporate/special library perpective.

Finally, if you haven't bookmarked Marketing the Corporate Library, you may want to do so. A number of the resources I pointed out this week came from there and it seems handy.

Since every week is corporate librarian week for those of you in business settings, I'll try to keep an eye out for helpful marketing tips just for you and pass them along as I find them. :)

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Let's get real

To continue our corporate librarian marketing theme, take a peek at this article called Marketing: Realistic Tips from the SLA. The author runs the research and consultancy firm MarketBase (check out the author's recent publications from the firm's site for other goodies). The tips concern ways to make time for marketing, budgeting, and writing a marketing plan. As the author concludes, "Whether you're working on a shoestring budget or with sizeable financial and staff resources, dedication to the marketing process and to creating a marketing plan will make a difference. Those in the know agree that this is an investment for a successful future."

Be sure to look at the references for other helpful sources too like a marketing bibliography and how to write a marketing plan.

This just in from Singapore

The National Library Board, Singapore, has launched two interesting initatives.

The first is a promotional campaign, Drop Everything and Read, that highlights the library's doubling of loan limits (check out the great poster!).

The second is a new book blog called High Browse Online. The blog features book reviews, librarians' picks, readers' contributions and library events. The posts have a nice tone to them and seem to do a good job of personalizing the library.

Thanks to Ivan Chew (a.k.a Rambling Librarian) for making me aware of these terrific efforts!