Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Concerning creativity

Does this sound familiar?: You turn on the T.V., computer, or flip open a magazine to find a stunning, creative, attention-getting ad only to find that, moments later, you've forgotten what was being advertised (if you were able to figure it out in the first place!). Can creativity be more foe than friend to your marketing efforts if left unchecked?

Creativity is one of the most important skills librarians can bring to bear on their marketing efforts. However, I often wonder if too much creativity (if there is such a thing) applied to promotions can actually do more harm than good by stealing the show from the core marketing messages. In participating in outreach events, I question whether any student is able to come away with a coherent message given all the "noise" of give-aways, games, and decorations. Here's a working list of points I consider when balancing creativity with promotion objectives:

  • Do the creative elements reinforce the message or compete with it? Outrageous games, stunts and gimmicks can nab patrons' attention, but once you have their attention, what are you going to do with it? Try to make the most of the rare instances when you have someone's undivided attention by communicating your message and listening to patrons' points of view. If the creative elements don't allow that to happen, they may need to be scaled back a bit. Also, do those attention-getters conflict with the messages you want to communicate? It's helpful to step back from creative ideas to determine how well they mesh with promotion goals.
  • How can creative ideas make lasting value for patrons? I like for my creative promotion tactics to have some staying power and be useful to patrons. This summer, for example, I raffled off USB flash drives to students who signed up for our listserv. Students get a prize they can use as they do research and write papers, and they also receive relevant library news well into the future. In an academic setting, I prefer edu-taining events, prizes, etc. that are fun and attention-getting, but that also expose students to aspects of library services.
  • What's the context? In a stroke of luck this summer, I gave away mint Lifesavers at my display table. I didn't know it beforehand, but at this event parents of incoming students were given free cups of coffee, so the mints were a big hit! This happy coincidence reminded me of the importance of knowing as much as possible about the context in which the promotion will take place.
Thinking creatively is how breakthrough marketing opportunities are discovered and how successful marketing initiatives are carried out. Rather than hampering creative energies, it's best to begin a marketing endeavor with an open mind that considers all possibilities, both zany and tame. Then, it's worth evaluating what you want to accomplish and whether or not those creative ideas will get you there. If creative ambitions are overshadowing what you want to communicate, creativity isn't doing you any favors. A good example of creativity that furthers marketing in practice is the Ubiquitous Librarian's description of Georgia Tech's freshmen welcome events. The library's promotion goals were to "showcase the library as a space to hangout, socialize, eat, chill." To do that, they came up with a host of creative, fun social events like speed dating and ninja tag to feature the community-building aspects of the library. We'll have to wait for the other parts of the series of posts to learn about all of the details, but this example shows that creativity and marketing, when done right, can work with instead of against each other.

Categories: real_life | tips_to_try


Carla said...

Creativity is just doing what you feel like doing even when it's becoming irrational. The seemingly crazy things people have done did turn out to be very useful for humankind. Think inventions that were products of accidental discovery.

Jill said...

Thanks for the comment, Carla! I definitely agree that experimentation and risk-taking are very important and may lead to those accidental discoveries you mention.

Amanda M. said...

I just saw the Ubiquious Librarian's write-up of GT Libraries' freshman programming and knew you'd post about it. Soooo cool! Some of their ideas are fairly easy too, all you need is a staff that can see the library from a students POV. I wish I could be a freshman again!