Friday, August 31, 2007

Get a dose of this Tylenol promotion

I saw a Tylenol ad on T.V. today that features employees promising to do right by customers. Nice idea and all, so I went to check out the Tylenol "Promise" Web site. Here, you can find employees talking about their work and perspectives. Overall, it appears generally unscripted. What struck me most is what a fantastic idea this format would be for librarians. As you well know, we suffer from some fairly annoying stereotypes (like the glasses-wearing, bun-sporting, shhh-ers). I think it would be nice idea if patrons could find their librarians talking about the issues they're concerned about, projects they're working on, hobbies they have, and so on, to put a friendly face on our services. I realize there are privacy issues implicit in this, but I just like the idea of patrons getting to see a more-well rounded version of us has human beings rather than one-dimensional bookish-types. And what a great tool for recruiting to the profession! Just a thought. Have a great Labor Day weekend!

Flying high on outstanding customer service

The CBS Early Show aired a segment this morning called The Friendliest Skies. The star of the piece is a United Airline pilot, Captain Denny Flanagan, who takes it upon himself to bring customer service up to a whole new level. Here are the highlights:


  • buys McDonald's hamburgers for passengers on delayed flights.
  • takes pictures of pets stored in cargo to reassure passengers.
  • makes sure children flying alone get window seats; calls their parents if there are unexpected delays.
  • asks passengers to play in a contest in which they write down their best or worst flying experiences; he later posts them on United bulletin boards so that employees can learn about customers' experiences. (Contest winners, by the way, get a bottle of fine wine).
  • writes personalized thank-you notes on the back of his business card for first-class passengers who are frequent fliers.
Flanagan insists it only takes a minute to provide these little extras that put the "service" back in customer service. Makes one think about what small surprises we can add to our own services to make them exceptional.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Playing the marketing game...and winning

Over the weekend, I put up a post on the Designing Better Libraries blog called Playful Design. I'm sharing it with you on LM as well because the post's theme is highly relevant to librarian-marketers. In it, I outlined 12 learning principles discussed by James Paul Gee at the Gaming Learning and Libraries Symposium. These learning principles can be applied to library services to make them more enjoyable and widely-used. Play is a serious consideration as we develop meaningful patron experiences. Employing playful elements in our services can:

  • Create a feeling of community; Bring together people of various backgrounds
  • Engage and excite users by making them active participants
  • Nurture word-of-mouth communications
  • Increase the value of educational services by improving learning outcomes; Teach patrons how to effectively use our services
  • Make using the library fun. :-)
Let's get game and play around with our services!

Monday, August 27, 2007

Building a community creativity lab

In case anyone's been wondering what happened to me, I did not fall off the earth! It just feels that way since I've been wrapped up in beginning of the school year craziness and starting my second-to-last Marketing class before completing my certificate - yeah! While it's been insanely busy, I've still been cooking up ideas for the blog and I think there are some exciting developments in the works.

The next project I want to tackle is building on the concept of a community creativity lab as a model for library services. I got some fairly good responses to my previous post on the topic, so I decided to take the concept a bit further. I can't claim to be the first to come up with this general idea, and there's already a lot of outstanding work being done along these lines. However, I thought it was a little unfair to say that libraries should become creativity labs without giving any specifics as to how they could work in reality.

So, in a series of posts, I'm going to tackle questions like:

  • What would the founding principles and purpose of a creativity lab be?
  • What would it look like in terms of physical spaces, both public and non-public?
  • How would the community be involved?
  • What services would be offered?
You get the idea. Since there's already evidence of these labs taking shape, I'm going to start with examples I've seen and point out their key elements and build up from there. (I already have a guest post or two coming up that describe some outstanding initiatives). I have no idea how many posts it'll take to fully explore this idea or how long it'll take, but I'm just going to keep plugging away at it. At the end, whatever that may be, I'll assemble the posts into a document that you all can do with what you wish.

Care to be involved? I would really love it if you readers would contribute your thoughts and ideas as we go along. Please comment on any post of interest and I'll incorporate your thoughts into the final paper. If you want to be involved sooner, please send me examples you've seen in libraries or elsewhere that you think resemble "creativity labs." I'll feature them in my posts and use them to define this concept.

Final note: What does any of this have to do with marketing? Faithful readers will know that in marketing, the most important piece of the marketing mix is the product. This series on the library as creativity lab will essentially explore new product ideas for libraries that resonate with today's patrons and their increasingly sophisticated needs. Here's hoping it works! :-)

Monday, August 20, 2007

Let's chat about attracting new users

Well, last week's brainstorm was more like a sprinkle, so I think I'll go back to the usual format where I set a date/time and facilitate a discussion. Let's get together on Tuesday, September 4th at from 4-5pm EST in the Library Marketing Exchange. In October, I'll be presenting to the Wisconsin Public Library Association on the topic of reaching out to new users, so this topic is a timely one for me anyway. I'd love to hear what's worked and what hasn't in terms of gaining new patrons and what questions you have about reaching out to new user groups. If that sounds like a fun talk to you, you know where to go!

Also, the topic of the last brainstorm was innovation. In the chat room, I pointed out some helpful links I'd like to share with you:

Have a great week, everyone! Please don't hesitate to send me your ideas for discussion topics.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

The big brainstorm begins tomorrow

I hope you'll get a chance to spend a minute or two in the Library Marketing Exchange tomorrow (Thursday) to talk creativity. I chose the topic of creativity not only because it's an ongoing interest of mine, but also because the ability devise original solutions to marketing problems is a must-have skill for librarians. I asked 2 questions that I invite everyone to answer:

1. How can librarians improve their ability to innovate?
2. How can libraries support their patrons' own creative pursuits?

More details on how to participate are here, but it's pretty simple. Just show up anytime and share your thoughts. I'll be in and out of the room as I can tomorrow. After the brainstorming session, I'll summarize the themes that crop up on the blog. Sound good? See you there! :-)

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Get your game face on: Understanding and serving gamers

As fellow library marketing enthusiasts, I'm sure most you will agree that attracting new library users involves much more than a "build it and they will come" service mentality. In terms of gaming and gamers, it isn't enough just to plug in a Nintendo or two and hope that masses of people will flood your building. To attract this population we need to truly understand who they are and what value-added services we can provide to connect with them on their terms. Here, then, is my next post in my gaming series that takes a closer look at gamers and what we can offer them.

By the way, if you want an EXCELLENT primer on gaming and library services, you really have to read Jenny Levine's Library Technology Report, Gaming & Libraries: Intersection of Services. In fact, most of the demographic data I'm sharing with you comes from that report, but you'll learn much more by picking up a copy and reading it over yourself.

That said, who the heck are gamers? As Jenny and others point out, most of us are gamers of some form or another. If you play cards, checkers, video games, or Sudoku, you're a gamer. This fact flies smack dab in the face of common stereotypes that make gamers out to be basement-dwelling, socially awkward teenage boys. In fact, Jenny cites a CNN study that found women over 40 years old are the biggest group of online gamers! Furthermore, according to other reports, the average gamer is 33 years old, and 67% of American heads of household play video and computer games. What's so amazing is that gamers span in incredibly wide range of ages, ethnicities, educational backgrounds, and income levels. And you don't have to look far to find just how monumental a force gaming is in the marketplace. Just look at this recent article from GameSpot that says the game Halo 3 broke the all-time record for preorders in North America. If these sheer numbers and demographics don't get your marketing senses tingling with excitement, I don't know what will. This is definitely a significant segment of the population we librarians should be taking a close look at.

While it's all well and good to know who gamers are, it's often not enough just to circulate copies of Mario Kart (though it's definitely not a bad place to start...). Good library marketers know that to be really successful, we must take a look at gamers' underlying motivations and tailor our services to accommodate those needs and preferences. Through some reading and attending the GLLS event last month, I have some ideas about how we can add value to the gaming experience to make it worthwhile for this group to come to the library. Most of my conclusions are based on the exciting case studies and research I heard about that were extremely inspirational. Here are my thoughts, but I also welcome comments from experienced librarian-gamers who have other insights:

  • Scale: It's amazing what altering the scale of an experience can do to draw people in. This point was driven home by the gaming initiatives at GA Tech and Lori Critz's summary of their Unreal Tournament. The Tournament featured a gigantic screen (also pictured here) that attracted many students because it created an ambiance they couldn't duplicate in their dorm rooms. It's sort of like the difference between going to a park and going to Disney World. Disney does things big, and sometimes big (big audiences, big attractions, and big events) are better.
  • Competition: Surprise! Gamers like to compete. And librarians can help them do that. Just take a look at Ann Arbor District Library's homegrown tournament scoring and management tools. Tools include a leaderboard and blogs that allow gaming patrons to keep up with how they stack up. By facilitating competition, librarians are structuring meaningful experiences for patrons - a HUGE added value. Fortunately for library-land, AADL is making its GT System available free of charge in the near future, and even hoping to have multi-library synchronized tournaments!
  • Community: What sold me completely on gaming in libraries is how games draw diverse people together. I was amazed by Eli Neiburger's account of a senior citizen challenging young patrons in DDR Tournament. (Apparently, he was a big hit). To my mind, libraries are not only great at bringing diverse groups together, but doing so is a responsiblity. Community is also an added value because it's not something that many people can find easily, but it's something that most people seek.
  • Fun: Ok, this is an obvious one, but fun can be a major attraction. Fun doesn't just happen though (I wish it did! And students in my library instruction classes probably do too! ;-) ). Fun, it turns out, is the result of planning and structure. Consider an article by my #1 librarian hero and the reason I got into reference work, Lisa Norberg. Lisa's article, Play Matters: The Academic Librarian's Role in Fostering Historical Thinking, describes how to make research fun by creating digital sandboxes and other tools that allow students to explore primary resources in a risk-free, engaging format. Digital sandboxes and the like don't create themselves. Librarians need to think strategically about how to make using their services and resources enjoyable.
  • Validation: Even though we're not therapists, we have an opportunity to provide some psychological support to patrons by validating their interests and hobbies. At the Symposium, I heard story after story about how just by offering games instead of chastizing patrons for playing them, librarians turned disgruntled youth into fervent library fans. In large part this is because by supporting activities like gaming, librarians give those people who engage in them the recognition and approval that they may not be getting elsewhere.
  • New Perspectives: If you haven't heard of Big Games, do yourself a favor and check out Gegory Trefry's talk from the Symposium. Basically, Big Games move games from boards and TV screens to real-life environments, even entire citites. Trefry talked about how libraries themselves could become gaming grounds where patrons could search for codes in books, for example. This point is related to the previous one about scale, but Big Games and related activities are more than just big - they force people to look at everyday objects and places in new ways. Framing environments in new ways is a value-added service (it's tough work and loads of planning!). Portraying the familiar in unfamiliar ways is a great way for librarians to attract gaming audiences.

My next post on this topic will be about how gaming principles can be applied to designing quality library services, and it will appear, appropriately enough, on the Designing Better Libraries blog. In the meantime, let me know what you think: How can we add value to library services for gamers?

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Facebook: Where socializing and monetizing collide aired a piece yesterday on how Facebook and banded together to provide a new service called Garage Sale - a service that allows people to buy and sell their stuff from their Facebook profile pages. The move is yet another example of a growing trend where the online worlds of socializing and consumerism are merging together. I think these developments will change people's expectations about having product and service providers in online networks since now members are becoming the marketers. The Chief Executive states,

"We see tremendous growth opportunities in providing the millions of users on business and social networks with an alternative to eBay, and the ability to transform their personal profile pages beyond information-sharing."
Perhaps the changes will also make reluctant librarians more comfortable promoting their services through social networking sites. Whatever the case, if Facebook is part of your library marketing strategy, these changes are good to know.

[Also see an article from WebProNews about Garage Sale.]


Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
If it's crazy to do keep making the same mistakes, then stop making these Eight Classic Marketing Mistakes that May Never Go Away as outlined by Paul on

My favorite of these mistaken marketing ideas are:

2. All We Need to do is Pump More into Promotion
Usually, if no one wants what you're "selling," it's because the product or service is bad, not because you need to spend more time and money telling people about a lousy product.

6. We Know Who Our Competitors Are
As Paul says,
"Companies not viewed as competitors are potentially the biggest threat to a company..."
This is why being broadly knowledgeable about market changes and new products and services is important for librarians, even when those new developments have seemingly little to do with libraries.

and 7. The Only Thing That Matters Is ROI
"For many companies investing in a marketing decision must have only one payoff – profit on the investment. Yet if this approach drives all marketing decisions the company is at best an underachiever and at worst vulnerable to competitors. Why? Because not all marketing decisions should be tied to a positive return on investment. Sometimes a firm must make strategic decisions that sacrifice profits in order strengthen other parts of the company."
Even in library land, obsessively focusing on profits, or outcomes, in terms of numbers like gate counts and service point transactions may blind people to more important matters. A BIG mistake!

Rules were made to be broken has an excellent piece called, "Getting Rid of the Rulebook." In it, the author talks about the perils of losing customers just because of never deviating from the company rules. One example she used involved a dry cleaners that was so insistent upon locking up the store precisely at the designated closing time that owners ignored one harried customer who arrived 10 mins. late due to traffic. Despite his frantic knocking on the door, and the fact that the owners were inside cleaning up, they pretended he wasn't there. They lost that customer's business for good. As the author points out,

"Contrast this cleaners story with one that Mike, the bell captain at the Hotel Algonquin in New York City, told me about his experience in a new Nordstrom store that had just opened in his New Jersey neighborhood. Mike and his wife were looking around the store and stopped at the customer service counter to ask what time the store closed. The associate smiled and said: "Whenever you're finished shopping, sir." What a very customer-friendly answer! Mike and his wife felt like royalty. Doesn't Nordstrom have an official closing time? Of course. But apparently you won't get thrown out of the store with bells going off."
The author concludes with a sound piece of advice from the retailer:
"The employee handbook of Nordstrom, the Seattle-based store group, consists of a central rule:
Rule #1: Use your good judgment in all situations. There are no additional rules."
Update: I decided it might be a good idea to give you a more illustrative example of what an appropriate "breaking of the rules" in service situations means to me. This is a true story (names have been withheld to protect the innocent). It was a rainy day. At lunchtime, I ventured a few city blocks in the damp weather to a local fast food restaurant for a bite to eat. I ordered my made-to-order meal and as I dug around my bag to find my wallet, I realized I'd left it in my office - argh! The cashier held my food while I hurried back to my office in my uncomfortable shoes and dreary weather (did I mention I don't like rain?). I finally made it back to the counter, winded and breathing heavy from the hike. The server hands me my food, which I paid for, and a cup for a fountain drink. I said, "Oh, I didn't order a drink." She responded, "I know." Bless her! That free drink was one of the kindest, most sympathetic gestures I've experienced in a fast food place and I always remember that small broken rule that has endeared me to that restaurant.

Monday, August 06, 2007

An internal marketing recap and the next chat!

Before I continue my posts on the values of gaming in libraries, I want to relate the feedback I received on our last chat about internal marketing. As you may remember, I asked internal marketing expert Sybil Stershic to review our chat and comment on the issues that sprouted up. She generously did so and now I'd like to share her insights with you.

One participant mentioned that her library is working on a logo redesign, and she was concerned that there was little staff buy-in since the process did not involve their input. My inclination is to encourage staff involvement in the planning stages, but I acknowledge that doing so may put too many cooks in the kitchen and stall projects. In her e-mail to me, Sybil noted that staff input does not necessarily mean getting full staff consensus. Rather, at minimum, staff should be told of the process and rationale for the design. They should also be the first to see it. As Sybil summed up,

Bottom line: employees should be considered an organization’s "first audience."
I thought this was a great tip and one that is simple to implement.

Another concern raised was that there exists an aversion to risk, or "culture of fear" as I put it, that precludes good ideas from being implemented and devalues experimentation as a part of the daily routine. We discussed that some staff feel like it's a waste of time to try out new technologies that don't seem immediately beneficial, for example. Sybil brought up a number of ideas that apply to this problem. First, she noted that internal marketing involves aspects of "attitude management" and "communications management." Attitude management means getting staff to buy into the organization's mission and goals, while communications management means giving staff the information and tools to do their jobs. Sybil pointed out that management needs to address each of these areas and be attentive to staff perceptions and concerns about technologies and other aspects of service. She mentioned a report from the Marketing Science Institute called, "Paradoxes of Technology: Consumer Cognizance, Emotions, and Coping Strategies." The study sounds like a good primer for managers about how technology can be a source of excitement as well as anxiety for their staff. It's easy to overlook the fact that staff perceptions count as much as patrons' perceptions. If they perceive a technology as irrelevant even if it isn't, they won't be inclined to investigate it further, which could ultimately hurt library services. Sybil also suggested that better communication is needed to clarify policies so staff feel comfortable taking some risks.

Finally, Sybil recommended treating staff like any other target market by doing some market research to identify how to best engage them. She states,

As for what helps motivate staff or what's holding them back from learning or moving forward, just ask them. I'm a big believer in internal surveys (whether formal or informal)...ask your staff: What barriers are in the way to [fill-in-the blank here]? And what suggestions do you have to get around these roadblocks? (Of course, the quality of answers will depend on the organization's culture, particularly in how open communications are, how well management listens and responds, etc.)

What a terrific point! Sometimes we forget that the simplest way to solve a problem is to first have a clear understanding of what it is.

My hearty thanks to Sybil for taking the time to share her years of experience in this area!

I'd like to build on some of the topics that came up in the last chat and develop them further in our next one. To that end, let's chat about transforming cultures of fear into cultures of creativity. How can libraries improve their ability to innovate and how can they also support their patrons' own creative pursuits? I'm to conduct the next chat a little bit differently. Instead of having a set time for the chat, I'm going to leave the chat open for an entire day. Just stop by the chat room, leave your comments and suggestions, and the next person can build on your ideas or just leave their own. I envision it as a sort of day-long brainstorming session. (You can also feel free to chat with anyone who happens to be in the room). By the end of the day, I hope to have a monster list of ideas. I'll review them and pull out the themes and most intriguing ideas, which I'll share in a blog post. Sound good? If you're game, here's how it'll work:

  • Go to the Library Marketing Exchange on Thursday, August 16th (anytime).

  • Introduce yourself and where you work (optional).
  • Leave your answer to the question, How can libraries improve their ability to innovate and how can they also support their patrons' own creative pursuits? I'm interested in your creativity tips and how you can inspire a creative culture in libraries.
    • Build on previous responses or leave ideas that are entirely your own. Chat with anyone who may be in the room.

  • That's it! I'll summarize the responses in a LM blog post.

I'm hoping this approach will allow more people to participate and be involved in the conversation. I'll be poking in throughout to day to deposit my 2 cents. Hope to find you there!

[By the way, please feel free to suggest a theme for an upcoming chat! I'd love to get your ideas.]

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Marketing 101 for geeks

InfoWorld reports on a keynote speech delivered by Steve Yegge, Senior Software Engineer for Google, at OSCON's open source convention. You can view the 20-minute-long-or-so presentation on Most of it is in geek-speak, but the branding lessons are good for anyone. The InfoWorld article describes the talk and some major branding principles, including this one:

But branding is much more than product name or PR. A brand stands for the experience customers have with a product.
It also lists two recommended readings, the first of which Yegge refers to in his talk:

1. The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding
2. Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind