It's All in the Branding

I have been thinking a lot lately about how we market our services to our patrons—students, staff, and parents. In particular, I think we are doing ourselves a disservice with a lack of attention to branding “the library”, or if we are branding, it’s not in the correct forward-looking direction. Strong brands create advocates and loyal consumers.

According to Seth Godin:
A brand is the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another. If the consumer (whether it’s a business, a buyer, a voter or a donor) doesn’t pay a premium, make a selection or spread the word, then no brand value exists for that consumer.

According to the legendary Ad Man, David Ogilvy, brand is:
The intangible sum of a product's attributes: its name, packaging, and price, its history, its reputation, and the way it's advertised.
Recently while observing a middle school class conducting research, I was struck by the number of times I heard the word “forced”.

“We have to force students to use our databases.”
“Teachers force students to use a both print and online sources.”
“If we don’t force them to cite sources it just doesn’t happen.”

Do we really have to force students to locate credible and authoritative sources and give credit where credit is due? Maybe we just need to re brand the directions, resources, processes, lesson names, output, etc., so students develop a different set of expectations/attitudes regarding these services and products?

How can we take what we do, what we offer, our expertise, and re package it in a way to create a brand that resonates with our consumers, students and staff?

If students had thought bubbles over their heads, this is what I imagine I would see when I said the following words:

“Databases” — Huh? What? That sounds hard and complex. Can’t I just Google it?
“Cite sources” — No one reads these. Seriously, who cares?
“Copyright” — That doesn’t apply to me.
“Research Paper” — Boring! All I need to do is Google it to find a bunch of facts (from About.com), write them down, and change a few words here and there so it sounds like me.

Why don’t we re brand...

“Databases” —> Safe Searching Resources (thank you Buffy Hamilton)
“Citing Sources” —> Source Sampling (this one is mine)
“Social Media” —> Platform for participation (thank you Dr. Michael Wesch)
“Social Studies Project on 3rd World Countries” —>“How our students are fighting poverty in the 3rd world.” (thank you Bill Ferrier! Even individual lessons can be branded!)
Maybe we need a new lexicon to entice our consumers and create positive attitudes and build positive associations with our products and services.
What other ideas do you have for re branding what you offer as an educator and subject matter expert? Comment here or add your ideas to this shared document.

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