Branding is a big issue. Marketing serves many functions, not least to boost reputation; with that in mind, it shouldn't stop once your users are through the door.
There are many elements to a library brand, and several are covered in the following pages (another key aspect, the library building itself, gets its own thorough investigation in Chapter 4), starting with creating or updating the library's visual identity. This includes a case study from Jessica Wykes of City University, who takes us through design on a shoestring. A library brand can be boosted by some well considered merchandise, and the successful ‘Sshhh…!’ bags merchandizing campaign at the University of Leeds, run by Katy Sidwell, is the subject of the second case study. Finally there is the tricky issue of branding the library in conjunction with another, related, organization: Stephen Pinfield talks us through marketing a converged library and IT service at Nottingham University in the third case study.
Before we go any further, we should define the key terms for this chapter. Firstly, there is an important distinction to establish, between the terms ‘branding’ and ‘brand’.
Brandingis the process of creating a recognizable product or service – building an identity which people understand – and marketing it as distinct from potential competitors. In the case of libraries the competition is not necessarily within the industry; while you may want to compete with other libraries in the area, there is a much bigger battle going on which pitches libraries against bookshops, against the internet and against all manner of other institutions in which people may wish to invest their time rather than investing it in libraries.
The brand, on the other hand, is the sum total of everyone's perceptions about what you do. It is the way people feel about your library, the way people describe your library to others. Clearly, branding as a marketing practice is an attempt to influence this as favourably as possible. But the brand is in the eye of the beholder – in the eyes of the users and the nonusers of your library – so you can never fully control it. It encompasses your visual identity, your building, your books, your eresources, your triumphs, your mistakes, your history, your position in the community, your staff, your reputation.