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Is Your Library Brand Contagious?

by on October 24, 2013

Relevancy has become the Holy Grail for many libraries nationwide as we attempt to meet the ever-changing needs of our communities, but what if the whole quest could be summed up with one solution? According to JonahBerger’s new book “Contagious,” and his latest article with The Engagement Project, the solution is branding, but not the kind you’ve heard about before.

Berger says “Embed your products and ideas in stories that people want to tell[1].” If libraries are experts at anything it’s stories and people, and yet branding is an area where we routinely fall short. What story can your library tell that encompasses your services, and the role you play in the community?

Is your library the fun-loving child filled with wonder everyone wants to be around, or the annoying aunt still trying to get you to eat prunes? Find your personality, and you’ve found your brand. The type of contagious brand Berger suggests is the one that encompasses these six elements[2].

1.       Social Currency: People will always share anything that makes them feel “cool, smart, and savvy.” What services or products are doing that for your patrons?

2.       Triggers: Selective Stimuli that conjures up related words, or feelings. An example would be that you could use the word “book” which sometimes recalls feelings of required summer reading, or you can use the word “story” which automatically lands us into the coziest chair with grandma or under the tree in Wonderland. Choose your words wisely.

3.        Emotion: Engagement above all is key. You want people to care enough to share, and they will if it hits a chord. If the library tackles a big issue like cancer awareness, or the local failing school levy, engagement would be inevitable.

4.       Public: Your brand should be widely observed and recognized. The pink ribbon for breast cancer awareness tugs emotion, remembrance, hope, and a call to action from almost everyone.

5.       Practical Value:  Berger says, “People like to help others. If your content can save time, or money, or improve their health, they’ll spread the word.” Libraries have that kind of content on hand all the time in the form of books and services. How can you get them that content easier, quicker, before they knew they needed it?

6.       Stories: For libraries this is the big one. Stories can come from books and authors, an excellent customer service experience; sharing  your library’s involvement in community activities; your Friends group’s donation to the new children’s room; or your library patrons.

As many libraries move forward with new business models and strategic plans it’s easy to lose the vision in the details. Every single one of these six elements centers on how we want the person entering our libraries to feel, respond, engage, recognize, and share.  If you take a moment and use yourself as a microcosm of your library- you can ask yourself those same questions. When someone walks into your library how do you make them feel, respond, engage, recognize, and share? Find your best library personality and you have your brand, and hopefully one that will make people want to visit more.

[1] http://www.google.com/think/articles/complacent-to-contagious-with-jonah-berger.html

[2] http://www.google.com/think/articles/complacent-to-contagious-with-jonah-berger.html