Branding is a marketing strategy that defines your library’s message through a logo with specific colors and fonts and sometimes a tagline. And yes, branding IS important in libraries. It sets you apart from the competition and sets the tone for how you want your library to be viewed. At the Hinsdale Public Library, we evaluated our existing brand and decided to develop a new brand message, logo and tagline.
Rebranding can seem like an overwhelming project. Where do you even start? Knowing your resources, timeframe and budget will help determine what you can take on. I also recommend conducting a brand audit which will help define how your current brand operates. It could show that your brand only needs a few minor changes or that substantial work is needed.
Gather several marketing and promotional pieces from around the library, and ask yourself the following questions from Elisabeth Doucett’s Creating Your Library Brand: Communicating Your Relevance and Value to Your Patrons.
- Does your brand have a clear, consistent, unique message that is meaningful to your audience?
- Does your brand have attention-grabbing visual imagery that supports your brand message?
- Is the brand used consistently?
- Is the brand message honest?
In June 2011, we had a volunteer take a picture of every flier, poster, sign, etc. that we had in the Library. We put several of the marketing pieces side-by-side. Did they look like they all came from the same organization? Was there a consistent look? Did each sign have our logo? With a resounding no to those questions, we knew we had some things to fix. After further evaluation, we decided to develop new communication, design and messaging strategies. For FY2012-13, we budgeted for a graphic designer to create a new logo, newsletter template, flier template, newspaper ad template, Friends and Foundation logos, and letterhead, stationary and business cards.
Our new logo reflects HPL’s vision with bright colors, a bold H, and two open doors. We added a tagline, opening doors, to invite patrons to come in and experience everything the Library has to offer. From the time we hired a graphic designer to completing the logo update throughout the Library, it took nearly one year. It was a long and expensive (but worthwhile!) process.
The job doesn’t end there though! Work needs to go into maintaining and evaluating the brand or you could end up back at square one. Measuring the progress of your brand can be difficult. An increase in circulation doesn’t necessarily mean the brand is working. It can’t really be quantified because a brand is more about meeting an emotional need. Survey regular library users, have conversations at programs and ask the questions you want answers to. Evaluating the brand on a regular basis will ensure that it stays relevant.
Molly Coleman is the Marketing & Outreach Manager at Hinsdale Public Library and serves on the ILA Marketing Committee.