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A brand is defined by the American Marketing Association (AMA)as a "name, term, sign, symbol or design, or a combination of them intended to identify the goods and services of one seller or group of sellers and to differentiate them from those of other sellers." Branding is used to communicate the unique market 'position' of one product from another in the eyes of the target customer group, with the intention of increasing 'market share'. It does this by firstly establishing what service values or features sets the product apart from the competition, and then communicating this difference, through promotional material, logos, staff values and so on. Using the example of a library, it may look to communicate the message of quality information identified by helpful, skilled staff - possibly in a dedicated 'place of learning' - against a backdrop of end user searches which could be frustrating in the face of 'information overload'.

Changes in the technological environment, with the advent of web 2.0, provides both an opportunity and threat to the library sector. Being part of the change, advocating and adopting new ways of working, can strengthen the library brand to one which is cutting edge - at the forefront of the new. Conversely, resistance to changes could result in the library brand being identified with an outdated product - resulting in reduced usage.

It is important to recognize that a library's parent organization (city government, college or university, etc.) also has a brand identity that is used to manage external perceptions and competitive position of the institution as a whole. Senior marketing managers and consultants may view the library as a key campus asset that contributes to the campus identity and brand position, rather than a separate entity with its own brand.

Libraries, like individuals and organizations, must protect and promote their brand. It is important to keep track of what is being said about your library online. Tools like Google Alertsand Yelp may pick up feedback from users.

Blog Posts about Branding in Libraries

Blogs Focused on Marketing and Branding for Libraries and Nonprofits

Technologies to Monitor Your Online Reputation

When Your Brand is in Danger: Crisis Communications Planning

Other Resources