February 17, 2018

Creating a Marketplace for Ideas

Today I had a great day. I spent it at Innovate Columbus, a gathering of around 500 people to talking about driving innovation in our community. And it wasn’t just research institutions. The library was there. The art and science museums were there. It was inspiring to see so many engaged in the conversation.

With speaker and breakouts, I learned a lot. And if you don’t think libraries need to innovate — and really quickly — this day would have changed your mind. There is no question that we are about to launch into a transformative world and marketing will surely be there because it is a transferable skill; libraries will be challenged to determine their identity.

I enjoyed Phil Duncan of Procter and Gamble. Some of his key points:

PG is now looking at their product usage from an end-to-end perspective, following customers through the life cycle of a product (think: disposing of diapers!). Libraries could benefit by thinking about the life cycle of our customers: how do we get them, transition with them in order to keep them?

It is no longer enough to be cleaner, whiter, brighter. Tide has to be more (in fact, they are opening chains of dry cleaners!) It has to be about more. There has to be a compelling emotional connection. Libraries have a great opportunity here because so many of us have a strong emotional tie to the idea and experience of the library. But this, too, can no longer be presumed or assumed. Think now about what is your value add that pulls on the emotion of your customers.

Think beyond the early ideas. I see this a lot. The easy answers to publicize or promote something are the traditional ones: print, web, even social media is traditional these days. Work harder and deeper to think about the end user and what (and where) are innovative ways to reach them to tell our story.

Another speaker was from Abbot Labs, makers (among many things) of infant formula. This speaker addressed the question: “what if we were as passionate about communicating as we are about technology.” Meaning how do we stop talking about the thing, and move to talking about the benefit and — yes, again — the emotion.

His example was an infant formula named “Lactose Free,” which, when the name was changed to “Sensitive,” saw sales skyrocket because 1) the name now reflects the benefit and not the ingredients; 2) early parents don’t want to buy something that labels their children with a problem: lactose intolerant (note, the formula isn’t for the intolerant, it is a transitional formula as infants desensitize to lactose.) Simple words make a tremendous difference.

If you can, I encourage you to get out and immerse yourself in these types of experiences. Change is coming so fast, we need to be skilled and agile in order to meet it.

Alison Circle About Alison Circle

Alison Circle is director of marketing communications for Columbus Metropolitan Library. Previously she was an Account Director at Jack Morton Worldwide, a global branding agency, and her primary client was Target Stores. Prior to that she was the National Marketing Director for Minnesota Public Radio and "A Prairie Home Companion with Garrison Keillor." She has advanced degrees in English and Fine Arts, and is a recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts grant.