Monday, January 17, 2005

Creating an Advocacy Epidemic

Alane and I attended the ALA President's Program, "Creating an Advocacy Epidemic." The program was geared for public libraries, although there were some academic folks in the back, I saw.

Malcolm Gladwell was fantastic. Totally want to run out and find his latest books The Tipping Point and Blink.
He tee'd us up for thinking about library advocacy in an epidemic way.

Background on epidemics
Epidemics differ from marketing campaigns or advertising because the word has it's roots in medical terminology. It differs from marketing in that it is non-linear and typically gets spread by word-of-mouth, at a grassroots level. [Alice aside: sounds suspiciously like viral marketing to me, but there we are.]

Malcom gave a great example of a recent (American) epidemic: the Atkins diet. Why did it catch on like wildfire? Because Atkins reframed our concept of diet and made it simpler. Instead of doing complicated math for calorie counts and portion control, simply eliminate carbs. And everyone loved it because it was a new way to diet that was easy to follow.

Reframing
Malcolm talked about reframing the concept of libraries, in order to shift the general public's perception of what we are all about. In old-fashioned marketing terms, this sounds like nothing more than re-positioning your brand. Or put another way, repurposing your product. One of my favorite examples of this phenomenon is baking soda.

Baking soda sales were flat. Arm and Hammer had developed all the recipes it could that used baking soda instead of powder, and no amount of marketing the leavening power of baking soda was going to save the company. So someone figured out that baking soda can also eliminate unpleasant odors. Voila, a whole other aspect of the product that no one even knew it could do. They reframed baking soda to highlight its odor-removal use. And they did it so effectively that now all of us buy 2 boxes of baking soda--one for the frig and one to use in cooking. And the product itself did not change one bit. It kept on being baking soda. But the world around it changed.

[NB Malcom Gladwell didn't talk about baking soda. It's the value-added perspective you get from having your ALA MW covered by Weegee.]

Baking soda for libraries
So your sermon today is: can libraries be like baking soda? Can we reframe our position in people's minds? I think we can--and we've started to do it with the "Your public library is a small-business incubator" theme. We reframed the public library from a place you drop your kids for storytime, to a high-tech hub with resources, answers and a space for entrepreneurship to happen. At least, that's the idea.

As my former boss Gregor used to say, "If we can't be aspirational about this issue, who will be? Shoot the moon!" And I couldn't agree more. Let's use our social power to make this happpen. Ideas? Comments?

7 comments:

Tit Luca said...

Well so what?

Tit Luca said...

STOP blaming other people!

mommammoth said...

that great article. thank!

atkins diet

Can said...

Thanks
Best regards
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ruhan said...

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