Wednesday, October 26, 2005

More on Books as the Brand

Thomas left a comment on the previous post about the results of our survey showing that "books" is what 69% of 3,348 respondents think of when they think of libraries. ("Information" was a distant second at 12%.) I am pulling part of his comment up so I can remark on it.

"If books are the brand of libraries. Maybe we should look at what other things are branded with books. Try Knowledge, Wisdom, Reliability, Information etc. Maybe not so bad brand after all?"

Well, unfortunately, those other good qualities Thomas lists were not mentioned often as being the "top-of-mind" association. If they were indeed co-branded with books, then these works would have been mentioned frequently in the same comments with books as in "A place where you find lots of books and information." They were not.

We did actually probe for those other attributes Thomas mentions, in other questions, and we also took a very close look at the verbatim comments contributed as answers to this question because we wanted to know if books=information, knowledge, learning and so on. Our analyses When respondents said books we are pretty confident they meant the physical thing, not what "book" embodies. The word "smell" showed up a lot, for example, as in "smelly old books. "

You'll be able to have a look at this yourself when we publish the report. We will also be publishing a companion/followup piece called The Library Brand where this is explored more.

When we asked what respondents thought the purpose of the library is, most people said "information" and in response to another question most respondents agreed the library is a place to learn.

It's important to note that the question we asked about the first association people make with "library" was an open-ended one. This means people could say anything they liked. This is different from a question that guides responses by providing a list of choices. The question we asked about the role of the library in the community was a guided response one. Respondents picked from a list of 14 attributes and 85% said the library is a place to learn. This suggests, that when prompted, people do see a role for the library that is beyond the top-of-mind association of books.

If this is confusing to you, try the top-of-mind association game yourself. What is the first thing you think of for "hospital?" What is the first thing you think of for "Mercedes-Benz?" Whatever that word was is the "brand" (for you) of those two things. Now answer the question "what is the role of a hospital/Mercedes-Benz?" Whatever you answered is the "brand promise." They are very different. And neither actually have to be anywhere close to the experience you actually have had of hospitals and Mercedes-Benz.

Here's some of the verbatim comments with the country of the respondent in brackets: A facility that is mostly concerned with books. (Canada); a building with books (Wales); A great collection of books (India); A place to borrow books (US); books and a woman in glasses (Australia); borrowing books (Singapore). And here's one of the very few that included several attributes: A place where expertise, information, knowledge and entertainment are available to the masses.

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