Allen Adamson talks about keeping your brand promise in his book, Brand Simple (Palgrave Macmillan, 2006). Figure out who you are and what you stand for, and make sure you deliver consistently on that promise.

I’ve been attending a conference for our automation vendor this week. Now, we’ve been with this automation vendor for about eight years, and it would not come as a surprise to them that I’m not counted among their happy customers. There are a lot of reasons for that and I don’t want to trivialize why I’d come to that conclusion.

But as I sat listening to the keynote, I realized that something that irks me about them is that they consistently fail to keep their brand promise. We’re told, year after year at these events, some variation of how the company “wants to be a strong and stable company that you can count on,” “remains committed to continued progress in client care and services,” and that it “values relationships with the libraries we serve.”

Yet our experience (and that of many other libraries, to judge by postings on various product lists) is that customers are nervous as anything at the upheaval the company has experienced as it has bought and sold, and been bought by, different entities over the last half dozen years; that customer service and documentation are terrible (posts to the sysadmin list often beg other customers for answers to logs that have languished for weeks or months with no action); and that there’s more commitment to developing products and services that the company wants to sell, rather than what customers want to buy.

My library hasn’t gone anywhere else because we can’t (similar to the situation for a lot of patrons, eh?). Yet I avoid interaction with this company, and I won’t even look at their sales literature (I’m at the conference because I can’t in good conscience stay totally ignorant of their plans), because I have these promises floating in my head from years of hearing them as their customer, and I no longer believe them.

This really brought home the importance of communicating and keeping a brand promise. What’s yours?


I’ve been reading a little of everything that can be considered “marketing,” including a few books and articles that discuss branding . In New Jersey The New Jersey Library Association commissioned a survey called Libraries Matter which indicates that in New Jersey, at least, people really love their libraries. We have “a good brand.”

I’ve been wondering, though, if one of the problems that we have with branding and trying to market libraries is that while we all have libraries, everyone has different libraries. I cringe every time I’m watching public television and they say at the end of the program, “You can get these resources at your public library!” because who knows whether those books are actually at the public library or not? Libraries aren’t a franchise. The idea of “library” that I carry in my head from my childhood isn’t the idea of “library” that I have from working where I do, and those two are different from the idea of “library” that I’d have if my library experience was colored by the community where I live.

My point is that people may have had experience with a type of library that didn’t work for them, so they’ll naturally assume that no libraries will work for them. You either like Starbucks or you don’t. You either use libraries or you don’t.

How do we overcome this?