New Marketing Trends

Marketing Ideas for Non-Profits and Libraries

The M Word helps librarians learn about marketing trends and ideas.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Making the Connection: Marketing and Programming

I saw this article from the NY Times posted on The Kept-Up Academic Librarian about a contest Oberlin College conducted as a part of a seven-week entrepreneurship project.

“We wanted a ‘Project Runway’ kind of event, but of course Finney Chapel doesn’t have a runway, so it was more a fashion show,” said Andrea Kalyn, the associate dean for academic affairs and director of the project. “We wanted to see which designs resonated most.”

The winning designs, which will be sold at the campus bookstore just in time for commencement over Memorial Day weekend, are very Oberlin. One shows a red-eyed albino squirrel, a common sight on campus. One features a “womb chair,” a cushy, orange, orb-like chair that decades of Oberlin library users have crawled into to read or nap.

“I am completely excited to see my work bought and worn,” said Karl Orozco, the freshman who designed the womb chair.

Mr. Orozco also designed another favorite: a view of the world as seen from the Oberlin campus in Ohio, along the lines of the famous New Yorker cover, with Cleveland, the Appalachians, New York and the Atlantic Ocean receding in the distance. Production of that shirt has been deferred until the fall, to give the students time to deal with any copyright issues arising from the takeoff.

Designing and choosing the images was only part of the process.

“We didn’t want it to end up being just a T-shirt competition; we wanted to wring as much entrepreneurial value out of it as we could,” said Lauren Abendschein, Oberlin’s assistant director for entrepreneurships. “Beyond the design, the students had to figure out how to make a display, how to do the merchandising, how do we make it a brand?” full story

A couple of things I love about this:

1. They didn't just run a design contest, they asked students to to design a product and to create a brand that would sell. “Beyond the design, the students had to figure out how to make a display, how to do the merchandising, how do we make it a brand?" Great idea! I love the idea of adding the branding aspect to a contest!

2. Oberlin used the contest to brand their own school. The link from the NY Times article takes you to their web page. The page really sells the program, it gets you jazzed about the contest and the program. This project was never a just about the contest but was part of a larger whole. It tells readers how to go to Oberlin. It provides interesting videos and information about funding opportunities, other exciting project by students, a list of all the incredible speakers they had for the past two years, lists of classes, scholarship information and details the design challenge. When the NY Times ran an article on the contest, they included a link to this page and the school took advantage of free adverting and turned it into great marketing! (Oberlin even makes sure they welcome NY Times readers!) The contest draws the media, the media pulls in interested people, the page sells the curriculum, ....

3. The content on the web is interesting. The fun videos, the snappy copy reflect the message the college is saying about itself and its students.

I think a few things to remember for your library is that your brand needs to extend to everything in your library including web copy and videos. Programming is an extension of your library, not a stand alone project. The best programming is developed with your marketing team in the room. Its always connected the greater whole and will lead people to use other services and products your library provides its members.

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