Experiential Marketing Ideas for Libraries (Guest Post by Andrew Loos from Attack! Marketing)

We saw quite a bit of buzz (positive and negative) about Seth Godin’s blog post The Future of Libraries, some saying he gets it and others saying he misses the point, again (we’re big Bobbi Newman fans here). An interesting post about the post by PC Sweeney mentions library branding and marketing, so we quickly reached out to experiential marketing guru, Andrew Loos from Attack! Marketing (Experiential Marketing Agency), asked him to do a quick brainstorm and guest post some ideas for us.

Experiential Marketing Ideas for Libraries
Ingesting information online is, for the most part, a visual experience.  Books deliver information to us visually, but in a more tangible way.  In a similar vein, its the palpable nature of a library that gives it a distinct advantage over info-fishing, researching or reading online.  If more librarians looked at this distinction as a marketing advantage, than a cross they’ve been chosen bear, they may see a resurgence in traffic.  Well… maybe.

This is not a “Let’s make Libraries cool to everyone!” post.   This is a collection of experiential ideas libraries could use (or may have used) to make them current, fun and generally approachable to more people.  Brands can always use more customers and libraries can always use more patrons. I suppose that makes this a “Let’s make libraries relevant to anyone who may consider them irreverent and dated!” post.  For best results, please print this and tape it to the first page of your favorite book before reading.

1) “Love Thy Theater” (Co-Brand)
Since people are never going to just stop going to movies, the best thing libraries could do is collaborate with them.  A perfect opportunity to really illustrate that almost all movies start out as (drumroll please)… BOOKS! Whether this is in a literal sense where a film has been adapted from a novel or in cerebral sense where characters, scenarios, plot-points or just general ideas have been “borrowed” from a book, this is an opportunity to show kids that the majority of the movies they watch are actually derived from the “dead” papers (standby for a “NO WAAAY!” moment here).

Here’s how you make the experience meaningful – work with local movie theatres to give away movie passes to kids who read the book from which the movie was adapted (or within the same theme.  The idea here is to get kids reading books of the movies they already love.  By tightening the parallel between the two you not only get people reading more, you enhance the experience they have with the book AND the film.

2) Scavenger Hunt (Community Branding)
Millions of characters, locations and plots, mountains of cataloged information and all of it spread out in a single venue.  Let’s face it, libraries are the most natural place on the planet to have a scavenger hunt.  Bring in kids of all ages in the community, have them form teams and set them loose on a half day adventure around the library looking for clues, physical clues, of any subject matter in the world.  Not only is this a fun, interactive educational experience for anyone who participates, it gets them familiar with the lay of the land within the library.  Purposely take them on a hunt that leads them through every stack, by every reference desk and in front of every computer lab in the space.  They’ll know where everything is at and feel much more comfortable navigating their way through the next time they’re back.  And, yes, they will be back.

3) “Its all good” – (PR Concept)
An ongoing promotion where the library is willing to forgive-and-forget by paying all Late Fees to get people back in the doors.  It would be interesting to throw in a “fun-barter” element here, as well.  Overdue fees are paid if you come in and read to kids for an hour (promotes community involvement), take a tour of the new facility (Shows off new features and gives patrons a reason to come back and use them) – think of this as a reunion of sorts with people you have not seen in a very long time.  A light-hearted act, but one of kindness nonetheless – whether you feel your library needs to loosen up or not, this is a step in that direction. Sidenote: I don’t know how much money libraries make from late fees (I remember reading awhile back that it was 15% of Blockbuster’s revenues), so that amount of money might have to be weighed against the buzz generated for the concept.

4) Quiz Show
Add a gaming element by doing a weekly quiz show.  All questions are centered around one weekly showcased book.  Quiz questions, small but fun prizes (could be donated by local businesses)  – brings community together.

5) “Book Club Host Certification”
I realize many are doing this already, but it’s worth mentioning: Libraries should want to host as many book clubs, as possible.  It brings in new patrons, strengthens the relationship it has with existing customers and creates an aura of openness with the community it resides.  It is also to the library’s advantage to make book clubs as fun as experience as possible for those attending.  Through Attack!’s work on the Underground Book Club in recent months, I have had the opportunity to attend several book clubs.  I can tell you that these are not the same book clubs my Mom used to drag me to as a kid.  I witnessed attendees reading passages in character, many of them in costume as characters in the book.  I saw supporting games and contests.  I saw an INTERACTIVE EXPERIENCE.  And I saw one important thing holding all of them together: a moderator.  A moderator who knew their members, encouraged involvement and lead the discussion and activities beginning-to-end.  If libraries want book clubs to stick, they need to “train” people on how to manage and maintain them in a way that keeps them interesting.  If the librarians could offer free “Book Club Training Classes”, complete with a “Starter Kit” and a time/place within the library to hold it, you’ve won.  You’ve empowered people to get creative, provided a venue and offered ongoing support to help it thrive.  You’ve built it, they will come.


About the Author:
Andrew Loos co-founded Attack! 2001 as a way to apply his passion toward the experiential marketing movement that was sweeping the marketing industry. In his current role as CXO, Andrew has built Attack! into one of the largest guerrilla marketing, field support and event staffing companies in the country. As a progressive force in the industry, he’s authored several articles in trade publications such as Promo Magazine and Chief Marketer, EXPERIENTIAL TO COLLEGE CLASSROOMS and was recently a guest speaker at Google for ForumCon 2011. He lives with his wife, son and two dogs in the Mt. Washington neighborhood of Los Angeles, all of whom agree that Andrew is equal parts awesome and amusing. Connect with Andrew on LinkedIn.

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CEO and Co-Founder of Mosio, a mobile agency and the creators of Text a Librarian.

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1 Comment

  1. Yes! Go Andrew!
    We are on the same track. Our Friends of Carroll Gardens Library will be talking about ideas like yours at our next meeting. It’s good to hear about action rather than bureaucracy. We’re working with a new model- light on theory and heavy on application..
    Keep those ideas happening.


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