A cardholder recently leveled an accusation against my marketing department for making her feel all the feels.
Here’s the brief story: our library is trying to raise money for a facilities plan. We have several Carnegie-era branches that are not yet accessible to those with disabilities. So we’ve started a content marketing campaign to educate our cardholders and the residents of our service area about the problem, as we will be asking them for money to fund the facilities plan. In our first video portion of the campaign, we interviewed a veteran who cannot get into the library branch in his neighborhood.
When we released the video, one of the viewers sent us a message. She said, “How dare you manipulate my emotions and try to make me feel sorry for this guy.” I think this person was trying to make us feel guilty for marketing to her.
Sorry, not sorry.
Emotional marketing is effective. We have seen it work time and again for our library and other libraries. You may remember the story of the Leeds Library campaign, which used story-driven emotional marketing to change that community’s perception of the modern library and its value. Leeds won an award for their campaign, and one judge commented, “We loved the application of real-life, personal journeys to draw on the emotions, capture the imagination and change the perceptions of the audience.”
Effective marketing appeals to emotions, not logic, reason, or even facts. This is particularly effective in the world now, where social media algorithms are cutting into our organic reach. If we want better unpaid reach, we need to constantly engage our audience. To constantly engage our audience, we need them to take an action on every post. To get them to take action, we need to motivate them through emotion.
Research from the Institute of Neuroscience and Psychology at the University of Glasgow, published in Current Biology, says humans really feel just four basic emotions: happy, sad, afraid/surprised, and angry/disgusted. The kind of messages that get us engagement are all based on these basic emotions. When you feel happy or angry, you want to share that emotion with others in your social network. When you feel sad, you empathize with the subject your sadness and feel a motivation to help ease their suffering. When you are afraid, you want to take action to ease your fear.
Your most loyal cardholders are likely already emotionally connected to your brand, particularly if you work in a school or public library. The people who already use your library on a regular basis know it’s value. I bet you have superfans, and you know who they are. So what do you do with all that emotion? How do you make it work in your library’s marketing?
Ask loyal customers to share their stories with you. Conduct interviews with those passionate customers by email or on video and use those answers in many ways. Video marketing is the best way to capture emotion. There is no substitute for talking to someone on camera, for hearing their voice and seeing their facial expressions as they talk about your library. You don’t need fancy equipment. Pull out your cell phone, have them stand facing a window or head outside for a few minutes to take advantage of the natural light, and then ask them some emotionally charged questions about their library experience.
What is your favorite library memory?
Tell me about how the library has changed your life.
How would you feel if the library suddenly closed tomorrow?
If a neighbor asked you to describe how you feel about the library, what would you say?
Ask your staff to share their stories with you. The next time you’re at an all-managers meeting, visiting another branch, or enjoying lunch with a fellow employee, ask them about life in their branch. Ask them to describe their customers. Inevitably, they’ll have one or two specific examples of people who have an unbridled enthusiasm for their location, or whom the branch staff has helped with a specific problem. Once again, pull out your phone, find some good lighting, and ask open-ended questions like:
How did that request by that cardholder make you feel?
Tell me how the situation was resolved.
Did you worry about how you would handle that request?
What is your relationship with the customer now?
And for good measure, I always ask, What compelled you to look for work in a library?
You can post these emotional marketing videos as a whole edited piece or in sections. You can turn the quotes into a printed piece for your newsletter or email list. You can create digital slides or posters in your branches using the quotes. My library used this tactic last year for a series of videos we called Customer Impact stories. We posted them on YouTube and on Facebook and is was one of our first pieces of video content marketing. The audience and our staff LOVED them. We broke them down and used them in our Library Links publication and in other ways, and they prompted more customers and staff to come forward with more amazing stories. It wasn’t hard and it didn’t take a long time to put together. It was effective. Score!
Adding emotional marketing to your regular promotional schedule keeps your cardholders engaged and feeling all the feels whenever they think of your library. It’s not something to apologize for. It’s something to be proud of.
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