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Ownership, experience and pleasure – the secret of good book marketing

November 4, 2010

Publishers the world over are trying to be new because they don’t want to be old. Technology is frightening, challenging and – in many cases – a very expensive risk. Indeed, you still hear some publishers and industry analysts saying that paper will never entirely disappear. But publishing has a key role in the guardianship of culture and, however it survives, it must continue to satisfy the minds of the curious.

All the more reason then that in whatever channel they choose to use, publishers must never lose sight of the relationship between themselves (their brand) and their readers. New customers are only attracted because they see a trusted partner. Existing customers come back because they have found a trusted partner. Customers lapse or cancel because the publisher lost sight of who they were serving.

In a recent blog, Michael Hyatt suggested that great product is the new marketing. This is not actually a new claim, merely the assertion of every truly successful brand: loyalty and revenue is generated by emotional ties. Businesses need to attract new customers in the pink-blushed flesh of flowering youth and nurse that union through time to create deeper bonds of respect and warmth.

Successful brands which achieve this include Penguin, Dorling Kindersley, Faber, Sawdays and Warne. Customers engage with their design, their ethos, their flair. Books become more than books. They become aspirational items, lifestyle products and even statements of self. Publishers who operate in this environment are well placed to manage in the online space as well as the print space – provided they leverage and maximise their brand.

Yet it’s all too easy to ignore brand – and to do so causes a significant emotional disconnect. Meddling with layout, look and feel is a dangerous path to tread. Indeed, many companies within and without the publishing industry have already learned that consumer connection with brands is of profound importance. Take GAP for example, where a recent logo change backfired. Luckily for them, they were able to leverage the power of social media both to launch and to correct their position before serious harm was done.

As Rob Frankel, the branding guru, says:  “branding is not about getting your prospects to choose you over your competition; it’s about getting your prospects to see you as the only solution to their problem“. Of course, there’s more to it than solutions to problems – it’s about emotional solutions to problems. Solutions from people you have every reason to believe offers the right way for you.

For publishing companies, where money is tight and reputations are hard-earned, brand is now recognised as probably the most crucial element of the marketing mix. Publishers mess with their brands at their peril.

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