My local library has a glass display case at the entrance for themed exhibits of books. This month they are having an exhibit of banned books. Whoever does the display has a great sense of design; they have placed a simple white banner over the bottom half of each book on display. The banner obscures the bottom half of the cover and says, “BANNED” in large text. The exhibit panel above the display reads, “Celebrate Literacy Freedom.” Here is a list of historically banned books. I’m amazed at how many literary classics are on this list.
A great example of reverse psychology in marketing: I want to read these books just BECAUSE they are banned. Of course, one of my first thoughts was, “I wonder if the library banned these books?” My second thought was, “How many books are there that are currently banned?”
Seth Godin uses a similar tactic in his book, “Small is the New Big,” when he puts a warning in his preface. This leads me naturally to a thought, “why not make a bookcover that has BANNED stamped over the title?”
Of course, reverse psychology backfires when used as a gimmick. People are extremely sensitive to advertising or attention-getting gimmicks. One that comes to mind is my favorite pet-peeve — excessive yellow highlighted text in an endlessly-scrolling web page.
So, the only way to make a bookcover work that says BANNED is to have controversial content in the book. Otherwise, it’s a cheap gimmick — you get the attention of the user, but he blows your book off as soon as he cracks the cover.
A little research on the web shows me that the ALA sponsored the event, and has merchandise you can buy to support Banned Books Week. Here they are.
I just wish that they employed a great designer for these pieces — they really lose the impact of that simple solution of my local library, a white banner with the huge word, BANNED, obscuring the bottom half of the book.
Copyright 2010 Aliyah Marr