Brand taxonomies: how librarians are helping digital marketers


Every organisation faces a challenge in categorising its content to make it readable and findable across different platforms, systems and devices. This challenge becomes more complex when content generated by individuals and business partners from outside the organisation is introduced into the mix.

In response to this challenge, marketers are turning to the tools and methods that have long been used by librarians, curators and publishers.

Taxonomies are used in library science to organise concepts and categorise them, and then help people find the information they need. They are increasingly being used in a similar way by marketers.

At its most basic level, a taxonomy is a system of descriptive phrases and keywords, organised into categories, sub-categories and topics. It provides a common language for sharing and relating concepts. This common language makes it easier to translate and reuse content across content management systems, asset management systems, relationship management systems, social networks, third party sites, apps, websites, and beyond.

In short, it helps brands cut through an increasingly fragmented media landscape by providing a common framework to reach customers, wherever they are.

A brand taxonomy does not belong to any one platform or project, it is a foundation that underpins all your digital initiatives and developments.

Adopting a taxonomy to tag up and describe your content assets (documents, images, video, web pages etc) will make them easier to find and reuse, saving time, money and effort by cutting duplication. It can also inform your information architecture and navigation systems.  You can extend your taxonomy to partner organisations or communities too, so that the content they create is easily findable and can be integrated into your platforms.

Your taxonomy can help make content more visible to customers and prospects by providing search engines with extra data that helps them to understand what it is about. This is particularly important for image- or video-based content, which search engines can’t read and understand without the benefit of metadata.

It can inform multilingual and multichannel strategies and approaches. You can use a taxonomy to classify and manage interactions with customers across the whole content ecosystem, and use this in turn to coordinate and refine your communications.

Creating and implementing a taxonomy is challenging, both technically and intellectually – in large part because people use different terms and descriptions to describe (and therefore to search for and tag) the same things.

When creating a taxonomy, you need to consider:

  • Who will be tagging the content?
  • How will they be trained?
  • What tools will they use?
  • What is the tagging workflow?
  • To what extent is tagging mandatory?
  • Can tagging be automated?
  • Should tags be pre-approved or freeform?
  • How and when should new tags be introduced?
  • Should tagging just be applied to new content or all legacy content?
  • What editorial controls (pre/post moderation) are required?
  • Who has ownership and authority?

While it may be a complex, the benefit is an effective and sustainable way for organisation to manage their digital assets which in turn will:

  • save time and money;
  • prevent duplication of effort;
  • speed up processes;
  • make content more findable;
  • improve the user experience;
  • create new opportunities and efficiencies; and
  • inform new approaches and initiatives.

Do you use a taxonomy in your organisation? Let us know about your experiences. If a taxonomy sound like something you need, but you’re not sure where to start, get in touch.

Image credit: sashafatcat via Flickr