Think About Event Brand Design Now (Or You’ll Regret It Later)
You’ve got to start thinking about branding. We hate to break it to you – but it’s better than a slow and steady drop off in attendance at your events and meetings. Event brand design is an essential piece of your puzzle, and the logo-stamped stress balls aren’t cutting it anymore.
Now here’s the good news – event brand design is going to stem from things you’ve already been doing from the start. It doesn’t involve thinking up a catchy tagline or hiring an expensive graphic designer – it’s all about making sure your event is meeting your organization’s objectives – and your attendees needs – at every step in the process.
What exactly do you mean by “brand”?
First of all, take your connotations with “brand” – whatever they may be – and toss them out the window. Let’s take a minute to rethink what it means to develop a branded event.
Howard Rubin is a Managing Partner of Match Marketing Group in Boulder, CO. His agency specializes in experiential marketing, or in creating moments of Brand Play for clients such as Progressive and Adidas. On the topic of branding Howard said, “Strong brands have stories. They have conversations with consumers well beyond (pre and post) consumption of the product or service.”
Strong brands have stories.
Howard brings up an interesting point. We plan events to get face to face with our clients, whoever they may be. Whether we’re trying to engage them to learn something or buy our product or both, the personal connection we make at that event is what matters. The brand, however, is what lives beyond the event itself. It exists before, and it will persist after the fact – much like your mobile app.
Read more about engaging your attendees after an event.
Howard also says that brand gets to the core of your message. “Strong brands have values and have taken the time to define and communicate what they believe in, stand for and aspire to be.” This is your chance to get back to the heart of your organization and why you chose to host an event in the first place.
Strong brands have values.
Melissa Vigue, Director at Peppercomm in New York, says, “Having a strong brand goes well beyond awareness and is more about creating an emotional connection that drives loyalty.” Customer loyalty will keep you afloat for as long as people feel connected to your organization – and brand gives people reasons to be loyal. Especially if your brand is in line with values your customers share with your organization.
A strong brand drives loyalty.
Brands like Harley Davidson, Ford, and Red Bull all evoke strong feelings in the mind of a consumer, but event brands can take on a life of their own as well. All of us could easily identify the defining characteristics of events like SXSW, TED and CES.
Why do I need event brand design?
Howard says it best. “The brand can be the primary driver for why consumers are interested in participating in your event.” Imagine, if you will, a world where your brand has become so compelling that people sign up for your events with little to no information about it – they just already know they want to go because they trust your brand.
Howard continues, “The brand needs to be strong enough that consumers believe that the brand has something interesting to offer them, and its worth their time. Without a strong brand tied to your event, the event offering needs to do more of the heavy lifting to encourage participation and that can lead to more costly event promotion tactics.”
Where do I start with even brand design?
The best way to start thinking about your event’s brand design is by figuring out exactly what it is your attendees want. What is it that’s most important to them and how do they want to receive those things? And how do your values line up with those needs?
Howard frames it as, “Brands that are looking to produce strong events or event properties must first ask themselves, ‘How can we be of value?’”
How can we be of value?
You may notice that this is seriously getting to the core of why you’re even holding an event to begin with. It’s a thought exercise that every new event should undertake, but is just as important for well-established events. It isn’t uncommon for an event that has existed for some time to drift away from what is truly bringing value to your attendees. Every event can benefit from taking a step back and thinking, “Just what are people going to get out of this?”
Read more about creating effective event content.
Once you know what you have to offer, what next? Howard suggests, “Creating strong brand events begins with an in-depth understanding of the brand’s community and the ability to identify the gaps or opportunity to provide relevant engagements with them.”
So once you understand your audience and the value you are providing, it’s going to be easier to identify the opportunities you have to give them what they want. At this point you’ll be able to make an educated decision on how you want to engage them – which brings us to the physical interactions themselves.
How do I create brand experiences?
The time has come to decide how your event brand design is going to manifest itself at the actual event. Sure, you could print out giant logos and force everyone to Instagram a picture of themselves with your mascot – but what exactly is the message there? And how is that bolstering your value delivery?
Each one of the opportunities you identified while brainstorming your event brand design is a chance to meet your attendees at the point where they’re most receptive. You’ve already determined it’s something they want. The delivery, however, may require a bit of finesse.
Melissa thinks about it in terms of attendee experience. “Brand experiences live and die by their ability to allow the end user to really experience that brand – from the look and feel to the messaging activation itself, there needs to be consistency with what consumers expect based on their prior experience. We start with content – what does the brand want to say and what does its audience want to hear? Based on that, we craft the experience, taking into account all communications platforms.”
A great experience is all-encompassing and, most importantly, it’s consistent. Visual design can help you along here, but your overall voice will only be cohesive if your values are clear. Experiential moments are the ones that will stick.
Reinforcing the brand through experience
Jeff Hurt at Velvet Chainsaw Consulting likes to ask his clients what sort of metaphor their event evokes. Is it like a festival? Is it like a state fair? Is it like a rock concert? Figuring this out will lead you towards more subtle, impactful brand experiences beyond logos and taglines.
Howard says, “An interesting approach is to have the brand felt throughout the event vs. just seen. Ask yourself how to extend the brand values in more unexpected ways – like in the materials you choose to produce the event, creative food, music selection and the staff you choose.”
See this strategy in action with Match Marketing Group’s Adidas event featuring Snoop Dogg.
If your brand doesn’t quite have the equity yet to live up to the metaphor you’re hoping to create – there’s always the option of partnering with a sponsor. “Align yourself with other brands that have the same values and borrow some of their equity,” says Howard.
Read more about attracting valuable, brand-appropriate sponsors.
The endurability factor
Ultimately what we’re talking about here is sustainability – how your organization is meeting its objectives year after year. The endurability of your brand has everything to do with whether or not attendees will continue to seek you out for your services or products.
Why do you return time and again to certain brands? I’d be willing to bet it has something to do with how you feel when you interact with it – excited, reassured, informed. If you successfully brand your event now, you’ll be reaping the rewards for years to come.
Next week will be devoted entirely to making unforgettable experiences for your attendees! Subscribe now so you can get experiential marketing tips straight to your inbox!