Have you ever been to a “not-to-be-missed” event that inspired you so much you couldn’t wait to go back? There’s a certain palpable excitement surrounding the event. When you get there, the experience meets every expectation and includes a plethora of valuable extras. On the way home, you find yourself energized, motivated and excited to recommit to your job and your projects. On the other hand, you’ve probably attended events that lacked those attributes. Events where you checked your phone – or your watch – the whole time. You may have left early and sometimes with the feeling that you will never get that time back. There’s one key truth that separates these two types of events: a well-thought-out and carefully cultivated brand.
Why your event needs a brand
It may seem that brand development is for companies or products, but once you realize the fundamental truth about what a brand is, it will be clear why events need brands too. As I like to say, brand is much more than a tagline, logo, or jingle. It’s also more than your color scheme or the UVP’s you have identified in corporate meetings – a brand is an experience. Think of it as a promise you make to your stakeholders (sponsors and attendees) that you live up to every day in every way.
How is brand experience created? You may be thinking, “Okay, if people have a positive experience at my event, they will want to come back. I just need a good speaker, comfortable seats and fresh coffee.” Unfortunately, it’s a little more complicated than that.
Your brand needs a position. You need to create a definitive stake in the ground that separates you from other events and is something your stakeholders can get excited about.
The three core traits of brand applied to events
As a Certified Brand Strategist, I have found that all truly good brands have three core traits. Events are no different.
Defendable in the marketplace: it’s imperative that your brand position is distinctive and defendable in the marketplace. Your event concept and the claims you make about why your conference is worth attending must differentiate you from your competition. If your audience has a limited budget to attend events, why should yours be at the top of the list? Ask yourself these questions:
- Can any other event claim the same thing we claim?
- Why would someone choose our event over another?
Deliverable by all constituents: your brand experience needs to be deliverable in each and every way and consistent at every touch point. This includes everyone and everything from your staff to the speakers and their content to the venue and platform. Ask yourself these questions:
- Is every person involved clear about the purpose of the event and what we stand for and what we are promising to deliver?
- Is there any place the consistency of the experience breaks down and how can I fix any inconsistencies I uncover?
Desirable to audience: this one is may seem obvious. The position you are staking claim to in the marketplace, the culture of your event, the messaging you create around it, none of it matters if the audience isn’t engaged and motivated to participate in what you’re doing. Ask yourself these questions:
- Do I know exactly who my audience is? Have I created a persona or personas that help everyone involved understand what makes them tick?
- Have I mapped out the customer journey? Do I know how my audience goes about making a decision to attend an event, our event?
Four very successfully branded events
To put this in real life, here are three popular and exceptional events. Guess what? They all have a great brand.
TEDx Talks: TEDx Talks have built their brand around the unique balance of a predictable format (specifically the length of presentations) and the presentation of fresh ideas. Always the same format, always a new thought. It’s worked to perfection. TEDx events are happening all over the world. Because it’s a strong brand (defendable, deliverable, desirable) they are able to create a consistent experience at regional TEDx talks.
SXSW: this amazing event started with 700 registrants in 1987. It was simply a way for local creatives to get more exposure. Technology has dramatically changed the world as we know it and SXSW has adapted, but remains the place to be for creative people. As Ronald Swenson, SXSW Managing Director says, “The event has changed in many surprising and meaningful ways since 1987, but at its core, SXSW remains a tool for creative people to develop their careers by bringing together people from around the globe to meet, learn and share ideas.”
INBOUND: earlier this month, our entire agency attended INBOUND2017 which was held in Boston. Hosted by Hubspot, INBOUND has grown to host nearly 20,000 attendees. With its dance-party vibe, this event attracts digital marketers from all over the world. Every part of the event from keynote speakers to breakout sessions to sponsors, entertainment and Seaport parties lives up to the "place to be" for the future digital marketing. Read about what the agency took away from this year's INBOUND conference here.
Financial Brand Forum: recently, I attended the Financial Brand Forum in Las Vegas. This event stakes a claim as “the banking industry’s premier annual event.” It’s big claim, but they deliver on the promise as you can read about in my Ten Takeaways piece.
As you brand your event, keep the three core traits in front of you: defendable, deliverable and desirable.
We facilitate workshops all the time to help clients find their claim of distinction and position their brands to stand out in the marketplace. From non-profits and corporations, to products and services, to events and promotions – you will find the biggest success when you build it on top of the strong foundation we call brand.
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