Brands are the mark that organizations leave on their audiences, and when it comes to producing a compelling and impactful event, effective brand management is key.
Successfully keeping brand identity as the nucleus from which things like keynote speakers, color schemes, and even food and beverages flow, is about more than monogramming napkins, or strategically placing the company’s logo on PowerPoint slides.
These basics are a starting point for a deeper dive that includes paying close attention to subtle messaging, taking every step with an event’s end goal in mind, and prioritizing authentic emotional engagement with audiences.
A skilled event management team will be able to purposefully apply the following general points to create a winning branded experience that lasts far beyond the event dates.
Don’t Forget the Basics
Everything you thought you knew about event branding is true. This includes having consistent and cohesive brand elements, ensuring that attendees can see the relationship between everything.
The basic frameworks for websites, pamphlets or handouts, signage, social media graphics, fonts, or anything else associated with the event should be identical across different platforms. Your goal is to ensure that the dots connect, so that viewers, whether they are attending the event or not, instinctively associate those words and images with your company.
A unique slogan or tagline for the event is also powerful. When it comes to creating one, a helpful exercise for companies that do not feel as confident in their wordsmithing ability is to start by distilling the essence or purpose of the event into one or two sentences. Then, for as long as it takes, try cutting the sentences down, such as from two to one, or 10 words to five.
Your event should be easy enough to understand that, with action words and engaging phrases, it can be encapsulated into one short line.
Consider the Subtle Messages Your Branding Sends
Think about the last social gathering you attended—even if it was before the pandemic—and remember the subtle points, such as tablecloths, the wine selection or even the goodie bags. What judgments do you remember making about those points? Did it seem like your host had put a lot of thought into them—or perhaps not?
It’s important to keep in mind that at least some of your event attendees will be thinking about the same things, and this is a direct reflection of your company’s brand. In the same way that small design choices can make a big difference in a room, things like catering services, table placements, and even the choice of venue itself will all send subtle messages about who you are and who you think your audience is.
Finding an event company that is skilled at creating highly customized experiences, either in-house or with the help of their partners is an essential part of successful branding.
Attendees who have traveled long distances, for instance, would likely enjoy a taste of local specialties, perhaps accompanied by locally made wares. Even small, tastefully done souvenirs from the local area leave an impression that your company is a person-focused brand, thoughtful about customer needs.
Decide on the End Goal
You cannot control how people think and react to what you do. But it’s important to have a desired outcome for your event’s branding: specifically, what the one or two key takeaways will be.
How do you want people to feel about the event? Inspired, uplifted or educated? Or is the point of the gathering to simply facilitate networking and connections? These powerful considerations allow you to brainstorm the most effective activities, approaches and strategies, which also mirror your company’s image and personality.
Consider the Delivery
Last year, the Harvard Business Review considered what the “right” customer experience should be. Researchers noted that brands tended to fall along two lines: seamless, like McDonald’s or Uber Eats, prioritizing things like speed and convenience, or memorable, like the department store Nordstrom, which focuses on creating a lasting impact and enduring relationships.
Interestingly, the research found that there was no right or wrong customer experience between those two. The key to success was all about the type of business a brand had, with much of that depending in turn on the way customers interacted with the business.
This transfers easily to events. Particularly in the context of Covid-19, smaller, more intimate gatherings could be imagined in the framework of memorable experiences, like dinner parties. Larger ones, like conferences, could alternatively prioritize seamless and efficient. Neither has an impact on information retention. Indeed, it is all about prioritizing the most effective delivery.
Authenticity has a direct relationship with an attendee’s ability to emotionally engage with your brand. Gallup research shows that emotional engagement with a brand leads to customers being three times more likely to recommend it to others, three times more likely to purchase products or services they sell, and notably less likely to consider your competitors.
Put another way, when your company crafts a winning event, it should still be itself–not, for example, creating a carbon copy of an event you saw in a magazine. Inspiration is everywhere. The best planners will help you connect all the dots of your proposal to create a single, fused vision.
Brand management can be thought of as the flavor of an event, or the unique elements that impart a distinct impression and memory for attendees. Branding matters. It ensures that one of the most central goals of any gathering—to retain existing audiences, attract new ones, and raise awareness and industry presence—remain at the center of all its moving parts.
This article was originally featured on Smart Meetings.