In this blog post on event branding I am going to cover some of the more strategic aspects when considering a brand for your events.
It is taken as read in commercial circles that a powerful brand allows the owner to compete on other things than price. A brand is a powerful tool. It allows an organisation to:
- raise more revenue
- reflect the wider objectives or beliefs of an organisation
- have an identifiable personality and people can relate on a much more human level with a brand
Brands are big business and big businesses are brands. However, I believe that brands are crucial for small and medium sized events and I would certainly encourage any organisation to create a brand or separate brands for their events.
Branding your events before you brand an individual event
So let’s start at the top and get strategic. I’ve started with an association example however, this is as valid for any type of events business. When looking to brand an event we have to ensure there is not a disconnect between the organisation brand and the event brand. And that starts with the event logo.
Back in 2008 I was asked to create and build a commercially focused events department at the Council of Mortgage Lenders. This was challenging, especially at the height of the credit crunch! I took a step back from the events, from the commercial department and firstly concentrated on the perception of the organisation. I looked at the logo. Would using the current logo support a more commercial events brand? So put yourself in my shoes: look at the CML logo at the time, “would I be happy to build and launch commercially strong events in a challenging market supported by this organisational brand?”
My view was that it would be very difficult to create the right environment for more commercial products without a redesign of the CML Brand. If we wanted to launch new innovative products we had to have a modern looking logo.
Before we looked at the commercial logos (including the events logos) I oversaw the redesigned of the CML logo. Here’s the after (which is still used by the CML):
Luckily I was given the freedom to oversee the redesign of the logo. I hope you’d agree that the new logo certainly reflected a more modern approach. This was, not accidentally a logo that would support a more modern and commercial approach to their events.
It is important that when planners and their designers, comms team, marketing team or PR look at branding an events department or an individual event this new brand “makes sense”. A holistic and strategic approach is crucial for a durable and powerful brand. I’ve always taken this approach to event branding for an individual event or an events department. Stick to this wider view and understanding of the organisation and you won’t go far wrong.
Event branding is not simply designing a fancy logo
A very important point is that branding is not just about logos. It is about the style of the messaging that supports a brand as well as the culture reflected by the organisation and its employees. The brand is what is reflected by the content and the environment at the event; by the engagement before and after. .
Rebranding an events department
This is an example from the British Dietetic Association and it beautifully demonstrates the “department branding” approach that organisations can take as a way to build a foundation for their individual event brands. Launching a separate brand for an individual event without this support can be like letting the bird out of the nest before it can fly.
While supporting the BDA I decided early on that we needed to clearly separate the BDA events from the other services that the BDA provided to members. We also had to differentiate the events from the “BDA”. The BDA had to continue to be seen to be a measured, balanced and traditional organisation. However, reflecting those beliefs in a commercial product would be very challenging.
We therefore looked for a solid foundation on which to build and to communicate a very different approach for the BDA events. An events brand was our first step; the individual event brands came later. There was an understanding that to compete, the BDA had to deliver innovative and creative events. The BDA as a scientific and research based organisation meant that it was going to be difficult to square this circle.
Note the strap line. I think it’s very important that if you mark a very different course from your organisation, you have to be very clear about what you are planning to deliver. I believe the “create. excite. innovative.” was a clear message. The BDA were able to say boldly and bravely that the attendees (mainly members) should expect something quite different, in fact something very different, from their other relationships with their membership body.
Continuing the sub brand explanation, at the CML we had four very distinct products so we created a sub brand for each of them. Within this we created one for the “Mortgage Industry Conference and Exhibition” which was the only event that had a stand alone brand. I will cover the branding of individual brands in my next post. Here’s the four of them:
I’d like you to note the dinner jacket we placed on the “dinners and lunches” sub brand. We wanted to inject a bit of fun – and importantly the personality of the events team – into this sub brand. We also thought that it shouted loudly that these events were about relaxing and networking and were less serious than the other sub brands. A clear example of really understanding your product.
So in summary, I have the following six key points for you to consider when creating powerful event branding:
1. Planners when looking at event branding need to take account of the strategic impact of their suggested changes.
2. Before looking at individual event brands consider the benefits of an overall event brand.
3. Branding isn’t just about a logo a brand has to be reflected by much more than a shiny new logo.
4. We need to ensure that any brand (overall event brand or individual event brand) takes account of the organisations brand. Our brands don’t need to be very similar, in fact as we demonstrated, they can be quite different, but we need to reflect upon the relationship before we create a new brand.
5. If you do make a big move from your organisation brand or a big change from your current event brand you have to be clear what the new course is and what your customers can expect at your events. A strap line is a very simple way to do it.
6. if you are passionate about your brand and you inject into it your own personality it is likely that this passion and your personality will come through to your customers. This will give your brand a heart and a soul and will allow it to jump from your emails and your website.