Below, Katie Bentley, Marketing Manager for the ICC and Vox (part of the NEC Group), writes about the importance of branding your conference with confidence and some top tips to help.
Opportunity. This word is so often used in marketing when talking about the issue of brand awareness. What opportunities do we have? How can we access more opportunities? How can we make the most of our opportunities to tell our audience about our brand and what it means for them? As a marketer working in conference venues, I see, on a daily basis one of the best possible opportunities that a brand can have to raise awareness and impact – events! That good old face-to-face event which, regardless of the many digital choices flying around the communications landscape, is still pretty unbeatable. Events are about bringing people together under the umbrella of a brand and purpose, and they should absolutely play a central role in an organisation’s marketing mix. As such, they should also have the same branding consideration given to them as any advertising campaign or social media strategy.
Regardless of whether delegates are attending an event as a company requirement or choosing to attend in their own time and at their own expense, an event should be seen as a golden opportunity to communicate your brand’s key messages and raise its profile.
So how do you grab this opportunity with both hands, and make sure that it delivers to its full potential for your brand? For starters, take a bit of time to really think through how you want the event to work with and for your brand. Don’t be afraid to make it work really, really hard!
Remember, this is an elusive opportunity – a gathering of your target audience (whether they’re employees, purchasers, suppliers or members), together in one space, there to take in the event away from the distractions of their daily jobs and lives.
Consider what your messages will be? What do you want the event branding to deliver? It could be about a new product, it could be about raising your authority as a thought-leader in your industry, it could be about making sure people come back next year. Whatever it is, be clear on what you want those messages to be and be bold in making sure it’s a priority that they are delivered seamlessly.
And to get those messages out there seamlessly, think through your touchpoints. What are the moments in the event journey when your audience will come into contact with the brand? Just to pre-warn you, this activity can and possibly will provide you with quite a long list of touchpoints, but it’ll be a helpful list, I promise. Look through every stage of the event, from the very first announcement of the dates, through to the post-event evaluation. Registration emails, agendas, the food you choose to serve, even the speakers you invite, will all say something about your brand. The key is to ensure that what is delivered on each touchpoint is consistent and a true and accurate positive reflection of your brand.
Now, a very important touchpoint that can often not be maximised enough is the venue. Make sure that you are talking to your venue about what they can do for your branding. A small sign in the reception area with your logo and an arrow pointing your delegates to the event isn’t going to cut it. A venue should never be just the four walls that you hold your event in, it is in fact, one of those touchpoints. Make it yours, put your stamp on it, make it belong to and be a part of your event. It will help your delegates to feel submerged in the brand and the event, meaning that you can really push home your brand and key messages. From essential wayfinding to digital screens, to hanging your messaging from any ceiling possible, there should be something that your venue can do for you to support your conference’s branding. A venue is after all, your blank canvas for the day (or two or three days). It is what surrounds your delegates at that elusive opportunity where you have a captive audience; they are there to listen to what you have to say, to see what you have to show, so make sure you show them!