Integrated branding-the concept of having all aspects of marketing communications for your organization work together in unified force with a consistent message-continues to gain acceptance.
Now the meeting planning industry is realizing the importance of finding ways to incorporate these branding experiences into events and conferences to maximize a company’s exposure with attendees during a dedicated time frame and focused attention span. But how do you integrate branding in a meaningful way that supports and reinforces the brand without it seeming forced? The key to success is integrating the brand into the strategic plan from the onset and then managing it throughout the process to ensure cohesion with your message.
It Starts With a Plan
The goals and key messages of an event should be based on a strategic plan set forth by the leadership of the organization. This is typically the first step in planning the event because it drives the direction for all tasks moving forward. In fact, if your team wants to dive right into logistics, take a step back and look at the bigger picture.
Depending on the goals of the event or meeting, the key messages can vary. For example, if the meeting is a corporate training event, the messages should encompass continuing education and actionable tools to help train the teams and make them more productive throughout the year. In contrast, if the event brings vendors and purchasers together, the goals and key messages should focus on how to best create an environment that allows for collaborative meetings and networking sessions that enable the vendors to showcase their products and services. In the case of national sales meetings, the objective is typically to motivate.
With the goals and messaging identified, it is essential to explain the vision to key vendors and partners. It is important that they understand the strategy and driving force behind the conference or event, as they will become stewards of the brand. Further, it is crucial that the identified goals and key messages support the organization’s brand.
In essence, your organization’s brand should help guide the organizational team. For example, due to a recent acquisition, one of the main objectives of the Jobs2web Annual Users Conference was to smoothly transition its brand to that of the firm that acquired them: SuccessFactor Inc.
metroConnections, the conference, event, production and transportation services firm for which I work, was brought into the planning process early on to help strategize how the new brand would be introduced and integrated into the event. To help attendees make the transition, metroConnections transformed the branding as the event progressed. The conference began as a Jobs2web event, and by the conclusion, every branded element was changed over with attendees fully embracing the message, “We are SuccessFactors.”
Going Beyond the Logo
Integrating the brand should go well beyond the logo and corporate colors. Specific examples include carrying the brand throughout email invites prior to the event, on the custom built registration website, signage throughout the whole venue and housing properties, opening session video, custom branded post-conference surveys and email follow-ups.
Be sure to think beyond collateral and marketing pieces, as company names and logos can be splashed onto the flooring and walls using decals and customized lighting elements. Furniture, such as cocktail tables, chairs and refreshment bars, are constructed into identifiable pieces by incorporating branded insignia. Consider placement of a logo or decal at the bottom of the venue pool. The possibilities are endless.
Integrating your Brand:
Tips for success
>> Acquire leadership direction and buy-in
>> Plan early
>> Develop a clear strategy as your first phase of planning
>> Stay true to your brand and objectives
>> Communicate goals to key planners, vendors, stakeholders and on-site staff
>> Track key performance indicators to help plan for future meetings
>> Provide easy access to high resolution artwork for all vendors and stakeholders
>> Test run the brand with a small group of attendees to avoid any accidental misunderstandings
Tom McCulloch is vice president of marketing and conference services at metroConnections. He is responsible for strategic marketing, channels marketing and along with partner, Mike Graves, leads the ongoing technology offerings in the conference services division.