Are you a signature event … or are you just a date on a calendar? Attendees remember and value great experiences. So, who are you? Do attendees think you’re bland and generic – or memorable, appealing and unforgettable? Here’s how to create an event brand to transform your event or conference into an attendee magnet.
People love brands. They’re like trusted and reliable friends. We love brands that have earned our loyalty. That’s what you want for your event or conference. But there are two things you have to know before you even attempt to turn your event into a brand.
Truth #1 – Customers create brands, just like attendees create events. Your “event brand” isn’t the actual conference, content, speakers or activities. It’s how attendees experience all of those things.
Truth #2 – Branding isn’t labeling. Your event doesn’t become a brand by slapping a logo and a name on every available surface. It isn’t measured by signage, name badges, promotional tchotchkes or event bags.
The branding we are talking about is specific to your event or conference and is different from your company, organization or association branding. It’s designed to attract, grow and maintain your audience. Let’s unpack how it works.
Their Experience is Your Brand
To have a successful brand, you have to build an instant association with what you are. That “what” is defined by the content, value and experiences you provide. Those three things create a relationship. Event organizers and planners try to measure the success of an event in business terms, but attendees measure it in personal terms. People don’t always immediately realize the value of the information, insight and training. But they instantly know if they enjoyed the experiences they shared.
Events that have become successful brands got there because of the right balance of people, content and experiences. They succeed because they deliver their event promise. There are several key steps in making your event into a brand, and Shepard will help guide you through the process. We create and develop compelling strategies to bring your brand and your event to life. We are experts in creating content, value and experiences that are aligned with your business objectives to generate opportunities and grow brand loyalty and acquisition.
Your brand power begins with a better understanding of your attendees, what they want and need, and the best experiences for delivering it. To start, you need to decide three things up front. These are the brand basics you can’t ignore.
- What do you want your event to stand for?
Your event brand has to be known for something. To be recognizable, you have to be clearly identified as the best source. Your target attendees have to see you as the best conference to attend to meet their specific needs. It’s like the old philosophical experiment, “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” If an event isn’t noticed by anyone or isn’t known for anything – is it still an event?
- What do you want your event to become?
What is your vision? What do you want the event to become in the future? Do you want to be the foremost gathering for communication technology, women’s health or education? In short, what do you want to be when you grow up?
- What is the Event Promise?
Just like every consumer product, your event has to have a brand promise. Basically, it’s telling attendees “what’s in it for you.” The Event Promise is what attendees will gain and the results they can expect. It’s how you are different and why they should invest the time to be there.
If this sounds like a “big dang deal,” you got it. The Event Promise is the single most important part of a conference, convention or event. It’s why people attend and how they decide if they received enough value for their time and money. The Event Promise isn’t about you. It’s about your attendees.
Decide the most compelling reasons why people should attend and highlight them. It doesn’t matter who you think you are – all that matters is what your most important people perceive. Okay, now it’s time to make your event into a brand. Remember, an event brand is created by your attendees.
Communicate the Big Benefits
Marketing the name of the company, association or organization and the year isn’t branding. Fill your emails and your website with the Big Benefits first. The Big Benefits are priority #1 because you want to grab attention, make people curious and get personal. Spell them out and keep repeating them. The idea is to use the Big Benefits to give attendees compelling reasons to attend.
Have a Recognizable Name That’s Value-Driven
A recognizable name is an identity. It doesn’t matter if it’s Starbucks or Coca-Cola, a brand stakes out a territory and differentiates it from all the rest. Annual Leadership Conference isn’t sexy or interesting. Sales & Marketing Conference isn’t going raise anyone’s blood pressure. Give the event a value-driven title and put the name of your association or organization below it. Then change it every year. Nothing screams “same old, same old” like taking the basic description of the event and putting the current year in front of it.
Focus on the Content, Value and the Experiences
Make sure everything supports the Event Promise. Showcase what people will do and experience. Be bold, confident, and tell them what they’ll get for their time and money. If you can’t set expectations for what attendees will gain from attending the event, you honestly don’t have a brand.
Repeat the Process Every Year
Go through this process before every event or conference to build and reinforce your brand. That’s right, come up with new Big Benefits and showcase them. Don’t fall into the Continuity Trap. That’s when you convince yourself that never changing the name, direction, messages or content is good because it’s “continuity.” People buy the differences between you and the other organizations – so be different. If you send the message that nothing has changed, then people have no reason to attend. And you really don’t want to look, sound or deliver anything that might be confused with similar events.
Live the Brand
To transform your event or conference into an attendee magnet, you have to deliver a total picture. Deliver a clear and attractive picture of the event, what it promises, and the key benefits. Ensure that the attendee has all she/he needs to make the decision to attend. That’s how you create an event brand that will build stronger relationships, but even more important – reinforce who you are, why they like you, and keep them coming back.
Be unique, be different and be recognizable. Then your event or conference will be more than a meeting … it will be a brand.