Although integrated branding – the concept of having all aspects of communications for your organization work together in unified force with a consistent message – is typically discussed in marketing circles, it also is a key concept today in our industry. Meeting planners have realized the importance of finding ways to incorporate these branding experiences into events and conferences to maximize their company’s exposure with attendees during a dedicated time-frame and focused attention-span. But, how do you do it in a meaningful way that supports and reinforces the brand without it seeming forced? Key to success is integrating the brand into the strategic plan from onset and then managing it throughout the process to ensure cohesion with your message.
It Starts with a Plan
As is the case with most things, success can be traced to early planning and thoughtful consideration of the vision. 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 to planning the event as it should drive 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.
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. Not only will this lay the groundwork for the event, but it serves as the building blocks for how customers and key stakeholders perceive your value and offerings. The brand should be integrated into the event to keep these messages consistent.
In essence, your organization’s brand should help guide the organizational team. And, key to successful integration of the brand and theme is creating guidelines that can be used throughout the event. These guidelines should be shared and actually reviewed in detail with all vendors and partners early on to make sure they understand the expectations and follow the recommendations. By taking the time to explain the goals and objectives, everyone can work together toward a common goal and create a successful event.
Separate but Equal?
One common area of confusion is whether to have a separate brand and/or logo for your event, or simply use your organizational brand. As a general rule, a company has a brand, while an event has a theme that supports the brand. However, often times there may be a sub-brand, such as a conference logo and theme. These branded elements should be reflected on every attendee touch-point from the registration website and info onsite, to lobby signage, staging, collateral, post event surveys, and more. To ensure the sub-brand is successfully integrated, it is vital to determine if it can work together with the primary brand without competing against or creating confusion. But, in some cases, it makes sense to let the conference logo take the spotlight, especially if the organization is being placed under a microscope when it comes to budgets and spend.
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, email follow-ups, and much more. 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. Even placement of a logo or decal at the bottom of the venue pool can be available. The possibilities are endless. If at all possible, develop renderings before the event so the entire team is able to visualize the stage, camera shots, lighting, transition cues, and more.
With your plans in place, it is key to evaluate the event from a branding standpoint. After all, the success of your event goes well beyond the technology working, good lighting, powerful speakers, and increased attendance. Rather, did you deliver on your brand and support your theme?