[As published in Meetings + Incentive Travel*]
Good branding is about integrity. When you consistently deliver on the core values that draw people to your brand, it becomes believable. It’s reliable. It has authenticity.
The best way to create this sense of integrity is to take an integrated approach to every aspect of your brand messaging. It should go without saying that business meetings and events are, by nature, brand messaging opportunities. So it follows that integrated event branding can enhance brand value, which is a key corporate objective.
Align with Your Core Brand Values
These principles are easy for most event professionals to understand—but when you look at the bigger picture it’s not quite so simple any more. There are so many pieces to fit together, and so many ways to represent the brand.
A common misapprehension is that picking a theme out of the air, and printing the theme graphics on the table napkins and banners, is integrated event branding. It may be coordinated, but it’s not integrated. Regardless of whether the theme is the latest trend, a lot of fun, or your personal favourite, it has to be aligned with the core brand values and corporate mission or it’s not “integrated.”
Focus on the Audience—Not the Tactic
A good way to ensure you stay true to your brand’s values is to focus first on the audience, not the tactic. And the first question to ask is, “How does my audience connect with the brand?” In evaluating your thematic options, you then need to ask yourself, “How does this theme explain or extend the core values at the heart of the brand?” This puts you on track to keeping the event relevant.
The next step is to apply this perspective to the three primary elements that define your event: the format or type of event, the location and venue, and the experiential content. Each of these must be tailored to reflect and amplify the brand message, not conflict with it.
It’s Greater Than the Sum of Its Parts
What does this mean in the real world of event planning? There are too many factors to cover everything here; but to isolate one example we could look at the experience content of a proposed event. Let’s say you are planning a learning-oriented event, and you want an evocative keynote speaker to set the tone. If a core value of your brand is forward-thinking innovation, you might want a speaker such as Nilofer Merchant, who worked with Steve Jobs at Apple and recently received the Thinkers50 “Future Thinker Award.” If, on the other hand, the core brand value is traditional customer-focused service, you might want a speaker like Don Bell, a co-founder of WestJet, who speaks persuasively on “creating a culture of engaged and enthusiastic employees.”
While each of them is an excellent speaker, their style and content is dramatically different. Choosing the right one will allow you to build your event around a theme that is aligned with your core brand messaging and corporate objectives. From that platform, you can then confidently integrate all the other elements and details to create an event whose impact is greater than the sum of its parts.
The after-effect of an event that is truly integrated with brand values is a growing understanding and appreciation of the brand among participants. And that, in turn, creates a positive environment for future events. When everything is pulling in the same direction, the brand wins!
* This original content was previously published in Meetings + Incentive Travel, as “Branding Matters: Integrated Event Branding.” It is presented again here because it covers branding and marketing concepts that have relevance for our broader Blade Brand News audience.