Event branding: Short-term action, long-term value

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Think of all the events you've planned or been to in your lifetime, from industry conferences to client dinners to kids' birthday parties. Considering those examples, I believe kids' birthday parties do branding right: It starts with a theme ("Shrek"), decor and materials—invitations, plates, nap—all match, and kids often play a theme party game. Do you get the picture? The key in this scenario is consistency, and it's the fundamental principle to apply in branding events.

Always integrate the brand into your events. This could be as simple as the logo or as complicated as the corporate identity—company name, product or positioning statement. Brand recognition is an integral part of the marketing mix. It is a long-term initiative that demands short-term action.

Event branding emphasizes image. Companies with strong existing brands need to maintain dominance and positioning, while firms lacking brand recognition must make a name within their competitive space. When it comes to the event execution, almost everything I create is branded—from the preplanning phase, to onsite to post-event activities. Branding requires a formula, and it affects every touch point throughout the event.

Think of the number of corporate events you've attended in which thousands of dollars were spent and in which hundreds of targeted prospects were in attendance. But while looking around, you realize you don't know who is sponsoring, or what their message is; nor do you even meet a company representative.

By reviewing every touch point, I became an event marketing "brand-a-holic." The secret is to leverage and incorporate the brand anyplace you can, on any budget. The key is in the approach. Event branding can be accomplished simply by presenting your company or product name in a variety of marketing activities throughout the event. For example:

  • "In-Your-Face" branding: Everywhere you look, your company name, your product name or your graphic image representation (conference brochure ads, hotel room keys, napkins, signage, table tent cards, hangtags, and more) must be visible.
  • Subliminal branding: What image are you trying to project with your brand? Most people look at branding as one-dimensional "gotta get the name out there." However, it's also the image. Match the image to the live environment, but remember the detail or logistics.

Take something as simple as the event venue selection to drill home these points. Consider this organization that failed to thoughtfully choose its venue: A next-generation technology company hosted a preview luncheon for select media and analysts to discuss its new product. The company required high-speed Internet access to tell its story. They chose to hold the event at the 100-year-old City Yacht Club, which has only a dial-up phone line in its main sales office. Consequently, no product announcement was made that day and some bad press followed in the next week.

To determine the right way to choose a venue, consider this successful branding event: A company hosted a preview luncheon at a prestigious golf club for select media, analysts, customers, executives, partners and a celebrity guest to announce its new product line. The hourlong luncheon drove home the key messages through speeches, promotional materials and signage. After lunch, the guests played in a three-hour golf outing, reinforcing the key messages on each hole with a 19th hole recap for awards and cocktails. This company was featured in 15 articles in two days, and the sales team scheduled 10 appointments within two weeks of the event.

Branding can be accomplished in one well-thought-out event. Brand awareness is something that you work on for years and is an integral part of a company's marketing plan.

Allison Saget is president of event marketing consulting firm, EventBLT ( and author of "The Event Marketing Handbook."

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