A Marketer’s Perspective on the Event Industry: Your Event Should be an Extension of your Brand

Posted on: September 13th, 2017

I am a big advocate of brand, and brand image. I believe brand and brand image are two of the most important parts of your company – possibly even THE most important. I look at brand and brand image, because, often they point to the same thing – how you are perceived by others. Perception is reality, and a good product (or company of good people) can be defeated by a bad perception of the company. Conversely, a flop of a product can be forgotten if a company has a favorable brand image. Today, brand is often one of the most ignored pieces of marketing. And, as a marketer, and event personnel, our brand is fundamental to our company’s overall success. We need to be conscious of the fact that our brand stands for something. However, in a race to find the newest KPI, ROI, or whatever the metric of the month is to measure our success, we have the tendency to ignore our overall brand.

In today’s digital age, we have actually become complacent by hyper-focusing on segments and minor levers, chasing the shiny new object in the name of metrics, while we ignore the overall health of our brand. Our complacency towards our brand often stems from the ease of appeasement for whatever small segment we are chasing for the sake of being first, or just different. As such, we consistently out think ourselves, and by proxy, we out think our brand. Our brand is the sum of all the parts of our company. So why would we ignore it? Why would we host an event that’s theme may be in direct conflict with an image our brand is trying to promote? Why would we solely hyper-focus on a segment so small it doesn’t adequately lend to the overall success of the brand? Internal growth meetings (something like a planned disruptor meeting to stimulate ideas, changes, etc) aside, any outward facing event we do should (with few exceptions) reflect what our brand image is. If we are known as an innovator, our event needs to be innovative.

Think of any of the big brands with a quality brand image. Apple, Mercedes Benz, Salesforce, Disney come to mind for me. What do they all have in common? Aside from being multi-billion-dollar companies, they consistently put brand and brand image at the forefront of their marketing goals. At each Apple product launch, and any Apple event, you can see the layers of their marketing and event arms. First and foremost, to a general consumer they come off as a product launch and sales kickoff. But when you dig deeper into their events, you see how they always brand Apple first and product second. The events are always themed around Apple and its image. Why? In the end, no matter the short term growth goal, it is the Apple brand that will resonate. Apple knows that even though it may be a sales related event, events are ultimately an extension of their marketing arm. Branding Apple brings their current products to the forefront, builds internal and external excitement, and reinforces the brand as well as the event goal. They increase the value of the individual event by bringing the greater brand to light. We, as event personnel and marketers, can learn a lot from that example alone.

You are probably curious as to why I am bringing my marketing hat out in this article and pushing brand and image so heavily? Not everyone is Apple, has their budgets, and their established brand recognition. Not every organization can afford to have a single pipeline of their business fail without harming the overall brand. There is 100% a method to my madness, and it all comes down to what I said earlier with Apple. It’s value. We all want bigger, better, more impressive. But we also want cost savings, and more for our dollar. What it really comes down to is we want, we need, greater value for our events. We can increase the value of our events to our stakeholders (those who sign the checks) AND to our attendees by ensuring we have a concerted effort on brand and image when planning our events. Sometimes it’s the little details of the event that fit into our greater message, sometimes it’s plastering the brand everywhere so people remember who they are there for, sometimes it’s a subtle subliminal logo drop; your individual event and its immediate goal will dictate how we embed the brand into theming. Often, incorporating your brand, styling the event in your brand’s image, takes very little investment and it builds greater overall value for your company. Your company gets more value out of their event investment – and that keeps the bean counters happy.

We’ve all seen, or been a part of, many types of events. From major concerts, to grand openings, seminars, to company town halls- we’ve witnessed successful and unsuccessful events. One thing we want to always be conscious of is our audience. We want to know to whom we are speaking, and how we can tie brand into the overall event success. We can utilize positive branding- reinforcing positive attributes of our brand at our event. We can co-brand – utilizing another brand to increase our brand. We can rebrand – utilize the event to create a new image for ourselves. These are all great ways to theme our event, include our brand, and increase value for our stakeholders. We definitely don’t want to miss a homerun opportunity to increase our brand value at an event – like the time a cohort told me about an Earth Day event they attended, where trash piled up, and they used eco-unfriendly items that could have easily (and affordably) been replaced by recycled logoed items. A bombed branding opportunity.

There are definite ebbs and flows of an event you need to be cognizant of, and I am not advocating we hijack our events to simply plaster our brand. Rather, I am advocating we look at our event through a marketing lens and find opportunity to increase value by pushing our event’s vision in conjunction with our brand image. I even caution we do not hurt our brand by including it in your events is if there is going to be any negative, or completely disruptive, messaging during your event. We’ve all heard of an event where a company was rolling out what was supposed to be a game-changing product for an industry leading business – after they told their employee base they were facing position cuts and salary slashes, internally deflating the new brand before it could even be launched. We also do not want to go so far as to come off as completely self-serving and cheesy incorporating our brand either.

Ultimately, building greater value for our events will increase return on investment for the company, increase company faith in us, and hopefully allow us greater budget to build even more value for them in the future. We want to execute our events in a way that our company will benefit across a variety of avenues, supporting the overall brand health at our events will ultimately do just that – increase value, and benefit our company.

Article written by James Coughlin, IMS National Account Manager.