Event Branding: Is it Time for an Update?
Has your event begun to feel like it is stagnating? Even the most successful events will start to feel stale if they continue to roll out the same look and content for several years in a row.
If you find that your attendees know what to expect before you’ve even published the schedule, it’s undoubtedly time to refresh your event’s brand. The last thing you want your event to inspire is apathy.
But how do you know if your event’s brand needs a refresh or not? Here are a few indications when it’s time to reinvent your brand and some techniques to help you make the shift.
Signs Your Event Needs a Brand Refresh
Falling Behind as Dynamics Shift
Today your event’s brand needs to be an illustration of the event’s values, what someone who attends can expect, and the impact it will carry.
It wasn’t too long ago that events could get away with piggybacking off the branding of their parent company or stakeholders. Naming conventions were equally straightforward: “The 39th General Convention of the United Association of Plumbers, Pipefitters, Sprinkler Fitters, Welders, and HVACR Technicians,” for example. While that name leaves little room to doubt who the event is for, it in no way illustrates why the event exists, what takes place at this conference, or why someone should attend.
Instead, the focus is on the company (union, to be specific) and not the attendee. While attendees to this event may appreciate and even feel a connection to this organization, the branding is not illustrative of the values personified by the event.
Honestly, the above convention may not need to rebrand. The target audience for that event may not need encouragement beyond the event’s existence to attend. However, there are industries where that type of naming convention is now wholly ineffective; industries crowded with events where potential attendees expect to be engaged by the brand long before they even think about purchasing a ticket.
For events in these industries, the brand should immediately engage with a potential attendee as they consider attending and then carry forward from the event’s registration page, to the ticketing delivery (via an event app, most likely), to the check-in area, to the speakers and sessions, and ultimately continue even once the doors are closed.
This means an event’s brand no longer needs to match, one-to-one, a company’s branding. The colors can shift, the name can soften, and the theme can expand.
Focus has Evolved Beyond Current Branding
Markets’ and consumers’ focus are always in motion. Your event needs to keep up with this movement, or it will be left behind.
Take, for example, “SearchFest.” In 2018, the convention rebranded to become the “Engage Conference.” An illuminating post on the parent company’s blog, titled “Is Search the Question?,” digs into the organization’s reasoning for the brand shift.
From the post, “The conference has certainly gone beyond SEO and PPC (the original components of SEM or Search Engine Marketing) to include social media, content marketing, analytics, digital strategy, and more. It is not a ‘search marketing’ conference, but a digital marketing conference with a search marketing emphasis.”
For conferences that find they are in a similar position, where the event has evolved beyond its original parameters, a rebrand to align with the current focus is likely the answer.
A Lack of Distinction
What makes your event different from every other event in your industry? If you have to pause, even briefly, to answer that question, you may be in trouble. Because if you have any trouble whatsoever in differentiating your event brand from all the rest, the potential attendees will experience the same difficulty.
What is your event’s personality? What makes it unique in the industry? There should be clear messaging that communicates to your audience what makes your brand stand apart from the rest.
A Noticeable Drop in Registration and Attendance
It requires a great deal of marketing outreach for an event to be truly successful. If, however, you are involved on social media, sending marketing emails, consistently refreshing your content, and communicating with current and potential consumers and still see a decline in attendance, there is an apparent disconnect between you and your audience. It is essential that you discover where the divide lies and bridge that gap.
Similarly, events that see a noticeable drop in registration and attendance, especially when those drops are consistent across annual events, are likely due for a refresh. Be sure to check the attendance records for events that are similar to yours to ensure that it is not an industry-wide decline. If these conferences are not seeing a dip, it is time to update your image. By not acting quickly, you risk losing an emotional connection with your core audience and consumers. Once that is gone, it can be difficult to earn back.
Keeping Your Event Branding Fresh
Emphasize the Essentials
Your event brand needs to speak to your audience, tell them what the event is, what they can expect, and why they should attend. As such, you need to communicate your culture in engaging and captivating terms. It’s all about aligning your brand to the attendee experience.
How can you create a brand that emphatically addresses the needs of your audience? How can your event create a community of like-minded individuals who can address and solve shared needs within your industry? Find the answers to these questions and then align your brand accordingly to give your event a leg up.
Clearly Articulate Your Brand’s Values and Reflect Them in Your Event
What is important to your attendees? Is it diversity? Equality? Environmentalism?
Align your event to a cause that is important to your attendees, then reflect this cause in every aspect of your event. For example, if environmentalism is essential to your guests, design your conference to be a sustainable event. Go paperless by creating an event app to host and communicate all event information. Have receptacles that are dedicated to specific items – such as paper, glass, cans, etc. – and make sure the signage delineating recycling and garbage are obvious and easy to read. Partner with vendors and sponsors that are committed to the same cause. Use only compostable and biodegradable plates and utensils in concession areas. Include a ‘Carbon Footprint Fee’ in the ticket price.
By aligning your actions with your messaging, you are going beyond mere lip service and providing a clear commitment to your brand’s values.
Separate from the Competition
If you are in a particularly crowded industry, you may find that trying to cater to everyone ultimately results in a watered-down message that becomes lost in all the surrounding noise. Instead, your event brand may benefit by narrowing the focus and discovering a niche where your message can clearly and loudly resonate.
Not only can this help your brand stand apart, but it can also keep your event on the cutting edge of your industry. What is the latest shift that your audience is embracing? How are they relating to products or services differently? Is there a small, passionate subset that your event could court? How can you address their needs (ideally, while not alienating the industry as a whole)?
By rethinking and refocusing your event, you will be able to discover new audiences while retaining and reinvigorating your current crowd.