Branding. In event marketing it’s more than plastering your logo on a pen, sponsoring a lunch or hanging the largest banner allowed by show management over your booth. To truly build a brand that leaves an indelible imprint on the hearts and minds of audiences, event marketers must adopt a more strategic, holistic approach.
Think of it this way. People build perceptions through five lenses: emotion, reason, knowledge, personality and experience. It is exceedingly difficult to effectively address these through logos, signage and the like. To truly build a positive brand impression requires the building of trust and relationships.
Here are 13 ideas to help you build your brand through broader and deeper audience engagement at your events.
Everything Matters: Every touch point with your audience has the opportunity to make or break their perception of your brand as well as your relationship with them. Take nothing for granted.
Booth Layout: The look and feel of your booth is a good starting point. Remember, what’s not in your booth is just as important as what is. Keep it open, inviting and comfortable.
Signage: Use messaging as a strategic weapon. Adopt a messaging hierarchy for your presence. Consider what your messaging strategy is, and what high level and detailed messaging you will include to draw people into your booth and entice conversation with your staffers. Hint: you don’t have to tell the whole story from across the convention center. Also, the amount of messaging, fontography, and integration with pictures and video is critical. All elements need to work together simply and seamlessly, to tell your story. You have 3-5 seconds. Go!
Experiences: Given that one of the key foundations of building perception is experience, you should really focus on this one. Make your events authentic, engaging, interactive and immerse your audience and you’ll go a long way to bolstering brand perception.
Storytelling: Use case studies and stories to build positive brand impressions from an audience perspective. Using guest speakers on panels or use video both at the event and online to draw your audiences in and show how your brand addresses their needs and makes them a hero in their own story.
Trained Demonstrators: It is true that no one in your company knows your products better than the folks who created them. It is also true that delivering demonstrations based on audience needs (not product features and benefits) presenting ideas effectively in a public forum and engaging audiences in meaningful conversations, is a skill in it’s own right. If your staff is trainable (meaning they could pass as a professional speaker or demonstrator) by all means train them. If not, use them as company and product experts after the pros energize, excite and engage the crowd.
Educational Sessions: Whether you are participating in a third-party tradeshow, conference or planning a proprietary event, it’s important to add value to your audiences. In many cases this means offering some sort of education. The tracks you participate in, the type of knowledge you impart, the number of sessions, the quality of the speakers and the breadth and depth of content you provide all say something about your brand. Also, keep in mind that any educational session should be designed so it is entertaining, easily digestible and shareable beyond the session itself. Think about how audiences will use this content in social media.
Speaking Opportunities: Like educational sessions, speaking session should be treated as critical for appealing to the emotion, reason and knowledge lenses of your audiences. Work with show producers to secure the most prominent speaking session(s) possible whether through purchasing sponsorships, or building such a reputation in the marketplace for excellence, the mere presence of your rockstar executive will draw crowds to the event.
Private Meetings: The most important audiences are those who align themselves with your organization. This is true for prospects, customers, and loyal advocates. Holding special off-floor activities just for them will make them feel special and validate their affinity with your brand. Make sure these activities are of the highest quality, valuable, entertaining and allow for networking with peers.
Audience Generation: Aside from “just do it,” remember the type and frequency of touches you have with your potential attendees before the event creates an important brand perception. Here you have an opportunity to show you care about these audiences, which activates emotional triggers.
Promotion: Although niche themes for your event can be fun and all, try to resist the temptation of going way off brand. Whatever promotions, gameshows, sweepstakes, giveaways, contests, booth themes, etc. you choose, they should be first and foremost designed to add real value to your audiences. Secondly, they should be aligned with your core brand values and messaging. The promotion should never outweigh the prominence of your brand. here’s a simple trick. Try saying the promotion name with your competitors brand and message as part of the slogan. If it works, it’s not for you.
Follow-Through: The speed and authenticity of your follow-up activities with your audiences after the event also have a tremendous impact on brand perception. make sure you have a plan for how to manage hot, warm and cold leads after the event. Ensure any information captured on site about the audience is shared with the sales or field staff responsible for post-event contact strategies. Audiences should be contacted as close to immediately after the event as possible, or they will shop your competition, and you have lost an opportunity to build deep, meaningful relationships, not to mention negatively impacted your return on investment.
Social Media Integration: Think beyond the event in terms of audience, content and relationships. Social media activities and audience engagement should be planned for and executed before, during and after the event. An event is a point in time, a relationship lasts far longer. Make sure you participate where your audiences are already congregating. Do your research. It may not be where you think.
An event is the best place for audiences to look a company in the eye and become immersed in a ‘brand experience’. Second to this is the pervasiveness of the digital channel in providing interactive ‘brand experiences’ for many audiences. Outside of events, digital marketing provides an experience which engages audiences in a two way conversation with a brand. This often leads to a transaction that is immediately measurable. However, this transaction is far less indelible than a face-to-face conversation which helps build a long term relationship based on shared experiences, a mutual exchange of value, and the building of trust. You may meet your mate on Match.com, but (hopefully) you won’t marry them until you have built a face-to-face relationship.
Have other ideas for building your brand through events and experiences?
originally published 1/26/10 www.experientialmarketing20.com