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September 24, 2008

John Walker:The Power of Branding

The managing director of Oxford International describes how careful branding transforms your event from a cost centre to a profit centre.

In today’s world of email and teleconferencing, your event is an opportunity to create a positive face-to-face experience. And what’s at the heart of that experience? Your brand.

Your event is a rare opportunity to reach out and communicate your brand in person to your clients, employees and stakeholders. It’s your chance to generate awareness and loyalty in your products and services. And you want the effects to be long lasting, right?

If you brand your event effectively it can have a profound impact on your business. To put it bluntly, in this era of budget scrutiny and emphasis on results, you need to demonstrate long-term value.

Appropriate branding can transform your event from a cost centre to a profit centre. It can increase your return on investment and your return on objectives. So, if branding is such a powerfully persuasive tool, how can you guarantee maximum impact?

Understand your brand
Your brand needs to be at the forefront of your event organiser’s mind at all times. It should be reflected in every last detail of your event, from the venue and menu, to the theme, messages and marketing. Like it or not, your delegates will quickly form an opinion on your business based on their experience at your event. So, your job is to make sure your brand is reflected in the most positive and memorable light.

Think back to the last time you attended a conference or event. What springs to mind? I’d hazard a guess that what are essentially irrelevant details, such as your journey to the venue, your coffee on arrival or the buffet lunch are as predominant in your memory as the event’s main messages.

No matter how compelling your presentation is, unfortunately the smallest detail can detract from your key message. Don’t let a stale sandwich or tricky transfer leave a lasting impression. Make sure that every aspect of your event creates a positive association with your brand.

If you want your event to communicate all the right messages and leave a long lasting impression, then your first task is to make sure that the person responsible for organising your event has a clear understanding of your brand. They need to fully appreciate its values, its position and importance in the market and what its objectives are.

If you are using a conference and event organiser it is worth considering all these points and creating a definite brief that will paint a clear picture. Only then can you be sure that every aspect of your event will be a suitable brand ambassador for your business.

Understand the event’s objectives
Behind every event is a fundamental business objective. And not far behind that there’s usually a sizeable bill. To justify your expenditure and more importantly to see a long-term return on your investment, your event needs to be memorable – for all the right reasons.

Branding or creating a theme for your event is an effective way of reinforcing your key message. This can work for any type of event from a large sales conference or product launch to a team building session. Choosing a theme that relates to the event’s overall goal is a powerful way of emphasising your message.

Translating your theme into a memorable and productive reality requires creativity, but if done successfully, it can pay dividends. But before you start haemorrhaging your budget on novelty pads and pens and giveaways, then hear this word of warning. If you allow your creative juices to run amok, it can result in an event that is awash with gimmicks that, at best, detract from the key message and, at worse, conflict with the company’s brand.

You need to carefully consider what impression you want your delegates to go away with and then brand your event accordingly. If you want your delegates to think, don’t give them a bag, give them a book. If environmental issues are top of your agenda, don’t ask your delegates to travel huge distances. If you want your brand to be associated with quality, make certain your logo won’t rub off your promotional giveaways in the months to come.

Application, application, application

Everything your delegates experience at your event is a message about what your company stands for, from pre-event communications to presentations and gifts. If you want your message to have the right impact, then it needs to be carefully and thoughtfully portrayed across all elements of your event.

Branding can catapult a good event into a distinctive and memorable event. Apply it carefully and you’ll be reaping the rewards long into the future.

John Walker is the managing director of Oxford International

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