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November 2, 2006

VENUE vs BRAND: Finding the right venue

It’s vital when organising an event that the venue you choose reflects your company’s brand and the message you’re trying to get across, whether you’re training staff, launching a product or have another aim in mind. Get it wrong and the impact of your event will be reduced.

Before you can begin to target the right venue for your event, you need to carry out a serious amount of preparation, just as you would for any marketing campaign.

“Understanding the brand proposition, values, target audience and key messages to be communicated is a critical precursor to venue selection for any event as it helps ensure that the chosen venue forms an integral part of the brand experience and the way it is brought to life,” says Andrew Haigh, Motorola global account director at events company MICE International. “Other venue-related factors that need to be carefully considered, as they can complement or undermine the integrity of a client’s brand, include location, accessibility, capacity, hospitality offer, accommodation, style and range of facilities offered.”

This can be a tall order, and a good events company can provide invaluable help in venue selection, but make sure they take the time and effort to understand your brand values and the purpose of the event.

“Even just within the UK, there are almost as many different types of venues as there are brands,” says Benjamin Hunt, business development manager of marketing agency P&MM’s Travel & Events division. “There are those that ooze quality and sophistication, those that offer a vision of hi-tech future possibilities and those that suggest a sense of wickedness and desire that you hope won't show on your credit card statement.

“The job of the event organiser is both to understand the client's vision of their brand and to maintain a level of venue knowledge high enough to be able recommend locations that not only match, but compliment and enhance that vision. Any good event organiser should know their stuff when it comes to venues, but only the exceptional ones will honestly share the client's passion for the brand and it is this factor that is key to ensuring the success of the event. You want your staff and clients to buy into your vision. So start with an event organiser who is already sold.”

RPM certainly appear to fit into that category, having actually developed a tool to aid venue selection.

“We call it the Live Media Data Bank,” says the experiential agency’s new business director Cameron Day. “It categorises all ‘live media’ or event locations to help select the optimum place for your activity matching brand fit, target audience reach and previous experiences held there if any. What it enables us to do is to come up with venues or suggested locations that can really make or break a brand event and might not be the ones you would have previously considered.

“For instance, we recently recommended to a confectionary brand that they target Zoos to engage with Mums and Children with a non-artificial colour message,” she continues. “They had previously only considered top-end grocers."

Another good example is the live experience RPM created recently for vodka giant Smirnoff. The agency chose Koko in Camden Town, London as the first UK location of its global event platform called Smirnoff and the Electric Cabaret.

“Harnessing the huge underground increase in popularity of cabaret in urban centres, we have developed an event format that integrates Smirnoff and its brand positioning ‘clearly original’ into an event with an eclectic mix of talent that fills the evening from start to finish,” explains Day. “We chose Koko (formerly the Camden Palace) as the perfect location with a twist. It's a Victorian theatre dating back to the 1800s, and a location where the original cabaret performers would have performed. It became a cutting edge music venue during the Sixties and Seventies, and today it’s a stylish and modern live music and club venue that resonates perfectly with and supports all of the Smirnoff brand and event objectives.”

Of course, you could solve the problem by creating your own venue and then take it to any location you like in the form of a roadshow. Gin brand Bombay Sapphire did this recently, taking its ‘Glass House’ – a striking giant greenhouse – on the road around the UK, which included mixology lessons and an engaging glass art show reflecting the ingredients of the drink. It chose locations that chimed with the brand, such as a swanky area of the City of London.

P&MM’s Hunt sums up the ultimate aim of any venue search. “If the right venue has been selected,” he says, “there should be no issue of your brand being lost or overshadowed.” Just complimented and strengthened.

One of the best ways to get to grips with choosing the right venue for your brand is seeing how as many other companies as possible have done this successfully. This week on EVENTS:review you’ll see how Vauxhall did it perfectly, while next week you’ll find out why fellow car manufacturer smart, owned by Mercedes, flew its staff off to Miami.

Then concluding our Venue vs Brand trilogy, you’ll also find out how to make your brand stand out in the venue you’ve chosen.

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