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November 10, 2006

VENUE vs BRAND: Standing out

Once you’ve chosen a venue for your event that complements your brand, the work doesn’t stop there. You may have gone for a venue with a distinctive character in line with your brand values and the theme of your event, but you still have to make sure that your brand isn’t overshadowed by it. If you’ve chosen more of a ‘blank canvas’, it’s vital to take steps to create an effective brand experience.

“There are a variety of ways that a company’s brand can remain prominent throughout an event,” says Melanie Hyde, events design director at live marketing agency BI. “Which tools work best depends on the event, the venue and your company. Gobos, banners and the obvious placements of logos can be incorporated – you can even use branded products to further emphasise your corporate image, such as water, table sweets, papers, pens, etc.

“Set design and decor should also incorporate branding where possible, both of the conference theme and of your company, and menus can be styled to reflect your brand. Branded room and table gifts also help the attendees remember the brand and the message of the event. Quirky tools, such as serving ‘logo’ed’ desserts, can have impact as well as being fun. We have even created marzipan versions of products and incorporated them into the dessert presentation at product launches.”

Layering brand values

However, Hyde advises not to go too over the top. “The best approach is to layer the brand values," she says. "Your brand should be evident everywhere, but in subtle touches that build up to create a bigger overall impact rather than brash brand expressions, which can come across as tacky.”

Cameron Day, new business director at experiential agency RPM, agrees, while emphasising the importance of pre and post event marketing to introduce and sustain branding and key messages.

“The best examples of brand stand out at an event are where the brand has been woven into every consumer touchpoint up to, during and after the event,” he says. “The invitation itself, and promotional material, or website start to build relevance and clearly illustrate a brand positioning. At the event itself, ensuring consistency of look and feel through the signage and branding, promotional staff, talent, food and beverage is vital. You should then follow up the event with relevant communication to make sure that the brand message is carried through.”

Supporting the brand

Of course a key player in ensuring the successful delivery of your brand values at an event is the venue itself. According to Nicholas Grimaldi of Bridgehouse Hotels, it’s down to the venue to be flexible and provide as much help as possible to support your brand.

“What often happens when a client goes to a venue for an event is that they arrive with a big creative idea, which then gets whittled down as they are met with varying rules and regulations about what they are and are not allowed to do in the venue,” he says. “In my experience the venue normally has very little interest in a client’s brand or what they need to achieve from the event.”

Grimaldi claims that Bridgehouse Hotels has turned this on its head. Instead of having the traditional Meeting and Events teams in place to help clients, each hotel has its own Experience Team.

“When a client enquires about an event at one of our hotels, a member of the Experience Team will have established what the purpose of the event is prior to the client’s site visit,” he says. “They will have also done research into the client’s brand. On arrival, a member of our Experience Team will take the client on a journey around the venue with the client’s brand firmly in mind.

Presenting a blank canvas

“We present the venue as a blank canvas,” Grimaldi continues, “so clients can do whatever they want to create the maximum impact for their event and exemplify their brand. This could be anything from dressing our staff in branded outfits, to lighting the building in a client’s colours. Our Experience Teams are then in a position to co-ordinate every element of an event, working hard to help create the right brand experience to make a much more valuable event.”

Ultimately, you need to choose a venue that’s sympathetic to your brand both physically and through the attitude and approach of its team. But you also need to make sure that you create an effective brand experience from a visual and content perspective. Only then will you get maximum return from your event.

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