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October 23, 2006

VENUE vs BRAND: There can be no winner

There are many factors that affect where you choose to hold your event – cost, location, size, facilities, transport connections and so on. But what many companies fail to take into account is brand fit. What happens if the venue you choose for your event clashes with your brand values?

At best the impact of your message is lessened, or as Benjamin Hunt, business development manager of event organiser P&MM’s Travel & Events division, puts it: “If your diamond ring is dulled by the opulence of the packaging, it’s in the wrong box.” At worst, the message you’re trying to deliver – quite simply the aim of the event – will be seriously undermined, making the event ineffective, and even damaging to your company.

“All elements of the experience you are offering must communicate the message you want your audience to understand,” says Mark Wheeler, group marketing manager, Knowledge Worker Solutions at software company Adobe. “The venue is an integral part of the experience. A stately home or pin-striped gentlemen’s club just wouldn’t fit a company that is trying to convey a message of innovation and forward-thinking. Brands must pick their venues very carefully – creating their own if needs be – to ensure that they’re projecting the right brand message to their audience.”

In fact, as Wembley Stadium’s Jackie Boughton points out, get the venue spot on and it can actually support and boost your brand. “A venue can often be the point of differentiation between one event and another, and strengthen a brand,” she says.

Take, for example, the conference that fashion retailer Matalan held to re-launch its brand – clearly a crucial event where failure to deliver the right message is not an option. “We decided to use the Reebok Stadium [home to Bolton Wonderers Football Club], not only for its capacity and great location, but because the space was a shell onto which we could project the brand,” explains Julie Besbrode, director at creative events and video company Fresh, which organised the event. “We used stunning visual merchandising graphics, point of sale posters and a set and staging that took over the entire conference room. It had an enormously positive impact and delegates were truly immersed in the brand.”

Conversely, for a recent run of Marks and Spencer events that took place nationwide, Fresh scoured Britain for venues with a certain “x-factor”, as Besbrode describes it, rather than a blank canvas to build upon.

“For another conference we produced for Marks and Spencer, we chose Knebworth Park, as we wanted a truly dramatic backdrop to the event,” she adds. “The fit was perfect with a really special, wintry feel, and delegates were transported from everyday life, as they drove down a winding driveway past deer and the beautiful country house. The venue’s sense of heritage bolstered Marks and Spencer’s quintessentially English brand.”

Your corporate image and brand is a vital tool in creating that all-important element of differentiation against your competitors, which is crucial to win over not only customers, but also employees. So make sure you take it into account when you choose a venue for your next event.

This is the first in a series of weekly articles aimed at helping you choose the right venue for your brand. Simply look for the 'Venue versus brand' label.
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