Developing a strong brand for your event can help build credibility, loyalty, recognition and support. It helps attendees buy-into your brand promise and allows them to feel they are making a statement about themselves by their very participation. But how exactly do you go about developing an event brand? And what are the characteristics and elements involved?
Let’s start with the basics before giving you lots of ideas, inspiration and best practice advice on bringing your event brand to life.
What is Event Branding?
When an event is branded well, it takes on a life of its own whilst maintaining the essence or brand values of the organisation behind it.
Event marketing departments achieve this with a combination of digital branding (event apps, event website, email marketing) and onsite branding (exhibition stand, banners, badging, set and stage design etc).
Those that do it exceptionally well, add creativity, tone of voice, plus a trusted delegate experience to achieve a must-attend event.
Think MWC Barcelona, organised by the leading industry trade body for the mobile sector, or Dreamforce in San Francisco, hosted by Salesforce – an American cloud-based software company.
These are stand-alone, not-to-be-missed experiences but if you scratch the surface, the companies who organise them are clearly visible and their brand values are seamlessly aligned.
Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference is another example, known for its creative sessions, streamlined design, hip entertainment and modern innovations. These are all descriptors that could also apply to the Apple brand itself.
Your event may not carry the same kudos as an Apple conference, a Mobile World Congress or a Dreamforce experience, but there’s definitely things you can learn from the way that they and others like them, approach event branding.
Why is Event Branding Important?
Shaping how attendees, stakeholders and sponsors remember your event and what values they associate with it is vital to the growth of the business and long-term appeal of your event marketing.
When you brand your event, it helps delegates to recall positive emotions relating to a product or service. They’ll associate your business with the live event experience and if you’ve done your job well, that positive association will result in a repeat sale, new customer, or brand advocate.
Event Branding Ideas
An event’s brand is a combination of factors, which may include a logo, set and stage design, exhibition stands, social walls, banners, marketing collateral, goodie-bags and more.
Let’s look at five ideas.
The gifts that delegates take home with them should reflect both the event brand and the brand values of the organisation behind the event. So don’t settle for environmentally unfriendly plastic promotional items such as pens and toys. Instead, really consider the brand messaging and tone of the event and chose merchandise that will remind delegates of why they had such a positive event experience.
For example, if the tone of your event is relaxed and the messaging is inspirational, why not treat delegates to calming branded herbal teas so they reflect on your brand whilst enjoying a cuppa.
If the tone of your event is supercharged and the messaging motivational, perhaps consider a branded ‘morning after’ wellness kit. Your delegates will thank you.
2) Social Wall
A branded social media wall is digital signage that is essentially a feed of aggregated live posts from various social media channels such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.
The displayed live posts generally have an event hashtag associated with them e.g. #CventCONNECTEurope.
The social media wall automatically refreshes for new posts attached with the hashtag, which encourages attendees to keep sharing their unique and exciting moments at the event.
Creating an interesting social media campaign with catchy and innovative hashtags and displaying the user posts on the online feed makes attendees feel part of a tightly structured exclusive group. This generates more interactions and keeps the buzz going around your event.
A social wall is also a great way to allow sponsors to announce giveaways, rewards, and contests through a mix of full-screen announcements and live tickers displayed throughout the event.
3) Event App
According to CrowdCompass’ Mobile App Benchmark Report, overall event app adoption increased 15% over the past year.
Attendees not only actively seek-out an event’s app, they also expect every event to now have an app that features both rich content and branded functionality that will enhance their attendee experience.
Engagement is the ultimate goal of any mobile event app. A successful app is one that encourages in-app engagements, which drive in-person actions such as attendee networking, session interactions, or an increase in future event registrations, revenue or other important ROI metrics.
CrowdCompass’ study found that ‘Superstar’ events are more likely to have an app that features, 37 pages (19% higher than average); at least three maps; 15 push notifications (30% higher than average); at least three in-app banners; the ability to schedule appointments; session-level surveys and polls; gamification elements; and the means by which to post to a social event wall.
4) Set and stage design
By ensuring that your attendees maintain eye contact with your event brand by incorporating it into the set and stage design, you’re creating a subconscious link, which will trigger positive feelings towards your company whenever that brand is recalled or recognised.
If your event branding is circular, why not consider incorporating it into a circular stage design, which creates a more inclusive, informal feel.
Or, if your event flows between different rooms, zones and break-outs, make sure the branding is used to help attendees navigate their way around. Create a draft of your event venue layouts, and decide how you can incorporate branding elements smartly.
5) Event logo
Your event logo may be small but the more you use it in creative ways, the mightier it becomes. Use it as part of the event lighting by projecting it onto the dance floor. Or, feature it on screens between speaker sessions and as part of push notifications from your event app.
Incorporate your event logo into food, table centres, decor and drinks. The more creative you are, the more likely attendees will share images of your brand across social media.
Event Branding Elements
Your event website, social media and event email marketing campaigns all represent valuable opportunities for communicating your event’s brand.
The event website should be an extension of the brand the event is for and not a completely separate entity. So even though it’s a micro site, it needs to be recognisable as belonging to the organisation creating the event.
Keep these six things in mind when designing your event website and you won’t go far wrong.
Your organisation’s logo is the most important and recognisable image that needs to be on your event website. Make sure the logo used is high resolution — you don’t want a grainy logo to be the first thing a potential attendee sees. It doesn’t need to be the biggest element on the page, but it does need to be there. Adding a logo to the header or top of the page will ensure that website visitors see it. If your event has a logo and your company has a different one, put both on the website.
2) Colour scheme
Most likely, your event colour scheme aligns in some way with your logo or your company brand colours. This is not the time to deviate from your brand palette and try a crazy combination of fuchsia and neon yellow (unless those happen to be your company colours).
Keeping website colours the same, or in the same theme, as company colours will make your website recognisably aligned with your brand.
Some sites only offer a limited selection of fonts to choose from. Think past the default and try to find a font that most closely matches your standard company font. Your attendees are used to seeing your unique font and associate it with your brand. Don’t make them wonder why your event website features Comic Sans when your company font is a more professional Gotham.
Don’t over-complicate your layout. While you may be able to add in lots of graphics, sidebars, and design, keep it simple. Don’t be afraid of white or empty space. Information stands out more when the design or too much text isn’t overcrowding and overshadowing it. Make the main information the star of the show.
Make sure images are high enough resolution. Different screens have different resolutions and what looks good on a mobile device might look fuzzy on a large monitor. The quality of the website reflects on your company brand. If the resolution of the image you plan to use is not high enough, it might be better not to use it altogether than to risk providing the visitor a less than perfect viewing experience.
Who is this event attracting? What type of person does your company reach? Keep your ideal customer as well as your company’s branding in mind when writing copy for the website.
If you’re planning a serious conference, speak professionally. If your company tone is casual, don’t use big words, sterile descriptions, or abbreviations.
Event marketers use email marketing to directly reach out to prospective attendees, potential sponsors, speakers and partners.
Once these prospects have signed-up or registered to your event, email will remain a primary communications tool, at least until everyone has download the event app and begun engaging with app notifications.
Given the important role that email plays therefore in the build-up to your event, the event’s branding will need to be incorporated into any email marketing template.
This means that similarly to your event website, you’ll want to showcase event brand colours, fonts, logos and themes in the design of your email campaigns.
Make sure that the place you’re sending the reader (probably your event’s registration page) is also reflective of the email design.
An event registration solution like Cvent’s platform allows you to set up and maintain consistent branding across your emails, registration page and mobile event app.
Once your templates are set-up, make sure that copy is kept simple. Leave detailed information and heavy text for your branded registration or website landing page.
The “keep it simple” rule also applies to your Call to Action (i.e. what action you want the recipient to take after reading the email). It should be as simple as “Register Now!” making it very clear to the reader.
Pro tip: Subscribe to events you admire. Pay close attention to how often you receive emails for that event, what the content of the email is, and whether the subject line was intriguing enough for you to open the email and click through.
It’s important to start a social campaign early on in the event planning process so that you can introduce the brand, build FOMO and drive awareness of event content.
Brainstorm and decide on one hashtag for your event and push this hashtag on all of your event collateral and touch points. This hashtag will ensure that your social media campaigns are all tied together and will help potential attendees find your social channels more quickly.
By introducing a hashtag, all your social media initiatives and attendee interactions will be collated within a single trending topic, which can also be broadcast onto a social wall.
It will also help you and attendees share event-related content more easily and track everything that’s relevant to your event.
Don’t forget to integrate a social share widget on all your marketing communications, including emails and web pages, to make sharing a “single-click” task.
By creating a Facebook event, users can share that they are either interested to attend or attending, a status that also pops up on their followers’ News Feeds, ultimately increasing your event’s reach.
This also lets prospective attendees know who else has already registered, which could give them the boost they need to register.
Encourage event speakers to also share the event with their social media followers (using the event hashtag, of course!)
The most effective way to promote your event brand is through multi-channel activity and a series of coordinated campaigns. These can range from email marketing to social content, newsletters, digital marketing and PR.
If you’ve staged the event before, tap into existing content assets in order to show this year’s potential attendees the excitement, atmosphere and quality from previous years.
This could take the form of a promotional highlights video, positive attendee testimonials, photography and feedback form results.
Use the blog channel on your company’s website to write posts or upload video that speaks about your event. Fresh long-form content will improve the site’s SEO, drive attendee engagement and help build your social following.
You could interview those speakers lined-up for this year, discuss outcomes from previous years, and include a relevant call-to-action such as ‘book now’ or ‘secure your place today’.
Once posted, make sure you share these blog posts across all social channels and include them in any targeted PR campaign or newsletters.
Make sure that your event is also highlighted as part of your email signature. It’s a strategy that is low effort but potentially high reward due to the number of emails you send every day.
As part of your email signature, embed a link to your event’s registration page and use the brand logo to make it stand out.
When promoting your event across social media, also consider the following tactics:
Plan your content
If a primary objective is to encourage attendees to download the event app or build excitement around a destination or speaker line-up, you may decide to prioritise visuals, videos, testimonials and competition mechanics. Content asset variety is important in order to stand out, increase reach and drive engagement.
A shared content calendar will allow you to plan your posting timeline and structure your posts according to objectives, formats, themes, key announcements and other event-related specifics. Tone of voice, brand guidelines and ‘wording types’ for social posts should be explored and agreed upon in workshops or team meetings when discussing other elements of your content calendar.
Invest in paid social
With a small investment, you can target and boost some core branded messaging about your event to the specific audience of your choice, by having a designed post appear on their LinkedIn or Facebook newsfeeds.
You can also set up sponsored tweets or Instagram posts depending on where your audience exists.
Discover what content commands the most engagement on each of your social media platforms against each of the themes, objectives and key moments included on your content calendar.
For example, if you’ve chosen to use social polls to gauge opinion or vote for certain event elements, are you getting more responses from Facebook or Twitter polls? How does the time of day, the wording of the poll and the visuals used impact poll response?
Social media analytics provide swathes of data on post performance, which may keep the marketing team happy. But analytics should also be used to assess behavioural insights into areas such as user response, best times of day to post, tone of voice, and what types of content you should be doing more of.
Understanding the social media behaviours of your event audience will ensure that they share your brand messaging and join in your event conversations.
With the world fully pivoting towards digital, a whole new vista of branding options has opened up for event sponsors and partners, through things like digital signage and mobile event apps.
To ensure sponsors get the most from their investment, here are some creative branding ideas you could recommend.
1) Photo stands
Branded photo stands are a great way to provide more visibility of your sponsor names and logos. Attendees can use different props and signs and take pictures to share on social media.
Your sponsors are then promoted beyond your event as images are viewed and shared by a wider audience. This automatically translates into more brand awareness for your sponsors, which should translate into more opportunities.
2) Virtual Reality
VR is no longer a fad or a technology only foreseeable in the distant future. VR headsets like Oculus Go and HTC Vive, are used successfully in the events industry to provide rich and interactive experiences to attendees.
Sponsors can leverage the power of VR to create an immersive product demo or to showcase their services in a nicely designed video package. This use of technology is sure to pique the interest of attendees.
3) Branded wraps
Does your venue have a grand entrance? Or maybe a few lifts or escalators you hadn’t really given a second thought to? Using an intriguing wrap can surprise attendees and offer your sponsors the space to do something creative.
Branded wraps could also act as the grand reveal following digital signage teasers as attendees make their way through the venue. Or why not offer sponsors some strategically placed wrapped vehicles in-front of the venue?
4) Branded WiFi
WiFi access is essential for the vast majority of events, especially if you want to encourage people to engage with your event on social media, or livestream speeches or panels.
A WiFi branded sponsorship package allows a brand to get in front of every attendee who logs on.
Key takeaways and best practice
Regardless of event type, developing a good brand strategy will help you design and promote your event more effectively.
To tie it all together, here’s some final things to keep in mind.
- Consider the brand promise of the event and incorporate it into design and messaging. Make sure that it’s unique, meaningful, authentic and consistent across every attendee touchpoint.
- The more a brand promise resonates with event attendees, the more they’ll buy into what your event sets out to deliver.
- When designing your event brand, what are the fonts, colours, logos and themes of your event? Ensure that these are also consistent across social media, websites, the event app, email and newsletter marketing, promotional giveaways, set and stage design, badges, banners and all event collateral?
Finally, don’t go at it alone. Share the event branding with sponsors, speakers, and other teams within the company and propose joined-up promotional ideas to ensure that you are taking full advantage of their wide networks.