What makes an event “must attend”? Is there a well-kept secret to persuading your attendees to keep coming back — preferably with a friend or colleague in tow?

If you aren’t prepared to double your budget or hire celebrity keynote speakers, event branding is a smart way to stand out — without breaking the bank.

But first, what is event branding?

Branding is more than just your logo or catchy tagline. It’s why we think safety for Volvo but not Honda; or how TED Conference came to be known for fresh ideas.  When you brand your event guests create a mental shortcut that helps simplify how they think about a product or experience. A lightbulb will go off later that reminds them “oh yeah, that’s X company or event”

But what is event branding? Is it a specific color you use? The font on a banner? Swag bags?

Event branding is a collection of elements. Like features on a distinctive face, the more recognizable you make it, the more memorable your event. While your event brand should reflect your organization, it can — and should — be a brand of its own.

For example, people may think of your nonprofit as an aspirational good cause — that’s your brand. At the same time, you want them to think of your fundraiser as a not-to-be-missed, entertaining event. Your event brand can and should include your company’s brand with a little twist.

Think of it as a formula. Your brand + a little twist = your event brand.

Branding elements

An event’s brand isn’t one thing, it’s a combination of details — big and small — that make it wonderful and memorable. Here are a few ideas to bring your brand to life at your event.

  • Use your logo as decor: Your event is more than your logo, but it doesn’t hurt to use it in unique ways. Consider a statement wall, balloons, napkins, or projected on the dance floor.
  • Customized snacks: Brand anything edible for your foodie followers. For drinks, you could offer a special cocktail or stirring sticks with your logo on it.
  • All the small things: An unforgettable touch? Add some swag in the form of branded pens, shirts, notebooks, and stickers.
  • Social: Track likes, shares, and retweets by creating your own hashtag.

So what makes an event brand great? And how can you create a brand that resonates with attendees? First, let’s examine the essential qualities yours should have.

4 pillars of a strong event brand

A successful brand can be summed up into a single word or phrase called the brand promise. It’s not enough for your event to promise attendees “the best value” — all events should promise that, regardless of brand. Instead, the brand promise is a statement that articulates what customers — or attendees — can expect from you (and only you).

As you consider your event brand promise, make certain it possesses most, if not all, of these qualities.

  1. Unique: Above all else, your brand promise must be unique. Potential attendees want to know how your event will compare to others. So, it goes without saying that your event needs to promise something others can’t.
  2. Meaningful: In order to resonate with attendees, your brand promise must be relevant to their needs and desires. Developing a deep understanding of the customer is the first step to creating a meaningful brand experience.
  3. Authentic: Authenticity is the benchmark all brands are being tested against. To earn trust and credibility, you’ll have to be true to yourself and your brand. “Inauthenticity is one of the main detractors of brand relationships,” Eventbrite Creative Director David Scott says. “Your audience can sense when you’re faking it.”
  4. Consistent: Consistency is the last piece of the puzzle. From the first customer touchpoint to the last, every small detail must adhere to your brand promise — from your event website to the post-event survey.

The brand pyramid

Distilling your event promise can be challenging. That’s why so many events are clear on their speakers and sponsors but fall short on the emotional benefits of attending. Why is that important? A Gallup publication titled, “Customer Satisfaction Doesn’t Count” pointed out that customers who are emotionally engaged with a brand are:

  • 3x more likely to recommend
  • 3x more likely to repurchase
  • Less likely to shop around

Luckily there’s a tool to help you rise above the challenge: the brand pyramid.

In the example above, you can see how an ordinary athletic apparel company can become something more. To see this tool applied to events (with step-by-step directions), check out this post on How to Create an Event Brand. Or download the worksheet to try it yourself!

The art of a brand experience

A promise is nothing if you can’t keep it. After you’ve carefully crafted and communicated your brand promise to attendees, you’ll be expected to deliver.

Every interaction with an attendee is an opportunity to bring your event’s brand to life. From the speakers and sponsors to the giveaways in your event swag bag, sweating the details will result in long-lasting relationships with attendees.

For more in-depth insight on event branding, check out The Conference Organizer’s Guide to Branding or click any of the posts linked in the text above to read the original articles.