Exclusive: Event Marketing Extends Beyond Being On Brand

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marketingAs an event marketer, my colleagues and I often get caught in the minutia of event deliverables—whether it’s graphics and production or flowers and décor. And why not? Those tangible aspects are instrumentally important to the success of a program.

However, looking back over the many events I’ve led, I recommend a focus on logistics over logos to optimize attendees’ overall brand experience.

Don’t get me wrong—I’m not suggesting you ignore logos, brand standards, and a consistent look and feel themed across all messaging. I’m strongly in favor of those things. What I am saying is that you extend that effort to the overall experience your guests will have—from pre-event promotions and registration to onsite logistics, through post-event follow up.

Let’s look at a real-life example of an event mishap to make my case:

At a national sales meeting in Las Vegas, an impressionist who could emulate a wide range of popular singers was hired as an entertainer for a 500-person audience during an evening banquet. The performer was introduced with proper thanks to the sponsors, the introduction connected with the event theme, the stage was lit in coordinated colors, and excellent sound and lighting amplified the show. Everything was “on brand.”

Prior to getting on stage, the entertainer asked to identify someone from the audience to serenade during the show. Logically, a representative from the sponsoring company was selected to give the sponsor more recognition.

Whether it was planner naivety, the “what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” energy in the room, or the three shots of vodka the singer had before performing, the audience soon saw that that he wasn’t just crooning to the sponsor, he was twerking and dancing in his lap! While that type of entertainment may fit some corporate cultures, it did not fit this client’s culture. And it created quite an unwelcome buzz.

A very much on-brand business event quickly went off the rails, leading to a looser level of employee behaviors after the performance ended.

Lessons Learned

What can we learn from this mishap?

· Inspect what you expect: Don’t expect the client’s cultural expectations of appropriateness to automatically align with the performer’s expectations of good entertainment. Ditto jokes in introductions and speeches, transition and break music, and guest activities.

· Ask for details: Find out how entertainers and speakers specifically will involve the audience in their presentation or performance. Clearly communicate your expectation that there be no surprises.

· Get it in writing: In this business, handshakes can bring heartaches. Review requirements verbally, provide written guidelines, and ask business partners to sign their agreement.

· Adjust as necessary: Be open to others’ creative ideas but remember that it’s your company and your brand.

· Always have a plan “B:” In this case the emcee could have been coached to intervene. In other cases, you might need to have back-up entertainment, or venue, or activity.

Have event marketing successes (or mishaps) from which we can learn? Email me. (Don’t worry—names and brands will not be shared.)

Sherri Lindenberg is Principal of SKLD MarComms, an independent consulting firm offering marketing and communications expertise to financial services clients and professional service businesses.

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