Branding Meetings: How and Why

By Lain Ehmann

It was hard enough branding your new product line – now you have to brand your meetings too? Despite any misgivings about the new experiential events trend, creating a brand strategy for your next meeting or event makes good sense, says Marc Friedland, founder and creative director of Creative Intelligence, Inc., a Los Angeles-based experiential branding agency. Creative Intelligence has been tapped by the likes of Oprah Winfrey and Las Vegas hotelier Steve Wynn to assist in creating unique events. “The impact needs to be stronger and stronger to attract attendees and get the return on investment,” says Friedland, and branding is the way to achieve both. 

Friedland says you don’t have to have a million-dollar bank account to make your meeting or event memorable and, at the same time, more powerful and effective. Friedland suggests planners start with a theme that goes beyond the catchphrase. To create a branded event, “you need more than just a theme,” Friedland explains. Instead, meeting planners must consider each and every element of the event and how it rolls up to generate a high-level experience. “Every opportunity along the way presents an opportunity to reinforce the brand” and reaffirm your message, he says.

Once you have a theme, the next step is to develop a look and feel as well as a set of words to use when talking about the event – what Friedland calls a visual and linguistic vocabulary. “Those become your foundation,” he explains, and help create a personality for the event. Friedland also encourages planners to build expectations through their communications with attendees, and urges businesspeople not to forego “the social graces of everyday entertaining.” In other words, everyone likes to feel respected and appreciated, as well as honored, so how you communicate with and treat your guests demonstrates your intent.

The actual proceedings also should dovetail with the theme and brand. “Sometimes all the energy is put into the collateral, so that when you arrive there’s kind of a disconnect,” he says. Menu themes, decorations, special events, speaker topics and the like all help build toward the overall concept. The more the individual meeting elements are tied together, the more your goals will be reinforced.

Finally, Friedland encourages planners to think outside the box. “Try to employ innovation and imagination anytime you can,” he recommends. “If you tend to do the same old, same old you’re going to get the same old, same old.”

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