What Is Your Event Saying About Your Brand?



Austin Walk





That’s a good question, right? And a lot of us have never really thought of our events in that way. Unfortunately – whether we like it or not – there are times when we have little to no control over what defines us. Sure, we can control what we do, or the car we drive, or the colors of our logo, but we can’t influence how those actions, cars, and colors will be interpreted by others, as they draw their own conclusions. Let me give you an example.

As an avid surfer who has grown up in Huntington Beach, CA I always loved the U.S. Open surf contests. It brought my favorite pro’s to my local break where I could watch them surf, and sometimes even free surf with them in between their heats. A few years back, this event was taken over by Hurley (the surf brand clothing company), and since then, the contest has never been the same. Huge attractions were built accommodating multiple extreme sport venues. Headline bands were booked and Hurley offered free concerts on the beach. Alcohol was served gratuitously and the public was even offered free shuttles down to the beach. As I watched Hurley transform my boyhood surf contest into a money making, advertising monster, I drew my own conclusions about the Hurley brand, and what mattered most to them.

Then, two years ago, Vans (the Skateboard/Shoe company) took over the 2013 U.S. Open of Surfing. Trying to follow in the enormous footprint Hurley left behind, they followed suite – offering free mega-concerts and drawing in another enormous crowd. Their inaugural event, however, ended in massive riots, looting and destruction (for Huntington Beach anyway). This year, everybody was anxious to see how Vans would respond this summer’s 2014 U.S. Open. To all our delight, Vans essentially rebranded the entire event, replacing mosh pits and rock bands with blankets and family movie nights. Alcohol sales were limited and the entire week was advertised as “family friendly” and “getting back to our roots”. Whether intentional or not, this years event said a lot to me about the Vans brand.

So I ask again.  What do your events say about your brand? Do they truly represent what matters most to your company? Your events tell your brand story better than anything you can write, say or advertise. Your events place your proverbial money where your mouth is. So we suggest you take the time, and the detail, to tell the proper story. Here are a few pointers.

First, think of your audience. A national sales meeting, a product launch party and an office open house all have a different audience. Speak to your audience, reinforcing your brand uniquely to them. For example, potential clients and investors at a product launch party may need to know your brand is current and up-to-date with trends and technology. Book talent, build apps, and decorate your venue accordingly.

Second, pay attention to detail. For the most part, we’ve found this is impossible to adequately accomplish alone. Our marketing directors across the board are crazy busy. They don’t have the time or sanity to keep track of all the details needed to come together to create a truly remarkable event. So spend the extra budget, to hire a team of professionals who can help. It will make all the difference.

Last, try to plan your event with brand-related objectives, from the beginning. Instead of putting together a National Sales Meeting for your internal reps to merely be trained in your new products, think of what else you can accomplish, or other messages you’d like to communicate to your team. If from day one you define additional objectives – such as building a more personal relationship with leadership or helping the sales team understand your brand vision – then the planning and execution of your event will be more effective.

Whatever your brand, and whatever your goals, understand that your events help define them. Take the time, effort and budget necessary to ensure your events accurately tell your brand story.