Event branding is important if you’re anywhere on the scale from passionate creative turning to your dorm mate to call out “why don’t we just organize this thing?!” to professional event planner bored out of your mind of bland conference centers.
Event branding is not a corporate gimmick to push products into attendees’ faces (although some organizers and brands use it as such), it’s actually a healthy strategy you should apply to organize the right event, for the right reasons, with the right people.
Your event brand is the essence of your event concept, the reason why, the red thread that holds together all the aspects related to your event and the community into one clear identity, around a common interest or occasion. It’s the first words that come to people’s minds when they think about your gig. It’s what makes your event come to life and exist through your attendees’ experience of it.
Your event concept is the creative idea that shapes the entire event, the crowd around it, the experience in itself, the content, ideas, connections that derive from it.
To make things more tangible, it’s good practice to try and summarise your event concept in a sentence or a key visual that defines what you want this event to be. The next step is to expand it into a mood board. The mood board can contain anything from images of your core audience, of the venue you envision for your event, color palettes, textures, textiles, speakers you want to bring, quotes you imagine people tweeting from your event etc.
Create the mood board around the key visual to make it easy for anyone looking at it to follow the logic of your concept. It will help your organizing team to get on the same page as you - sometimes it’s hard to communicate something as abstract as an event brand or concept. You'll also use the mood board as validation that your concept is cohesive and consistent in every aspect of your event - this consistency is what ultimately creates your brand.
If you’re working with a new event concept, you create the event brand before your audience actually experiences it, in which phase your brand represents the expectations you create for your attendees - or all that hype. When your message is loud and clear, people will pay attention to it. That is, the right people. No event is ever meaningful to everyone. But, by having a bold concept and communicating it consistently, you will attract the crowd that will naturally support your cause, because they believe in the same thing as you, or have the same interest. Those people are connected with other kindred spirits, whose FOMO will lead them to join the event as well, the word will spread and soon enough you’ll have a proper, healthy community.
In a world of short-attention-span humans, you need to be careful when creating hype. Don’t overpromise (Fyre Festival, anyone?). Unless you can afford it, go for smaller, more frequent events created around a community with a strong brand - who knows, maybe someday it will turn into a new SXSW. Until then, keep it real.
You had a great concept, organized an awesome event, kudos to you! But your work is not done; it's time to reap the harvest of your audience's first interaction with your brand. Use it to keep the conversation going, to attract more like-minded people into the community and get them excited for the next event!
Now, if all this is still too abstract, nothing will help you get event branding right like a few examples of strong brands:
C2 Montreal / The essence of C2 is captured in their tagline: “The event where great minds don’t think alike”. This is a business conference focused on getting leaders to adopt new perspectives, be that by attending a keynote speech by Snoop Dogg or taking part in a breakout session suspended in the air. Everything about this event brings to mind that same tagline, and this is what we call good event branding.
Design Leadership Forum / This is a good example of a community first approach. The Design Leadership Forum is an exclusive group of notable design practitioners that meet regularly to discuss common interests and challenges. Their communication focuses on promoting their community in a very clean and simple manner. Their members take centre stage, their code of conduct and terms for joining are elegantly highlighted. Their identity centres around attributes such as “honest”, “candid” “confidential” (all words they use in their communication) and breathes classiness through all its pores.
Featured in: 15 / Their vision is to mix the concept of a night out with that of a meetup. TED-like talks from local creatives at a gin and tonic. What started with two London moms who wanted an opportunity to share ideas with fellow creatives turned into a proper movement (#makelondonlocal), a movie, and monthly gatherings with the coolest vibe.
Slush / This is the quintesential event brand. In every single thing they do or say, they are brash and cheeky, candid and unapologetically weird - just like their audience, the young, daring tech entrepreneurs that are changing our future one startup at a time. Even their name alludes to the totally unglamurous climate of Helsinki. You don't need the sun in Sillicon Valley to foster the energy of the world's smartest tech-heads; a startup festival described as "Burning Man meets TED" will do.