Building a Strong Event Brand

Building a Strong Event Brand: The Event Organizer’s Guide to Brand-Driven Experiences 

As an event organizer, you likely have multiple priorities to juggle – creating value for attendees, accommodating sponsors/exhibitors, raising brand awareness, driving revenue, establishing thought leadership, and more. With so many responsibilities, it can be challenging to also focus on designing an immersive branded experience. 

However, centering your event experience around your brand identity is actually the key to unifying all those efforts into a cohesive, powerful outcome. A robust event brand strategy ensures your core messaging resonates, your audience is engaged, and you’re fostering meaningful connections that extend long past the event itself. Let’s explore how to amplify your brand voice through a thoughtfully crafted event experience. 

Building the Brand 

Before developing your event experience, take an objective look at your current brand identity and ask yourself the following questions: 

  • What is the overall sentiment and perception of my brand? 
  • How do my brand channels contribute to shaping this sentiment? 
  • Have I effectively gathered and assessed internal and external feedback? 
  • Is my value proposition clear and compelling to my target audience? 
  • Do people understand and appreciate the benefits my brand offers? 

If the answers to these questions are unclear, or if some brand elements are not aligning to tell one cohesive story, it may be time for a brand refresh. 

The Building Blocks to a Strong Brand  

While individual elements like the logo, color palette, and fonts are important visual touchpoints, the true brand essence goes beyond these visuals. A strong brand is built by bringing together a strategic vision, clear messaging, and a distinctive voice. All these elements, executed consistently across channels over time, help convey your brand’s personality and value proposition. 

Same Story, Different Result 

Upholding a consistent brand narrative builds trust, credibility, and relationships with your audience. Conversely, inconsistent branding can cause confusion and lose trust.  

To illustrate, we had a designer create two visualizations of the “building blocks” concept for comparison. If you were tasked with selecting the one that best embodies the Shepard brand, which would you choose? 

The first example aligns with Shepard’s brand voice, font, colors, and style – helping build trust. The second example, while visually conveying the same information, has a different outcome. It uses an inappropriate font, overly colorful visuals, and a background color that is typically reserved for an accent color. An inconsistent treatment like this can subtly undermine audience trust, even if the viewer can’t pinpoint exactly why it feels off-brand. 

Create a System That Works for Your Brand  

An adage widely attributed to Jeff Bezos holds that, “Your brand is what people say about your business when you’re not in the room.” The Amazon founder, known for his uncompromising style, isn’t just being hypersensitive with this quote. He’s making a valid point – perceptions of your brand spread in ways you don’t directly control. So it’s important to deliberately shape that perception. You can take control of the way your brand is perceived by implementing an integrated system, including some or all of the following components:  

  • Content Calendar 
  • Social Strategy 
  • Communication Plan 
  • Employee Advocacy 
  • Industry Participation 
  • Events

Coordinating these elements across channels in a strategic, unified way allows you to present a cohesive brand narrative at every touchpoint. 

Building the Experience 

Now that’s we’ve got some of the basics of brand building down, let’s explore how to build a branded event experience. 

The Brand is the Driver of the Experience 

With so many objectives to juggle, it can be tempting to just check boxes – provide education sessions, give sponsors a platform, execute marketing tactics…the list goes on. However, taking that fragmented approach can cause your event to feel disjointed and lack a clear through-line. Instead, keep in mind that your core brand identity should be the unifying driver steering all those efforts in a cohesive direction. Strive to root every element of your event in your brand’s core values, personality and key differentiators. From visuals and activations to content and sponsor interactions – each element should amplify your brand messaging and value proposition.  

Here are a few questions to ask yourself: 

  • How can I create a visual identity that amplifies my messaging and engages attendees?
  • How can I design an event that facilitates attendee/brand relationship building?
  • What extended brand impact do I want to achieve post-event?
  • When you know your objectives, you can design every aspect with those goals in mind. 

Create an Event Design that Amplifies Your Brand Voice 

Design for Emotion 

Design is not just about generating visual interest – it’s a tool to spark specific emotional responses and connections. Consider how different design elements like colors, shapes, imagery, etc. can subtly influence the feelings and mindset you want attendees to have. 

Design for the End-to-End Experience 

The best event designs facilitate an end-to-end experience that aligns with your brand purpose. Every touchpoint – graphics, staff interactions, etc. – should reinforce your brand. 

Design for the Environment 

The physical (or virtual) event space is a canvas to build a world attendees can explore. Use environmental design and signage to intuitively guide attendees through brand activations and experiences that showcase your narrative. Allow them to organically discover your brand’s vision. 

Design for Specific Actions 

Ultimately, your design should inspire attendees to take actions in line with your goals – whether joining a community, becoming customers, or changing perceptions about your brand’s value proposition. Build in clear calls-to-action and low-friction pathways for people to engage with your brand how you intend. 

Think Beyond Print & Digital Applications   

When designing your event experience, print materials and digital signage are important, but there is so much more to event design. You may want to try on some ideas from the world of experiential design, such as physical installations, projections, lighting, audio cues, scent, and more, to create immersive experiences.  

The key is to find a good balance between telling your brand’s story and leaving enough room for attendees to write themselves into your story and come away with an authentic experience. 

Brand Identity vs. Event Identity

Foster Cross-Team Collaboration  

Bringing your event experience to life calls for close collaboration between your marketing, design, and event teams, starting with the initial phase of ideation. Exploratory exercises like vision-boarding can help align everyone around the intended brand experience and desired emotional resonance. 

For Pantheon ’23, ServiceTitan’s annual user group conference, we needed to bridge the software company’s brand with the experience of their target audience, which includes contractors who do hands-on work. Our collaborative process helped us arrive at a cohesive theme and aesthetic palette, blending ServiceTitan’s sleek, industrial branding with grittier textures and elements familiar to their attendees. 

Visuals from the event branding process of ServiceTitan’s Pantheon ’23

With strong brand vision and buy-in across the event’s organizers and vendors, Pantheon ’23 had an exceptionally unified and distinct look and feel. The environment felt familiar to attendees accustomed to the ServiceTitan brand, and left them with a distinct impression of Pantheon as a ‘brand’ itself. 

Remember, branding is not solely the job of your marketing team. All of your partners—from your vendors and sponsors to your official service provider —can play a part in understanding and communicating the event’s brand. 

Your Attendees Are Your Best Resource  

Organizers put a lot of work into planning an on-brand event with their partners. But the attendee experience can be a whole different story. That’s why getting feedback through surveys and observations is key. Use that data to tweak your programming and activations until they really resonate with your audience. 

The Result: A Strong Event Brand Experience 

When your event experience is an authentic expression of your brand identity, everything clicks into place. You’re doing more than just promoting products; you’re fostering personal connections within your brand’s community and culture. Your event amplifies awareness while leaving a lasting impression. All those competing priorities become a powerful, unified force when viewed through the lens of your brand. So get out there and start crafting a memorable branded event experience! 

Shepard is a full-service event production company. We design, develop and manage trade shows, corporate and other events throughout the U.S.