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How Event Branding Boosts Attendance, Sponsorship Dollars — and Your Organization’s Profile

As you approach the deadlines for your organization’s annual event, the pressure only grows. After all, no matter whether you’re set to stage a gala, fundraiser, or convention for members, the gathering provides a crucial connection with your most valuable audience.

If you host events for your members, you know attendance and sponsorship numbers from those events have a significant effect on your bottom line. Each event presents an opportunity to energize or even expand membership and increase revenue. To unlock your event’s real potential, you need to incorporate clear, consistent branding and an elevated design.

Events present a chance to create a physical extension of who you are as a brand. When executed properly, event branding delivers an experience that engages members while elevating the value and perception of your organization.

What Do We Mean by Elevated Event Branding and Design?

Branding your event requires more than a color scheme and clever theme. Any association can create collateral pulled from a few standard design templates and hope for the best. But how do you take an event to the next level?

Put simply: you create an event experience that’s smart and elevated. When we say smart, what we mean is that your event’s design is inspired by strategic decisions rather than arbitrary preferences. Each detail and design element you choose to incorporate into your event should be there because it reinforces the goals of your organization.

However, an elevated event experience doesn’t only communicate all the right things to embody your brand’s position. It can also inspire your members with a cohesive visual presentation and create a positive connection with your brand.

Think of what happens when you dine at a high-end restaurant. From the moment you check in with the host all the way up through dessert, your experience has been curated to communicate a message about where you are. Your event should provide the same elevated, consistent experience for your members.

Successful Events Rely on a Unified Purpose and Vision

From the earliest stages of marketing to the moment members leave the venue, the most successful events deliver an experience consistent with their brand. They are planned around a distinct set of goals. Every element of the event reflects a unified narrative and central purpose that serves the organization. 

For example, if one of the goals of your event is to encourage renewals, then a well-branded event provides an opportunity to boost enthusiasm for members. If they feel energized and engaged by an event that’s elevated, cohesive, and exceeds expectations, they’re more likely to attend more events. And event attendance is a key element of member retention. 

Any event is a two-part experience: The pre-event marketing and the in-person experience. Months beforehand, your communications should set the tone by providing a consistent journey from the save-the-date announcement through ongoing marketing. At the event each interaction with your members is a moment that adds to or detracts from the overall experience.

A successfully branded event comes down to bringing three elements into alignment:

  • Quality of production: Is everyone on the team, from AV to the event planner, working together to maximize the attendee experience around the same goals? In our experience, collaboration and synergy can quickly take an event from good to great. 
  • Quality of content: Is your program and its messaging consistent with the event’s purpose and your organization’s goals? Relevant and valuable content is the backbone of a successful event. 
  • The marketing and visual experience: Is every visual element leading up to and during your event communicating a clear message that’s right for your brand? Up until they walk in the door, this is all attendees and sponsors have to judge your event by.

At Position, we align each of the elements above by collaborating with your team and event planners to ensure all aspects of your conference or gala reinforce your brand’s story. By shaping all the details into a cohesive whole, your organization delivers a more engaging experience for the audience who matters most.

Successful Event Branding Is an Extension of Your Organization

Organizations like yours host events for a number of reasons. Bringing your members together can provide real educational or inspirational value, convert attendees to members, and increase revenue through additional sponsorship. With the help of the right partners, your events can become game-changing assets for your organization. 

When Associated General Contractors of California wanted to breathe new life into their organization and events, we helped them evolve their 100 year old brand and reimagine their industry conference. With AGC’s new strategic branding in place for its events, the organization increased attendance for CONSTRUCT 2021 by 31% and sponsorships for their Gala by 300%.

Your ability to deliver an experience that serves your organization’s goals is a complicated, high-stakes undertaking. You shouldn’t have to navigate all the details on your own.

How to Know Your Event Needs a More Thoughtful Approach to Branding

A conference that acts as an extension of your brand reinforces the value of belonging to your organization. The equity you gain from a successful event constitutes something of a loop.

The more engaging experience your members have, the more likely they are to attend the following year and renew their membership. As member attendance and engagement grows, so do sponsorship dollars.

Your event branding should add to the overall perception of your brand among your members and in the marketplace. But knowing whether the time is right to take your event to the next level depends on your organization. If attendance has been lagging, sponsorships have been flat, or you want to unlock untapped potential, it’s time to create a more engaging experience that’s aligned with your brand. If you’re ready to create a flagship event for your organization, we should talk.

Before Making Branding Investments for Your Member-Driven Organization, Analyze Impact

Branding is the sharpest tool you have to attract and keep members. But it’s also a way to realize your organization’s purpose by building recognition and trust. There’s no question about it: if you want to grow your member-driven organization, you need to invest in branding. 

Deciding what branding efforts to pursue — and when — isn’t easy. Should you start with a website rebuild? A microsite for an upcoming campaign? Or should you start with something much smaller, like a presentation template? Of course, budget plays an important role in your branding plan. But so do your CEO and board members. It all adds up to a lot of pressure to get it right — the first time.

You’ve got to identify your most pressing problems and opportunities so you know which solutions to prioritize. That requires beginning your branding work with an expert analysis of your current brand ecosystem.

Partnering with an agency specializing in member-driven organizations can give you the truth about your current branding efforts. You’ll get the benefit of unbiased expertise, which will help minimize the risk of future bad brand investments. Plus, a thorough analysis can assure your resources will be used to maximize positive impact on your organization and your members. 

3 Brand Investment Mistakes Organizations Make

Organizations never want to make bad investments, yet it happens all the time. A poor choice can do more than derail your branding plan; it can harm your organization’s reputation. And when you don’t have an unlimited budget, it might be years before you can make another significant investment. 

There are three ways organizations like yours can make mistakes with their brand investments.

1. Setting the Wrong Budget

Sometimes the approved budget doesn’t support the real investment that’s required to produce results. It can take months to secure a branding budget. If the budget isn’t adequate, you might be tempted to settle for cheap solutions. 

2. Miscalculating the Timeline

It’s not just the budget that can cause problems; timelines can, too. For example, you may discover you actually need a new messaging platform before the website rebuild you mapped out. Your timeline could potentially double! And, of course, reworking your entire proposed timeline negatively affects your carefully laid plans, and  relationships with others in your organization. 

3. Carrying Out the Wrong Solution

Budget and time pressure can lead to choosing solutions that are cheaper and faster — which may not be solutions at all. All elements of your brand interact and build on top of each other, so one incorrect decision will have a ripple effect. 

It’s also all too easy to prioritize the wrong element. You may believe website redesign should be your priority, but the truth is that you need a brand identity redesign first. Your organization could spend time and money on a solution that doesn’t get you the results you hope for.

Begin With an Objective Evaluation Before Making Investments

Avoiding the common mistakes starts with clearly evaluating the current state of your brand. An outside partner like Position can precisely diagnose issues and build a personalized brand plan to ensure your investment is a good one. And that begins with an audit of the totality of your organization’s current brand positioning and ecosystem. After all, accurately mapping the way forward requires knowing your starting point. 

Discover Where to Maximize Impact By Auditing Your Current Brand Ecosystem

Current Brand Positioning

We’ll start by asking these broad questions about your brand positioning:

  • What is the purpose of your organization?
  • Who does your organization serve and what are their needs?
  • Where is your organization going?

The way we gather and analyze positioning information helps us understand your organization’s underlying challenges and opportunities.

Current Brand Ecosystem

Auditing your brand ecosystem is a rigorous process. We will detail what components are present and whether or not they are in alignment with your organizational mission and identity.

We will evaluate your organization’s:

  • Resources (budgets, board, staff, vendors, and volunteers)
  • Brand system and collateral 
  • Digital platforms
  • Current and past campaigns and initiatives
  • Current and past strategic marketing plans
  • Demographics research 
  • Current vendor relationships and contracts
  • Sponsor contracts
  • Member benefits

Once we understand your past and current state of affairs, member personas, and organizational goals, then we can help prescribe the right solutions. 

Formulate a Custom-Built Plan of Action

Auditing your brand positioning and ecosystem provides time for us to collaborate with you. We’ll gain understanding of your challenges as you see them, and share our understanding of your challenges as we see them. Together, we will prioritize the items in your custom plan of action to maximize your budget and potential impact.

There’s no one-size-fits-all solution. Each membership organization has unique priorities, and each marketing director comes with their own expertise. Even though membership organizations are all different, you can rely on the stability of our experience. You won’t have to wonder — or wrongfully assume — cost, timeline, or optimal order of projects.

Naturally, needs differ from organization to organization, but the following serve as examples of potential plans of action. We might:

  • Redesign your member onboarding process.
  • Rework and strengthen your messaging platform to amplify all other brand efforts.
  • Redirect resources allocated to a new website feature to curation of a robust email newsletter.
  • Create a sponsor deck to help you raise money for an important initiative.
  • Prioritize rebranding events before building a website.

Leaning on our expertise in robust brand ecosystems will align/enhance your marketing efforts to maximize results. Our objective report and detailed, custom strategy illuminates the right path forward. You can get it right the first time and avoid additional costs for re-dos and rebuilds. 

Brand change requires wise use of your resources. But most importantly, it requires a willingness to review, reflect, and listen to sound advice. If you’re ready to make the right investments to serve your members better and attract more prospects, let’s talk.

The Member-driven Organization’s Brand Guidelines Toolkit

Your members see you as one organization and one brand experience. They can’t distinguish between your membership, finance, marketing, or events departments. For their experience with your brand to be a good one, you need to consistently deliver the same messaging across all departments and channels. The first and crucial step to ensuring that happens is to create strong brand guidelines.

Good brand guidelines are more than a catalog of logo usage, colors, and fonts. They communicate your organization’s reason for being — your mission, values, and vision — in a way that’s relatable and memorable. Brand guidelines, when applied diligently, build your member’s trust in and loyalty to your organization. 

The best brand guidelines have three distinct qualities and ten essential components. Once you check each of these boxes, you’ll have a flexible system for every part of your brand experience.

3 Qualities of a Strong Brand System

Your brand identity forms in a member’s mind through a long process over multiple experiences. It requires time to build equity with your audience and present a unified story. To keep your brand story clear in the minds of members and future members, your team should be armed with comprehensive, cohesive, and flexible brand guidelines. 

Comprehensive

A good brand system is like a well-stocked Italian pantry. A good chef can make hundreds of different dishes with the same ingredients, but they’re all unmistakably Italian dishes. Similarly, your brand should be fully stocked with tools for every use case. No matter where or how a member experiences your organization, your brand should be unmistakable. So whether you’re designing a brochure, shooting a video, or planning the stage of your marquee event, you’ll need to choose the right set of tools from the many in your comprehensive system.

Cohesive

Your brand elements must be anchored by a common story. Though those elements need to create variety and interest, they must be consistent, recognizable, and reinforce the same core brand narrative. Your name and logo are only the start: an interrelated system of fonts, colors, textures, patterns, image styles, messaging characteristics, positioning statements, and more all work cumulatively to reinforce one clear story and bring your organization to life.

Flexible

Your guidelines need to allow for elements to be assembled and tailored in a way that can handle any number of applications. A robust and thoughtful system will allow for many different combinations of brand elements that will keep your brand fresh longer. Keep in mind that flexibility can be a double-edged sword. If you give too much flexibility and freedom, you’ll sacrifice potency and brand equity. 

Your brand elements are reflective of your greater brand strategy. Over time, you’ll need to evaluate how your messaging is being received and make changes as needed. 

10 Components of a Robust Brand System

The modern world is a very noisy and competitive space. Other brands, many of them with huge budgets, are competing for your members’ attention. In order to make a lasting impression and break through the noise, you’ll have to be deliberate and consistent as you build out your toolkit. 

These ten components are necessary to help you do just that.

1. Messaging 

Messaging is the art of choosing the right words to capture the essence of your brand. It helps define how your brand is perceived and articulated. It’s one of your most important tools. 

Brand messaging starts with the heart of your team and works outward to members and prospects. Every individual in your organization, from the CEO and the board to the administrative assistant and volunteers, needs to embrace and embody your carefully chosen messaging.

Strong internal messaging allows your organization to: 

  • Speak with one voice. Sharing common language may sound limiting and restrictive, but it’s actually freeing — no improvising, guessing, or researching necessary.
  • Build confidence. When your team shares language, it builds a sense of belonging and ownership. Plus, being empowered with shared language allows them to easily create complementary conversations about your brand with members and potential members. 

It’s natural for team members to think messaging only belongs to marketers. But relegating messaging to writers shortchanges not only the rest of your staff but also your board, volunteers, stakeholders, and vendor partners. 

Specific messaging components include:

  • Manifesto/Mantra. The mantra is the base element from which the brand promise, positioning, tone, tagline, character, voice, and other messaging stem.
  • Brand promise. Your brand promise is what you want every person to feel, think, or experience every time they interact with your brand. 
  • Positioning Statement. Your positioning statement outlines who you are, what you do, who you do it for, and how you’re different.
  • Voice. Your brand voice encompasses the tone and style you use when talking to your members and prospects.
  • Character. Your brand character is a set of human characteristics and attributes that come together to give your organization a unique personality.
  • Organizational messaging expresses who you are, what you do, what you believe, and describes standard services.

All of your marketing efforts flow out of these defining brand elements.

2. Logo

Your logo is a powerful strategic brand tool and the foundation for your brand’s visual identity. It acts as the face of your organization, and, as such, must be both unique and memorable. Your logo should aim to differentiate you from your competitors.

This keystone brand element needs to be handled carefully. Your guidelines need to outline how and when to use different versions of your logo and how to access the most current files to use and share with partners. Along with the rules, don’t forget to include the why of your logo. What does it represent? What are the meanings behind different elements and colors? A good understanding of the why goes a long way in the adoption of the rules.

3. Sub-branding, Co-branding, Event Branding

Sub-brands are divisions of your main parent brand (foundations, initiatives, and chapters) that share fundamental factors, personality, and image with your parent brand. Sub-brands may be appropriate when a division of your organization has a specific audience or a set of unique goals. For example, your program manager may feel their initiative warrants a unique brand solution. It may be a good idea — or a bad distraction. Setting parameters and guidelines guides staff to make decisions that are in alignment with your brand as a whole.

However, sub-brands do come with the risk of diluting your brand’s impact and equity. The more distinct your initiatives and programs look, the less likely they are to be associated with the parent brand. People may love your event or mentorship program, but is it clear that it is yours when it comes time for sponsorship or passing legislation?

Have a discussion with outside experts and your leadership to get a range of perspectives on the need for (and risks of) sub-brands. If you decide to move ahead, set clear rules and guidelines on how sub-brands are to be handled. 

Co-branding is a partnership between your brand and another one. Co-branding can be a strategic way to build awareness and drive business if your brands share values and an audience. You’ll need to consider how you will partner with another organization on an initiative ahead of time. If you don’t make plans for co-branding in your guidelines, you may end up risking your brand reputation and budget. 

Events are core opportunities to impress, rally, connect, educate, and inspire your members or potential members. Member-driven organizations need to set guidelines for events, too. The branding of these events says a lot about the caliber of the event and reflects back on the entire organization. It also sets expectations for sponsors and attendees before the event happens. 

Your events need to be tied visually to your organization’s brand, but they can have their own unique look and feel. Ideally, your brand system has anticipated event use cases and accounted for them in the guidelines.

4. Typography

Fonts are one of the most commonly used elements of a brand system. Typographic styles are an integral part of the brand tapestry you’re weaving. For example, if you’re a progressive, modern, technical association, you may choose a versatile sans serif typeface to represent your brand. Or if you’re a humanistic or journalistic organization, you may choose a serif typeface. There are an infinite number of possibilities.

Depending on the attributes your organization wants to communicate, you may want to include a display or handwritten typeface as well. These special use typefaces require clear parameters.

Make sure you think through consistency across mediums (web and print.) Specify alternative systems fonts for each of your custom brand fonts when they aren’t available. 

5. Color

Colors are loaded with meaning; the colors you choose should reflect your brand’s values, character, and tone. You’ll want to establish how primary, secondary, and tertiary colors should be used. Generally, the fewer colors you have, the more impactful your brand will be. More colors give your brand more flexibility but less distinctiveness. 

As you make color choices, remember over 8 million Americans have a vision impairment. These people might rely on a screen magnifier or a screen reader or have a form of color blindness. Follow accessibility standards in all mediums.

6. Shapes, Treatments, Texture & Patterns 

Textures and patterns can also go a long way to giving depth and personality to a brand. For example, rubbed blue jeans and concrete textures communicate that a brand represents blue collar members who work hard. Marble patterns often communicate higher education and government. Whatever you choose, specify how these additional elements should be used in your guidelines. 

7. Photography/Video

You should specify a photographic/video style, lighting, and editing style. If you have a distinct demographic you serve or specific diversity, equity, and inclusion goals, make sure to include guidelines on who should be in your photos and videos. 

Because events are a big part of member organizations, consider adding a subsection about shooting events in your guidelines. That way, anytime you hire a professional photographer or videographer to capture one of your events, they’ll have clear ideas of your organization’s dos and don’ts. If you have an online photo library, link it in your guidelines and leave instructions on how to gain access.

If you have standard branded video bumpers (intros and outros) link them in your guidelines as well. 

8. Iconography

Icons are used more often than you may think. The icons your organization uses should reinforce your brand aesthetic and story. You may want to develop a custom icon library that will save you time and money in the long run. If your organization creates a lot of fact sheets or reports, you will want to invest in creating a library of your most frequently used symbols. 

9. Illustration

Illustrations are a powerful communications tool when you need to convey concepts that don’t fit in the frame of a photo or the confines of reality. They can also provide a strong dose of your brand’s personality and be a visual differentiator. Like any other visual element, you need to be consistent with your illustration style and tie it to your brand (i.e. utilize your color palette.)

10. Brand in use

Your document full of rules and guidelines can seem quite conceptual and theoretical. So it’s wise to show your brand “in action” as well. In this section of your guidelines, show brand components applied across a variety of mediums (for example, on letterhead, presentation decks, signage, and events).

Tips for Ease of Use

You don’t want your brand guidelines to be a burden to your team; you want it to make their jobs easier. Creating a quick reference guide and offering appropriate training will help them on their way. 

Reference Guide

You don’t want your team to be overwhelmed by rules, so simplify the brand guidelines adoption process. Make and distribute an easy one-page cheat sheet with top brand elements you want everyone to use regularly, like color codes and typeface specifications. 

Training

Schedule meetings with your entire staff to educate them on the brand. While not every department needs to be educated on every guideline, everyone needs core brand and messaging training. Depending on your company culture and dynamics, it may be best to leverage the “outside authority” of your branding partner and have them deliver this presentation.

Final Thoughts on Brand Guidelines

After all your brand guideline work is complete, you’ll need to keep your guidelines from getting outdated. Instead of managing files in several places, consider a DAM system that allows you to maintain a single digital source of truth. This is a very helpful solution if you produce a lot of different materials with a variety of vendors or have a large distributed team. 

Your brand guidelines need to be maintained, enforced, and celebrated. Throw a party and gift your employees new branded apparel and swag. Your guidelines can seem like a lot of new rules and extra work. So make sure people understand what the brand is communicating, why it will benefit them, the organization, and most importantly — your members.

A sophisticated brand system and accompanying guidelines document are some of the best investments you can make in your organization. Expert designers, writers, videographers, and photographers will understand how to innovate within your brand system and engage your members, present, and future. Done right, a branding system cuts to the chase, answers questions, focuses resources, and empowers good people to do amazing work.

10 Steps to Ensure Your Membership Organization’s Branding is Adopted

If you’re initiating a rebrand for your membership organization, you’ve probably known it needed to happen for a while. The evidence is clear as day: perhaps it’s been a decade since your brand got a refresh, or there’s a lack of cohesiveness in your brand elements. Or more than likely, your audiences (or services) are changing. 

While the branding need may be obvious, the way forward certainly isn’t. Rebranding requires a huge investment of your time, energy, financial resources, and reputation. And the reality is that a board member could shut the process down at the last minute and shelf your efforts. Frankly, you can’t afford that — in more ways than one. 

Follow these 10 steps to better ensure your staff and board adopt your rebranding plan. When they do, the enthusiasm of your organization’s members and prospects isn’t far behind. 

1. Identify the Stakeholders

The sooner you get buy-in from those critical to the rebranding success, the better. Naturally, that implies you need to identify just who those stakeholders are. Sure, that will include the CEO, but who else should be involved?

In addition, do some research and determine who was in your organization when branding was last approved. Understanding who made previous decisions and why they chose what they did is extremely valuable. What was that process like? 

If those who participated or witnessed the last brand evolution considered it a success, they may have emotional attachments to the results. If the last brand felt exceedingly difficult, stressful, or otherwise unsuccessful, you’ll need to have empathy for that. They may dread undergoing a rebrand as they imagine round two. 

2. Choose a Small Committee of Decision Makers

One to three people should work on the rebranding project from start to finish and make the decisions. Then, at key points, they can communicate the decisions to everyone else.

Invite whoever has the most to gain or lose on your project to serve on your committee — so long as they are trusted and respected. Make an ally out of them before they become an adversary. Of course anyone who has previous brand experience can be an asset, too. 

Whoever you choose to be on your committee has to be invested and willing to act as a champion for the rebrand. Most importantly, you’ll want to make sure committee members have integrity, energy, and resilience. After all, they’ve got to be able to speak authoritatively to your leadership and board. 

3. Get Sign-offs at Key Milestones

There are several points in the rebranding process in which you’ll want to include more than your committee. You’ll want your CEO and board president to sign off on:

  • The creative brief so they agree on the goals and constraints of the project. 
  • The chosen concepts, which aligns the team on the direction. 

You may want to pull in the department heads for involvement and approval as well. 

The rebranding process is a cumulative one — each decision impacts the following. When key players sign off at key milestones, they’ll all feel ownership and responsibility for its success. 

4. Listen to Staff and Board

Conduct a survey to gather feedback from staff and board members. Be sure to ask specific questions regarding their thoughts and feelings about your organization. Surveys can be done online or in person.

Weigh out whether to do it yourself or have a third-party administer the survey. Individuals will typically honestly and openly share their feelings in a survey given by a neutral source.

Listen and take into account valid concerns. Your staff and board will then feel legitimately connected to the branding project — and more likely to embrace and defend it.

5. Conduct End User Research

Staff and board aren’t the only ones you need to listen to. There’s no substitute for knowing the end-users: your members. 

It’s all too easy to extrapolate that other opinions might accurately represent your members.’ Working on that assumption, though, can prove costly. Instead, use objective quantitative data at your disposal (like demographics) and qualitative research (like surveys, focus groups, and interviews) to better respond to your members’ actual needs.

6. Present One Solution 

The entire board only needs to hear the one rebranding solution you’ve settled on. They ought to be told explicitly what problem it’s solving and how it solves it.

However, the board presentation is more than a courtesy call.

The board has chosen who is heading up the rebranding project. Now, it’s time for them to trust they’ve made the right choice and prove it with a vote of confidence. Or, if they identify serious issues with your solution, now’s the time for you to make adjustments. If step 4 is done properly, this shouldn’t be an issue.

7. Develop a Realistic Rollout Plan

Remember, the people on your committee have day jobs. The plan you outline needs to work within those human constraints. Ask these questions as you plan:

  • Are specific team  members suited to specific tasks?
  • Is the workload balanced and paced reasonably across staff?
  • Do we have a budget for outside assistance? 
  • What needs to be prioritized  on the timeline?
  • What milestones should be on the timeline?

8. Build Strong and Comprehensive Brand Guidelines

Easily accessible and usable brand guidelines will help ensure that staff can implement new brand components. Your brand guidelines reflect your organization’s messaging, voice, and visuals. It’s the instruction manual from which you build your organization’s identity. Cohesiveness of all visual elements and messaging is vital as you communicate your new brand. 

9. Facilitate Staff Brand Awareness

Your entire organization should be introduced (or re-introduced) to the branding work upon its completion. Handing them a swag bag won’t cut it. Your staff members will be your biggest asset or liability, so you’ve got to educate them and convert them into brand champions.

Your brand is more than your logo and colors; it’s who your organization is. Have conversations about how your branding captures your organization’s purpose and promise. Show the staff all the new tools at their disposal. And encourage them to embody the brand with pride.

10. Make it fun.

It’s not everything, but your staff will love a swag bag. And they’ll enjoy a launch party. 

While it’s fun to wear a tee and drink from a mug featuring your updated logo, the results of rebranding work can actually be much more profound. Rebranding is not a “marketing thing.” When done right, rebranding can inspire and revitalize your entire organization.

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