Event Branding: The 2020 Guide
Learn how to craft a solid and consistent event brand that will wow sponsors, attendees and partners in 2020. Features event branding ideas and tips from leading brands.
When people think of your event, what do they think of? No doubt, there are certain colors, fonts and services that come to mind, but what else? Personality. Attitude. Aesthetics. Your relationship to your prospects, customers, partners employees. All of these factors combine to make your event brand.
Whether you are hosting your own event or are making a presence at someone else’s event you are going to want to get your brand out there. In this guide we will take a look at everything you need to know about event branding in 2020 and beyond.
What Is Event Branding?
Event branding is capturing the essence of your organization's brand and giving it its proper due in your event marketing campaigns. This can be done both through digital branding (event websites, event apps, event email marketing) and through onsite branding (event booth, swag, cupcakes).
While your event brand should reflect your organization’s brand, it can (and should) have a brand of its own.
Maybe people normally think of your company as the fun sales technology company while at the same time they think of your event as the fun, Wild West-themed user conference. Your event brand can and should include your organization’s brand with a little twist.
We’ll discuss all of the above, especially the cupcakes, later on.
Why Event Branding Matters
Because your brand matters. Properly representing your brand and shaping how your attendees, partners and sponsors remember it are absolutely critical to the growth of your event and your business. Take a look at the following statistics:
- 79% of marketers cite increased brand awareness as the main focus for B2B content marketing. (*)
- A signature color can boost brand recognition by 80 percent (University of Loyola, Maryland)
- 45% of a brand’s image can be attributed to what it says and how it says it. (*)
- 60% of US millennials expect consistent experiences when dealing with brands online, in-store, or by phone. (*)
Consider Apple: When you think about this tech giant, a handful of ideas most likely come to mind. Creative. Different. Modern. Streamlined. Hip. Apple is an example of a company that has a rock-solid brand. On top of that, Apple does a great job of maintaining their brand across their websites, ads, retail stores, products and every aspect of their events. Their annual Worldwide Developers Conference is known for its creative sessions, streamlined design, hip entertainment and modern innovations.
Your company might not be the next Apple, but there’s definitely a thing or two that you can learn from the way that they and other all-star companies approach event branding. Let’s dive in.
Digital Event Branding
This may be the era of live events (the Event Marketing 2019 report reveals that live events represent the single-most effective marketing channel), but one reason that events have become as popular as they are is because of how well they can work in tandem with digital marketing strategies.
Your event website, event app, social media and event email marketing campaigns all represent valuable opportunities for succeeding (or failing) in communicating your organization’s brand. Here’s how:
Event Website: Design
Your event website may very well be the first touch-point that a potential attendee (or customer) has with your brand. It is essential that you clearly communicate your brand here.
When creating your event website branding you will want to keep the following in mind:
One example of a great event website design is GitHub Universe. GitHub is a tech brand known for their fun personality and minimalist design. Their Universe event website is both fun and minimalist in design—it also includes a coding theme that Github’s users are very familiar with and associate with the brand.
Source: GitHub Universe
Another great example is Sisense: Eureka. Because Sisense is a business intelligence software provider, it makes sense that their event website to be streamlined and cutting edge. You can see how the site incorporates the company colors, fonts and shapes. In contrast to this core branding, hand-drawn illustrations lend a creative twist to this celebration of business insights.
If you are using an event management platform to design your website, make sure that you have the ability of using custom fonts, colors and CSS for your website. You’ll also want to make sure that you can remove any event software branding. It’s your event and your website. You should have the option of branding it the way you want.
"Your website is your brand. A website is probably the most important visual identity you're going to have for the conference."
—Devin Cleary, PTC
Looking for more design inspiration? Check out these beautifully designed event websites.
Event Website: Templates
Handcrafting your event website so that it is completely on-brand can be a time-intensive task. But hey, whoever said that beauty is easy?
Actually, it kind of can be.
Some event success software, like Bizzabo, enables you to create event website templates to use when building future event sites. Simply create a beautiful event site and save it as a template.
And presto! You have an on-brand website template that you can build-off for future events. While this can be useful for annual events (like user conferences or summits) it can be a real life-saver when it comes to event series (like recruiting events or roadshow events).
Event Website: White Label URLs
Along with the overall design of your website, you’ll want your event website URL to be branded too. That is, you’ll want to create your own custom (or white label) URL.
If you were to use a website-building service like Wordpress or Squarespace, your site would come with a Wordpress or Squarespace branded URL. Similar to white label event apps, a white label URL is personalized to your unique needs.
Consider the below URL:
Notice how GitHub has created a custom URL that includes their event name without any branding from their website-building service.
While the choice is ultimately up to you, having a white label URL will help you provide your event attendees with a seamlessly branded experience.
Email Marketing: Design
The majority of event marketers believe that email is the most effective channel for promoting events. And for good reason. Email marketing gives you the ability to directly reach out to prospective attendees, event sponsors, speakers and partners. Once these contacts have registered for your event, email will be your primary channel for communicating important updates and reminders to them.
Given the LARGE role that email will play in your event success, you’ll want your event branding to be front-and-center in it. This means that similarly to your event website, you’ll want to showcase event brand colors, fonts, logos and themes in your email marketing design.
When it comes to on-brand event email outreach, few can compete with the the team at INBOUND. In case you're not familiar, INBOUND is one of the largest marketing events in the world. Although the event is officially produced by HubSpot, the marketing automation software company and the INBOUND have gone to great lengths to make INBOUND its own brand.
Email Marketing: Templates
You’re going to be sending out a large volume of templates. Having email templates that you can duplicate and tweak for segmented audiences is going to save you a lot of time. Email platforms like Mailchimp allow you to create email marketing templates easy-peasy.
At Bizzabo, we get it: Event marketers send a lot of emails. That’s why our all-in-one events cloud includes a comprehensive email marketing feature that *drum roll please* includes email templates.
Ready to become the event email marketing wizard you always knew you were?
Today, event apps are big. According to a study conducted by Event Manager Blog, over 40% of event planners use event apps. In a more recent study that we conducted, over 80% of the participants that we polled said that they use an event app for their event strategy.
If you’re using an event app, chances are that you’ll want it to represent your brand. While some apps require thousands of dollars to provide you with a custom experience, others will charge you far less. Learn more in our event apps guide.
Social media may not be part of your brand, but if it is, there are several things to keep in mind. Having an event hashtag will make it easier for people to talk about your event, while having a handle or page will make it easier for people to learn about your event.
Below is an example of the twitter handle for INBOUND 2019. The event handle, event hashtag, and white label URL all help to present a consistent event brand that makes it easy for people to get excited about your event.
Not only will this help you in solidifying your event brand, it will also make it easier to track and analyze discussion about your event. Some event software offer the capability to track and analyze social media data for you. Event software integrations like this will save you oodles of time.
This concludes the digital branding section of this guide. Below are some important questions to ask yourself when building out your digital strategy.
Digital branding questions to ask yourself:
- What are the fonts, colors, logos and themes of your event?
- Does your event website match your event branding?
- Are you able to use custom CSS to customize your event website to your specifications?
- If you are using an event management platform to manage your event website, do you have the ability to remove your provider’s branding?
- Does your event website have a white label URL?
- Given that email marketing is the most effective event promotion channel, how are you using it to reflect your event brand?
- To help you save time and reduce errors are you able to create email templates with your email marketing platform email?
- Does your mobile event app match your event branding?
Onsite Event Branding
Events are where the magic happens, so it’s only natural that the branding should happen there too. How you represent your brand will differ on whether you are hosting or attending an event—however many things will remain the same. Your event booth, banners, and swag are a few opportunities—but the the real magic is in your overall event design.
If you’re hosting your own event, you have the power of communicating your brand in every way that you design your event. Pretty gnarly, right? Later on we’ll look at more specific examples, but right now let’s focus on the big picture.
Different event types—like conferences and roadshows—may lend themselves to particular designs. Regardless of event type, overall design of your event should marry your company and event brands. All of the events that we have reference so far on this list do a great job of of this. But for now, let’s take a look at the online publication Social Media Examiner (SME) and their flagship event Social Media Marketing World (SMMW).
SME has a rocking brand. Adventure, exploration, khaki—all of these are part and parcel of a user’s interaction with SME. Here’s a glimpse at their website. Notice how they are plugging SMMW at the top of the page.
Source: Social Media Examiner
As fun as the SME brand is, they manage to make a strong choice for SMMW that compliments the overall company brand yet is distinct from it: Beaches. When you got to SMMW you are immediately struck by the palm trees, the sepia and beach-toned colors, and the overwhelming sensation that you’re at a beach in the Pacific Ocean and not a convention center in San Diego.
However your brand doesn’t have to be tropical to be strong. The analytics company, InsightSquared capitalized on their Boston roots by hosting their first user conference at Fenway Park:
And Apple of course is known for their sleek and simple design:
Note: If you’re hosting a trade show, your branding options may be more limited to make room for all of the vendors that will be in attendance. Still, you have plenty of options.
If you’re looking for some more event design tips download our Event Design Handbook:
As you’re branding your event, it’s important to keep in mind how you’ll still target the types of people attending your event including the experiences, the content, and the connections they’re looking to make.
Event personalization is a methodology of delivering unique experiences to each attendee rather than building an event that caters to one. To begin strategically thinking about event personalization, ask yourself:
- Who is my target audience?
- What motivates my audience?
- What are they looking to get out of an event?
- Who do they want to connect with?
- What content and speakers will be the most engaging?
By reviewing these questions, you can start to pave the way for an attendee-centric event brand that feels authentic and cohesive.
"We knew we had to turn SAPPHIRE NOW outside in, and in order to do that, we needed to be customer-first and outcome oriented. What were our customers trying to solve for? We needed to ensure that the event was integrated into the customer journey."
—Nicola Kastner, SAP
Co-branding events are a fantastic way to approach your event strategy. The focus for co-branded events is to forge relationships with partner businesses, increase brand awareness, and reach out to new markets or strategic clients you may not have access to on your own.
There are two primary ways to approach co-branded events:
One is co-hosted events. These events require a lock-step approach with your partner while you’re building the event, preparing your outreach, and executing day-of-event activities.
For example, Bizzabo co-hosted an event with On24 called Experience This! in Boston. The event catered to B2B marketers looking for inspiration and ideas for building great online and offline experiences. Other options for co-hosting events include hosting networking events, panelists, or single-track sessions on a common or complementary topic.
The second co-branded event approach is through sponsorships. B2B companies invest in event sponsorships for access to attendees and exposure to new or broader market segments. There are many advantages to sponsoring an event. From the event organizer’s perspective, sponsorships help bolster budgets, bring credibility, and provide additional resources that may not be readily available without the sponsor partnership.
In addition to the access to attendees and new markets, one small advantage of sponsoring an event rather than hosting an event is the flexibility. Sponsoring keeps B2B event organizers focused on a few things—usually a booth or a specific event activation—while the event organizer takes care of the event, agenda, registrations, and managing most of the logistics for attendees day-of.
Keep in mind how you’re balancing sponsored content and your own content in either of these co-branded event types.
If you’re not hosting your own event, your powers of branding are significantly curtailed. Instead of focusing on a whole event you have your booth and the turf that comes with it. But don’t be fooled. The power of the booth is mighty.
Aside from the design elements that we discussed above (fonts, colors, logos, themes), the accoutrements that you choose will have an impact on your onsite event brand. Digital signage, touch screens, furniture, tv screens, whether or not laptops are out, how your swag is arranged. The trick is going to be getting the most out of what little space you have.
Check out how Klipsch Group recreated a basement to showcase their vintage audio equipment:
If you’re implementing social media as part of your event strategy, Showcase the people that are talking about your event! Some services, like Tint, offer the opportunity to feature conversations that target a specific hashtag or keyword.
This is not your regular light show. Projection mapping fit uniquely designed light presentations to the architecture of your venue to create stunning displays. And they can even be interactive! As David Title, Chief Engagement Office of BravoMedia puts it:
"As long as your event is not in a sun-drenched environment, there is nothing that gives you the same bang for your buck as projection mapping. Projection mapping offers a far more dynamic range of display options, letting a brand come to life across three-dimensional surfaces and objects. Done well, the wow-factor of projection mapping will have attendees snapping and sharing, increasing brand reach across social networks.
Sounds pretty neat, huh? Here's what happens when you use projection mapping for a Disney-themed wedding cake:
Banners and Posters
A more low-tech solution to branding your event is the ever-reliable banner. Strategically place them at your entrances and exits to remind your attendees (and accidental passerby) of where they are. Poster in particular are great for also promoting your event. Check out what IMEX does for their events:
It’s hard to pass up free. Swag gives you the the very real opportunity to spread your brand to households across the globe. To get the most out of your free branded giveaways, make them something that people will want to use. High-tech gadgets like USB chargers or pocket-sized drones. You also can’t go wrong with a well-designed pen or notepad, or even an exceptionally fashionable pair of sunglasses.
Oh, and fidget spinners are an option, at least until they lose their fad status.
You can find more swag bag ideas here.
The quickest way to someone’s heart is through their stomach. It's no secret that people like free food. However, food can also be the perfect package for solidifying your brand in someone’s memory.
You could offer branded candies, like Google sometimes does:
Or even branded cupcakes (at last!):
To sustain the momentum of a great event, it’s important to nail the post-event follow-up. Personalized thank yous are a great way to spread love to attendees while surveys allow you to collect relevant data to optimize your next branded event. Design surveys that give you insights on a multitude of attendee experiences.
Ideas for questions to include in your post-event survey:
- How would you rate your event experience?
- What was your favorite experience?
- How would you rate the event content?
- Did you find the keynote topic valuable?
- Who was your favorite speaker?
- What was your favorite session?
- Did you meet our sponsors?
- Are you interested in another event?
Some event platforms allow users to build polls and surveys in order to collect valuable feedback from their branded event.
A common practice is to send a post-event survey via email. Event management tools like Bizzabo allow users to create custom surveys with specific content and access permissions that are catered to the B2B event marketers needs (as shown above).
Onsite branding questions to ask yourself:
- Do you have a solid plan for your event design?
- How do you plan on making your booth stand out?
- How can you leverage technology to get the most out of your onsite branding strategy?
- How are you rewarding attendees for engaging at your events?
- What are you doing to merge your digital and onsite branding strategies?
Every year, new trends and technologies emerge making event branding more exciting—and 2020 is no exception.
From the internet to the showroom floor, there are so many opportunities to communicate your brand at events. The challenge is communicating your brand correctly. But don't let that keep you from taking action.
Your name matters. Get it out there!
Editor's Note: This post was originally published on January 12, 2019 and has since been updated to include the latest developments in the events industry.