How to Boost Your Brand at Your Next Event

Technology offers new ways to highlight your brand, but many low-tech options can be just as effective.

Along with about 30,000 of its members, the Lions Clubs International (LCI) recently celebrated its 100th anniversary at its annual conference in Chicago at McCormick Place. In keeping with tradition, it held a parade complete with floats, marching bands, and representatives from more than 125 countries.

In addition, LCI plastered the city—including “L” and CTA trains, bus shelters, and O’Hare International Airport—with its new campaign message: Kindness Matters. Of course, there was also a traditional and digital media campaign as well.

The goal of this campaign, said Sanjeev Ahuja, chief of global marketing and membership at LCI, was threefold: Celebrate the centennial, explain to the larger public the types of service Lions provide, and show that Lions not only help their local communities, but also have a global impact.

The centennial celebration was a media success: “We had over 35 million impressions, over 5,000 hits to the campaign website, and we trended on Twitter globally,” Ahuja said.

One simple component of this campaign was a big success: People were clamoring for bracelets that said “Kindness Matters.” “There was a huge demand for those because deep down people want to show kindness,” Ahuja said.

That’s the beauty of brand awareness. You don’t always need the latest technology to put your brand front and center. But you do need get a bit creative. Following are five easy ways to build brand awareness at your next conference.

1. Offer a photo and/or StoryCorps booth.

This is win-win proposition: Your members will have fun, and the association will generate great marketing content. “Photo booths, video booths, and prompted storytelling all get your attendees talking,” wrote Dave Bushnell and Jacqui Olkin in an article for ASAE. “Plus, they give you footage of members being interesting, funny, and engaging that you can use in marketing material year-round.”

2. Don’t underestimate the value of a good water bottle.

Cut down on the amount of bottled water you buy (and plastic that gets pitched) by offering nifty, new branded water bottles to use at a communal water fountain. Chicago’s McCormick Place, for example, offers a filtered water station with eight spouts. (Cut costs by getting a fountain sponsor.)

3. Have fun with desserts.

Cookies and cupcakes are easy to decorate with your brand. Or get crazy and brand a donut or éclair! Yes, it’s a fleeting brand opportunity, but one that will definitely get noticed, not to mention appreciated.

4. Give away branded seed packets.

For spring or summer meetings, consider giving out branded seed packets. It’s a metaphor for how you’d like your relationship with members to grow!

5. Make a dramatic statement at the venue.

How can you make your brand the focus in the areas leading to your conference space? McCormick Place offers the traditional floor, column, and wall wraps; escalator panels; and hanging banners, but branding the stair risers is particularly attention-getting, said Moira O’Brien, director of sales at McCormick Place. There are two sets of white terrazzo tile staircases in the main lobbies that lead to the concourses in the South and West buildings. Both lobbies connect to the transportation areas.

“During the Sweets and Snacks Expo, there were M&Ms on the stair risers,” O’Brien said. And possibly less appetizing, but visually striking nonetheless, a digestive tract adorned the stairs during a medical association show. “When events take advantage of that [branding opportunity], it creates a dramatic sense of arrival for attendees,” she said.

Don’t be afraid to try new brand promotion ideas at your next conference. “You have to test things and then dial down what doesn’t work and double down on what does,” Ahuja advised.

Chicago is at the top of its game when it comes to hosting meetings. The city can accommodate any size group, offering a range of options for each meeting facet. Each article in this eight-part, how-to series tackles a specific piece of the meeting planning puzzle as part of the ultimate meeting playbook.

(Handout photo)