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The Brand is the Destination


Shared values draw people to a brand

BY PATRICK MCGOVERN

Think of your brand (or your client’s brand) as a destination to which you are inviting people. When you look at it that way, it’s only natural that you’ll want to achieve three objectives: Make the destination look enticing and attractive; prepare a pleasant reception for when people arrive; paying off the promise that originally made them excited to come.

Those three items, in a nutshell, are the basic principles of brand community building.

In my last column, I introduced the concept of brand community as a perspective that modern marketers use to envision the state of the brand. The brand is seen as a destination around which people congregate, forming a community. It is the values associated with the brand that draw people to the community and consistently delivering on those values keeps them there.

THINK STRATEGICALLY
To think strategically about the brand-building aspect of your corporate meetings and business events, you need to learn what those key values are for your company or client. That means looking at the big picture: the competitive landscape within which the brand presents itself, the audiences you need to reach, and the key messaging that will resonate with those who are already in your brand community or are open to joining it.

Sound a little overwhelming? Breathe easy; it all comes down to step number one, above: what are the values that make your brand community an enticing and attractive destination? Many people are confused by this, because they think product attributes or service offerings are what set a brand apart. Instead, think of it this way: Paris or Las Vegas? Both offer a range of accommodations and food. But one city speaks of culture and romance, while the other represents adult fun and excitement. Those are the brand values that would draw you to one or the other (or maybe both, but at different times!).

Once you have a handle on the key values represented by the brand, you will want to consider step number two: the welcome. Part of brand building is setting up expectations. In your role as meeting planner, you should make attendees aware that engaging with the brand values and brand messaging are important aspects of why they are there.

It will also be in your interest to make it clear to marketing and C-level decision-makers that you see brand community building as a natural outcome of your events. This establishes a benchmark for the important contribution your meetings and events can make against top-level corporate objectives.

Now it’s time for step number three: paying off the promise. In terms of the event itself, you need to allow participants to feel that their depth of engagement contributes to the brand’s success. Encourage sharing of insights and face-to-face encounters, because that is how some of the most effective brand community building happens. Provide a balanced agenda of education, case studies, speakers and networking, but make sure all of it is relevant to the brand. And emphasize the joy of engagement; let it be fun!

EVENT SURVEYS
The other promise that needs to be paid off is the value of the event to the corporation itself, in terms of engagement and brand community building. How do you prove you are achieving that? One good approach is pre- and post-event surveys. In your evaluation questionnaires, ask value-oriented questions. For instance, you could ask how strongly participants agree with certain positive statements, about the brand, that are consistent with the established brand values.

By tracking successive questionnaires, or better yet, running before-and-after surveys, you can see how perceptions change over time, thereby demonstrating the impact of your events.

Branding can be a long journey. The best way to start is with three simple steps.

Patrick McGovernPatrick McGovern is partner and chief strategy officer at Blade Creative Branding Inc., a Toronto-based branding, advertising and marketing solutions firm.
pjmcgovern@bladebranding.com



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