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MORE THAN A LOGO: “If we go back 10 or 15 years, when people talked about brands, they were mostly talking about a piecing together of marketing communications,” said Julie Hennessy, clinical professor of marketing at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. “The idea of a brand was a logo or jingle or a slogan.” All that has changed, she said.


McDonald’s golden arches, Nike’s swoosh,andApple’s, well,apple— they’re iconic images that create an immediate connection in our minds to those companies.Most organizations would love to have visual cues that foster such an instant association, simply as away to growtheirmarket.Andmeeting organ- izers are no exception. But is that what branding really is?


We think of branding—or, for that matter, rebranding


—in visual terms, and there are entire companies whose sole mission is to help groups create a brand or rebranded iden- tity. Rebranding a magazine, for example, generally involves a redesign, bringing its look up to datewhilemaking features and columns relate to each other visually. The goal is for someone who flips open any page to recognize what publi- cation it is simply from its logo, graphics, or copy treatment. The branding of meetings and conferences has moved in


a similar direction, with a focus on a few elements that will project a certain image — edgy, perhaps, or tech-savvy, or sophisticated. Charged with branding an annual meeting, organizations hire graphic-design firms and host focus groups to come up with the perfect visual package and catchy tagline to grab potential attendees’ attention. There’s nothing wrong with that. A good look may very


well be the thing that piques people’s interest and makes them weigh whether this is a meeting or an organization they should be a part of. It might remind veteran members or par- ticipants of the group’s value. The problem is that not only


58 pcma convene May 2011


is a graphic overhaul a big proposition, it merely scratches the surface of branding or rebranding. Instead, according to branding experts, the brand starts with the value the organization or meeting offers, and carries through the user’s entire experience. Unless that’s the way you approach brand- ing, no logo in the world is going to matter in the long run.


The Look Matters ... KindOf When you talk to marketing guru and bestselling author Seth Godin about branding a conference, you’d better be prepared to define exactly what you mean. “Your conference already is branded,” he said. “Anything that is in the universe that is interacting with customers tells a story.” That story is your brand. “It’s a huge mistake to confuse hoopla and logos and agencies with your brand,” Godin said. “The way you change your brand is by changing your conference.” Godin’s definition of a brand is “the promise a company


or an eventmakes. Apple has a brand because when you pick up something they make, you have an expectation of what continued on page 60


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