Your Brand. Your Image.

IAEE at Doubletree Bethesda

Donna Jarvis-Miller, CMP, CEM, Director, APHSA Membership Operations and Events

IAEE at Doubletree Bethesda

Bill McGlade, CEM, Director of Account Management, a2z, Inc.

When show producers find themselves taking on new Conference opportunities, we find ourselves evaluating all of the elements that an organization does when it comes to providing clear messages to the members.

Is there consistency across all communications? Does the brand align with the conference, the trade show, in publications, etc? Do your members have immediate recognition of your brand?

As producers of trade shows, we can be challenged to keep a brand fresh and new while aligning it with the look and feel of a trade show.  Do you have a brand specification guidebook that you can hand off to your vendors? To your exhibitors?

Problem:  Outdated signage to recognize corporate partners.  Inconsistent brand standards.  APHSA had two issues – one was a new brand with no brand standards written and the second was not giving proper recognition to their corporate partners. 

Signage looked like something from the 1990s. Corporate partners, who provide about 3% of their annual budget, were being recognized with small (11 x 17) signage.  Old or incorrect logos were posted on websites as nothing was in place to confirm the correct logos.  The association’s brand was also inconsistent in that they mixed their logos to ‘save money’ in printing new signs.  

Solution:  The solution had to be two-fold.  First, we had to begin with creating a brand standard for the association.  We are working with a graphics team to write clear, concise standards for the association and the nine affiliate member organizations. Once complete, each affiliate will have their own standards.

Next, working with the marketing team, we created guidelines when a corporate partner signed on to ensure we were using the correct brand.  Each year we confirm that we are using the correct logo from partners by a simple email.  If their logo has changed, we delete ALL their previous logos from our data files to help ensure that old logos aren’t accidentally picked up.  We now provide a full list of logos with a zip file to vendors – even though we may be simply updating a file – to help with the error factor.

Signage is not cheap; however, the real estate given to corporate partners at conferences provide not only a benefit but it also builds good will with the funder/sponsor.   The conference team created new meter boards using the association’s brand to recognize the partners.  These undated boards were used multiple times in 2014.  Additionally, we added the corporate partners to general session walk-in slides.

Corporate funders don’t mind cutting the check to sponsor or support an organization if they are getting their ROI.  Are they being treated as a partner or just another check?  When I produced the Wild West Veterinary Conference, for our top sponsors we added multiple meter boards throughout the conference and their logos to all walk-in slides for sessions.  One executive stated ‘We had planned not to renew our support until I walked into the hotel.  This is the first year that we are being properly recognized without it costing us additional money.’

This simple act of adding a few extra signs and logos to general sessions went a LONG way in renewing not only that sponsor but 70% of the others.  They appreciated the recognition and acknowledgement.

In closing, my philosophy is printing a couple extra signs doesn’t break the bank – it actually improves the bank.  After all we are in the relationship building business with our sponsors and partners.  The more we do to provide them the unsolicited recognition the more loyalty we create.

Let’s take a look at signage options:

  • Traditional signage – meter boards and banners printed to be displayed on site
  • Digital signage, TV monitors and LED walls
  • Internet or web signage, banner ads
  • Exhibitor booth listing both online and printed program.

As far as cost, web and traditional are the least expensive where digital signage can get pricey. Hopefully, as technology grows and becomes more efficient we will see these prices drop but you can build some really cool signs using LED walls or even TV monitors. Think about rotating ads on a monitor when entering the exhibit hall or at registration. Make these ads fun and interactive if to attract the attention of attendees. The purpose of these new ads is to draw attention from attendees so make sure they stand out. What about a video ad? 10 seconds of jaw dropping attention grabbing awesomeness! The possibilities are endless with digital signs.

This is not to take anything away from traditional signage. There will always be traditional signage and it will begin to compliment digital signage. Where digital signage cannot go, traditional signage will and it will make a larger impact than we believe. The key here is to keep the branding consistent and make it eye popping as well. Yes, having a logo and acknowledging your sponsors and partners is great….but what about giving them the opportunity to create something cool and exciting for that sign. What about giving them the opportunity to stand out among the partners?

Don’t forget about web signage. Web banners galore, everywhere, pop ups….no that’s not the correct route. Keep it simple and tasteful. Possibly add one or two rotating banner ads on your main site and internal pages. These can be animated gifs to draw some more attention. Let’s not dwell on banner ads…let’s talk about the number one signage opportunity all exhibitors have but do not utilize correctly in the slightest bit.

An exhibitor has an online booth listing. In this listing they can add their description, products, categories, brands, logo, social media etc…yet they don’t. What boggles my mind is that exhibitors do not realize the thousands of clicks the online floor plan and exhibitor listings receive. This is your first digital representation, your first SIGN to attendees and most of them are bland or not filled out. This is the big push I would like to see happen. We need to educate our exhibitors and sponsors to utilize fully maximize their exposure and get the most ROI for their dollars spent.

With so many signage options, there are plenty of opportunities for both exhibitors and sponsors to take part in. Dare to think differently to make your brand, your image consistent and bright!