Month: November 2016

Partner, Not Vendor

partner, not vendor

The brand experience and event planning business demands that you possess the ability to adapt quickly. In an environment where technology is ever changing and demands to up the experience will only ever move in one direction how do you stay on top of changing needs for unique brand needs? The key is partnership. We find that there are part of the industry that focus purely on executing logistics and that certainly has its part to play in any meeting or event. But to drive value from an experience takes something more, a depth of strategic understanding of the brand and the people behind the brand. This gets us to one of our core philosophies in meeting and event creation – partner not vendor.

A partner anticipates needs. A partner understands business challenges. A partner sits and strategizes with you before a single box is created to make sure that those specific boxes lead to a brand experience that drives goal when they are checked. They understand where you have been and where you want to go. And they work to understand keys to success such as culture.

What does this look like in the wild? One example would be going the extra mile to see the world from another’s point of view. Recently, for a large automotive brand summit, we learned that high-level executives from Japan would be in attendance and would be a large part of the meeting. Japanese culture is an important part of this company’s roots, approach and product philosophy, so we became passionate about understanding as much as we could about the unique aspects of the culture. We wanted to better see the world from their eyes when approaching this important national meeting.

As a company, we enlisted the help of a Japanese cultural expert and educated ourselves via a deep dive on Japanese business philosophy and practices. We explored the nuances of the culture and the values that make it up. What drives those values and how they are similar and different from those we are accustomed to in our own day-to-day lives. For the brand summit itself, we designated two of our staff as VIP liaisons, and printed them a set of business cards with their names in the executive’s native language for ease of use. Each executive received a welcome gift with a focus on helping each feel as at home as possible while visiting. It is always worth the extra mile to ensure that every level of a brand experience is attended to with purpose and a relevant point of view. The results of a partnership will always be worth the investment of time and energy. In this instance – creating a national meeting that drives engagement and inspires action.

When it comes to designing and creating the best brand experiences our advice is to seek out the best partners rather than selecting a vendor. Both with clients and with our own partners seeking those that drive first with strategy, objectives and sharing cultural values leads to the most exciting experiences and ultimately, results.

From Typical Meeting to Brand Summit

brand strategy, meeting

If you are a large global company, reinventing yourself is an enormous undertaking but can make the difference between leader or distant follower. Every year, most automotive brands host a large meeting for their dealers to discuss the revenue, goals, the new lineup for the year, and other business drivers. These are useful for company information and a part of running a company but too often the meetings can become bloated and uninspiring for the dealers – arguably the most important brand ambassadors a car company could have. Helping to shift meetings from ordinary to true experiences that inspire is something we are deeply passionate about so we tackled the goal of changing perception with a strategy-first approach. No longer a dealer meeting, this was now a brand summit.

To transform a business meeting into a high-level brand summit, it’s important to make sure that every brand touchpoint, from the first save-the-date to the name badges, welcome materials and digital touchpoints is subtle, sophisticated, understated and strategically used. Though at first it might seem counter-productive, be very careful to not over-brand – simply putting a logo on anything and everything doesn’t have the same impact as a well-placed embossed brand mark or subtly-branded gift. Several strategic changes can help move a meeting from a large “trade show” feel to a high level executive meeting. For this brand summit, name badges were magnetic and either acrylic or metallic rather than plastic pouches on lanyards, and signage was displayed on all black, inconspicuous stands rather than easels and other obtrusive structures. These small touches are examples of how to make significant shifts in experiences with purposeful choices in subtlety. These can help make a brand summit feel less like a large meeting and more like executive networking.

To reinforce the more intimate, sophisticated feeling of a brand summit, the structure needed to also change. In your standard dealer meeting, thousands of dealers arrive at the same time for a set of important business meetings. The sheer number of people all needing to be in the same place and all wanting to talk to the same executives present a problem by itself, but it also devolves the feeling of a personal, custom experience. To solve this there needs to be less people at once but a consistent experience for the whole dealer base. The advice was made that attendees come in waves based on their region classification, dramatically limiting the amount of people in the business meetings at once and reinforcing a personal attendee experience. This allowed for more one-on-one contact with executives and more opportunity to reinforce the brand standards of luxury, service, and quality.

To hit home the feeling of personal service and attendee management also takes a shift in thinking from “event staff” to that of “personal concierges.” From beginning to end, staff should act as personal consultants for attendees through personal touches such as online chat, phone, and email support through the registration process and availability during all facets of the brand summit experience.

Though it can seem daunting to change up the structure of a tried-and-true business meeting, the results can be well worth it if implemented correctly. When strategic branding and execution is applied, attendees will come away feeling inspired, refreshed, and confident in the vision of the company and of the company’s leadership. Don’t underestimate the power an expertly executed business meeting can have on dealers or franchisees – creating experiences that inspire and motivate will empower dealers to carry that strategy through to their business operations and beyond.