Brand or rebrand? The debate is now more important to meeting planners since a turbulent economy has heightened the need to differentiate events so people attending fewer of them can choose effectively.
"A meeting has to be in one of two modes for rebranding to make sense, since the strategies are different for each," says John Parke, president and CEO of Leadership Synergies. "If your meeting is shrinking, you are trying to win back folks from the past. If it's growing, you want to expand the new attendee base by reaching out differently."
If rebranding is required, two key questions can help the process: How will you create a compelling value proposition? And what are the characteristics of the ideal attendee to whom you'll appeal?
"You'd be surprised at how superficial the conversation is about changing demographics and generational differences," Parke says. "Planners often don't know what these mean. … We want [them] to be thinking in terms of psychographics. What resonates with those populations? What triggers actions such as registration? After questions like those, we then must have a good sense of what the experience is that we're trying to conjure in people's minds."
Parke facilitates an exercise during ASAE's Business of Meetings workshops in which attendees build a new conference, often giving planners courage to repeat the process with established meetings. "It shakes them up and allows them to talk to colleagues about things they'd passed over previously but may use when rebranding," says Parke. "Rebranding and bold strategies are risky, but the irony is that the consequence of inaction may be a failed meeting anyway."