The United Way GenNext Summit is an annual, one-day development and networking conference organized by the United Way. Held in cities across the country, the GenNext Summit is an opportunity for Canada’s next generation of leaders to gather, listen, discuss, challenge and be inspired.
In Winnipeg, the GenNext Summit brings together over 300 people a year who think disruptively about their role in pushing forward the change that they want to see in our city. They know their life means more than the work they do, and the Summit strives to reduce barriers to community involvement and introduce attendees to some of the ways they can give of their time, talent and resources in the city.
Understanding the Challenge
When it comes to event marketing, the initial instinct by marketers is to re-invent the wheel by creating entirely new campaign material for every new event — after all, the programming is all-new, and there may be a new theme emerging. The problem with this marketing approach is brand recognition gets lost year over year and the target audience may not immediately make the connection to a previous successful event.
The challenge still was that the United Way’s GenNext Summit is a brand within a brand within a brand. That is, the Summit is a part of the United Way’s GenNext brand, which is a part of the United Way’s overarching brand.
We were tasked with creating some guidelines for the United Way’s in-house marketing team for the 2019 GenNext Summit — and beyond. We wanted to establish some consistencies within the larger brand, and make sure the Summit connected to its target audience. The event needed to resonate with not just employees, but employers of the target audience so that this market would understand the importance of this unique personal and professional development opportunity.
Finding the Concept
The GenNext branding already included a playful stylization of the letter ‘X’ in ‘Next.’ Rather than thinking of it as just a letter, we decided to think of it as the symbol for multiplication. As the 2019 Summit theme was innovation, by imaging the X as a multiplier, the brand now captured the concept that the impact of innovation is magnified when you bring in its impact on the community.
By adding the call-to-action “Find a new way forward” to the InnovationX theme, we gave the Summit a formula for its naming conventions to inspire excitement around the theme year after year.
What Happened Next?
Once the concept was complete, we created a brand story and brand guidelines featuring marketing material mockups to help inspire the United Way’s in-house marketing team. As an agency, we strive to create the tools our clients need and then empower them to use them. We gave their team a clear path forward by bringing an outsider view on the themes that were already embedded in their existing branding.
1) Don’t re-invent the wheel. Event marketing doesn’t mean having to create a unique look every time you hold an event. Branding an event and staying true to that brand will help people remember it. By redoing your graphics each year, costs will run up and you may even miss out on some of the event recognition you’re striving for.
2) Engage new stakeholders when faced with an old problem. An outside perspective can bring fresh ideas to a challenge faced by internal marketing staff. Sometimes you are too close to the problem to clearly find a solution.
3) Work with an agency that will give you working files. When your in-house marketing team works with an outside agency to gain unique perspectives and inspiration, be sure that the agency will hand over the working files when the project is complete. Your in-house team needs to be empowered to take over and add their own personal touch.