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Tips From A Brash Bloke From Bournemouth: Branding with Matt Desmier

By the time this is written, I sat with brand strategy expert, Matt Desmier discussing possibilities for developing digital strategies for a city. However, the conversation did not start there…

Walking in and going through the usual greetings, the first thing that Matt said to me was to bring up my excluding him from the list of brand building lessons from the Spark.me conference. While this was not intentional, this post somewhat is because I’ll be seeing him again… soon. And I want to draw attention to Matt’s style (see video below for personal and professional style).

The reality is that when you look at Matt’s list of approach, style, and achievements, he really does stand alone. He can seem loud and outspoken, yet proves to be thoughtful and methodical in conversation always breaking down trends and possibilities. These are a few reasons, I enjoy listening and speaking to him.

With that being said, Here are some guidelines that I have applied in my own processes as well as when working with others.

Brands are built by what others are saying about you.

Brands, good or bad, are the summation of what others are saying about your business or products. Despite what many think, a business cannot dictate what others think simply by creating good content and strategies. Potential customers read what you say, but they believe what others say more.

A good brand understands this, and makes their interactions with customers central knowing a good brand is being built by these actions. The same is true for the brand’s actions toward employees. Good brands develop good culture internally, and mobilize their greatest asset in the process.

Brands are living things.

Brands grow and mature. They shift. They evolve.

As business leaders we need to expect this and guide our brands along how we desire them to go. They need to become something bigger and stretch. There may be times when the business becomes a bit uncomfortable in order to accomplish something new. This all part of the growth cycle.

Much like in life, if a business is not growing and finding new ways forward, they quickly stagnate and die.

Brand is the center of everything you do.

Every business, organization, even individuals need a center point to anchor it. This is the brand itself. A stated and active list of brand values and practices shape and define this center point. Values and practices form the foundation for the brand to be built on in the day to day.

Keeping the brand at the center provides a guiding line when difficult decisions need to be made. Today, brands are forced to ask themselves if they will take a stand on political and social issues. Some choose to do so, and others do not. At the end of the day, when we know what our brand is about and what it values, we have a reason for making the decision.

Brands that are successful have integrity.

Brands that people love have principles and act on those principles. They are honest. They have integrity. When brands lose a sense of their purpose or principles, they lose sight of who they are and create a PR crisis for themselves.

This goes back to the need to understand the values of a brand. Founders and the early employees create the values, and act on them to solidify the culture of a brand. By their actions, they bring integrity to the brand. Brands that lose their integrity take a long road to recovery and few ever do recover. Integrity must be an operating part of a brand.

These are a few guideposts on branding from Matt Desmier. I first heard him at the 2017 Spark.me Conference in Budva, Montenegro. His talk in 2018 (video below) was more pointed the topic of branding. It deserves a thorough listen. And it is certain to provide a framework to begin assessing your own business, organization, or personal brand.

3 Ways Events Impact A City Strategy

Events; City; Brand Strategy; Matt Lambert

Building a sense of place and reputation takes a well rounded and creative strategy. When thinking of possibilities to build a better perception, those responsible need to think about existing structures along with what could be. Many think about the arts, culture, and tourist offerings in drawing the attention of outsiders, or even awakening the imagination of locals. However, one area tends to be neglected: EVENTS, especially yearly, dependable events that leverage the strength of existing communities while also getting branded for outsiders as well.

Yearly conferences, gatherings of professionals, and meet ups capture the attention of both locals and travelers depending on their niche. Annual events play into the story and message of a place that needs to be communicated to a wider audience. Developing a place’s story can be enhanced by the use of annual events and conferences creating growth of businesses, brand, and determining future goals of the city or place.

Brand Development

Events feed the desired brand of the city (or country). When we speak of brands, we are talking more about the substance of a place. We are talking about its reputation and the reasons for taking the time to visit or possibly move there. A good example is Estonia in recent years. Their purpose was to become a frontrunner in tech and policy. In that pursuit, they created e-residency programs, explore blockchain for a variety of industries, and even considered creating a cryptocurrency for public use.

Events fit this type of mold. For a city looking to build a name in an industry or field, partnerships can be formed with existing businesses to create the type of event to build the city brand. A recent example is Sarajevo Unlimited. Sarajevo is wanting to create an identity of being a city for startups and entrepreneurship. Two years ago, they started Unlimited Sarajevo to help build this image and demonstrate their sincerity toward this goal.

Revenue Creation 

Nina Prebesen in The Value Of Events says “events are value creation entities affecting individuals, firms and society.” A strong yearly event draws business into the city. It is a clear win for the city to host an event that feeds into its brand strategy because of the amount of possible revenues for local businesses, and the city itself. Local tourism and hospitality industries are two examples of industries which tend to thrive over the course of a multi day conference.

One example is an extension of the tourist season. If you follow Lonely Planet, they tell you that May is the best month to visit Montenegro. (And I agree.) The crowds are thinner. Prices a bit lower. Weather is perfect especially along the coast. A growing conference in Budva, Spark.me helps to draw outsiders into this small Adriatic country and draw this early season traveler. A conference on innovation, marketing, and entrepreneurship helps promote the goals of the country in giving travelers another reason to visit in May.

Define Goals

The occurrence of yearly events and conferences solidifies comprehensive goals of the place. While not all events need to have direct connection with the stated goals of the city or its identity, all events need to clearly demonstrate how they play a part. Defining comprehensive goals help the city build a plan and determine priorities for the place.

Going back to the example of Spark in Budva, Montenegro, Spark is a business conference on the coast of Montenegro. Budva is not trying to become the center of business for the country, however, they share the purpose of developing a stronger identity of Montenegro for business and strengthening the extended tourist season. The regular and consistent occurrence of Spark should be a priority for the local government and national government because of its growth over the last 6 years.  The conference is able to leverage the natural resources of the country, and the local government should leverage the strength of a growing conference to build on its goals of tourism development.

Creating and promoting an annual event is not a passive task left alone to private businesses to complete. Governments should be actively seeking out existing events, supporting them, and helping them grow as they fit the goals of the place. The planning and coordination of events is a strategic task that all too often goes unnoticed. However, events can be powerful tools for countries and places in the process of redefining themselves or communicating their identity.

A well defined and curated event helps cities and countries build a sense of place for their people and travelers. They bring value to the people, businesses, and overall community. Left alone, they can be chaotic and lack purpose, but when all stakeholders come together to collaborate, events can be powerful tools to develop the city message and brand.