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Brand Building Lessons Learned At Spark.Me Conference

Brand building; Spark.me; MattLambert

On my birthday in 2015, I found myself walking on stage at the Spark.me Conference in Budva, Montenegro. A few months prior, I had applied to be an official blogger (I also had purchased a ticket because I didn’t expect to be accepted as a blogger) at a conference I had never attended and only learned about the prior year. I had met some of the organizers over the preceding months, yet there I was receiving a cake and being wished “Happy Birthday!” in spectacular fashion.

I fell in love with a brand because I realized quickly, the people behind it CARE.

What is the Spark.me Conference?

The conference describes itself as “one of the most carefully curated business/internet conferences in Southeast Europe.”

Spark.me has been organized each year since 2013 as part of the Corporate Social Responsibility program of Domain.ME.

While it may not be the biggest conference, I am certain it is one of the most intimate conferences allowing the participants close access and networking opportunities with leaders, pioneers, and top thinkers in the realms of marketing, tech, startups, and entrepreneurship.

(You may also find an astronaut or cyborg roaming around…)

Since I love this brand(-ed event), here are a few brand building lessons I learned over the 4 years of attending the conference.

Be personable.

“We can’t love a logo. We love a person.” Mark Schaefer

Spark.me 2018 conference. Day 1. Budva. Hotel Mediteran. Montenegro. Fotograf Sergej Zabijako, +382 68 129392, Portfolio: www.photosergey.me Portal Crna Gora for Me: https://www.cg4.me https://www.facebook.com/Sergej.Zabijako, Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/sergej_zabijako_photographer YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/c/PromoMontenegro Channel VR360: http://www.Montenegro360.video #Montenegro #Spark #SparkMe #Sparkdotme #Spark2018 #CrnaGora #photoSergejZabijako #PromoMontenegro #Черногория © photography Sergej Zabijako, © Promo-Montenegro, 2018

Brand building is founded on connection and relationships with our audience. We tell stories that allow people to love and trust our brands. Mark Schaefer, a globally recognized top marketing strategist and speaker, spoke in 2018 about the need for brands to become more personable to succeed in their marketing. Mark spoke about the decline of mass marketing content centered around the digital identity of a company.

Instead, brands must focus on the community that they are building. Brands must give their customers and audience a story to tell and an experience to share. User generated content and community shared content are some of the best brand building resources out there. It is up to businesses and companies to activate the potential of their audience.

Set yourself apart.

“What are you known for?” Mark Schaefer

During Mark’s talk in 2018, he spoke a bit on personal branding, but hit points that I believe can extend into our businesses. In fact, it is an age old branding lesson. The need to be known for something. The need to differentiate.

Whether it is a personal brand we are building or our business brand, we need to carefully consider what we want to be known for. Is it already saturated with content, or is there a market to saturate? We find our niche, and focus there with persistence to make our brand known.

Look Inside.

“It’s a lot easier to change what you say about yourself than changing yourself.” Denise Lee Yohn

Self assessment can be difficult for anyone especially businesses and organizations that see something going wrong, but not sure what it is. Denise Lee Yohn, a brand building expert, recognized that strong, healthy brands are strong and healthy internally first.

“Good brands start from within.”  Denise Lee Yohn

The priority of businesses in developing the far reaching brand must be building something special and strong within their own ranks prior to looking outward. Creating hero stories for the employees creates a greater opportunity for hero stories for the customers. In fact, brands have a strong reach because they have strong employee engagement with their brand.

Start at the core.

“Brand values = meaning” Peter Kim

In 2017, Peter Kim, VP of Digital Consumer Engagement at The LEGO Group, spoke about the story and essence of the LEGO brand, and more importantly how great brands make things awesome. They do this by pursuing brand values which bring meaning into the lives of the employee and consumer.

Much like Denise’s reminder that amazing brands begin from within, Peter emphasized that amazing brands are so because of their values and the meaning those values bring. “In the case of the LEGO Group, their mission is to inspire and develop the builders of tomorrow. Everything they do goes back to children and how to support the children.”

Collaborate with your community.

Timo Vuorensola, a Finnish filmmaker well known for films such as Iron Sky and Iron Sky: The Coming Race, has also become known for his achievements in crowdsourcing and crowdfunding his work. During his talk, he discussed both areas heavily and how he was able to leverage the help of the community that bought into his ideas to create something special.

For brands, the ability to not only engage them as an audience, but then go deeper by collaborating with them moves them into actually being a community. Communities much like families are not necessarily born but forged over time.

As a brand how do you collaborate with your community to create greater success and draw them deeper into your brand story?

Be mindful of the process.

“Show up! Follow up! Close!” Steli Efti

To say Steli Efti is high energy is an understatement, but with that energy he can deliver so much value in such a short time. He has been launching companies and building brands since the age of 17. He is currently the CEO of Close.io.

In 2015, Steli forced his audience to think about the basics. He challenged those around him by acknowledging the solutions to their problems are known, but not convenient. In the end, solutions are left undone.

One challenge brands face is consistency and follow through. Steli points out that when startups and brands show up, follow up, and deliver, they will win. It’s a day to day process, but it forces consistency by the brand. In today’s media savvy world that disseminates information quickly, being inconsistent once can kill the brand.

Spark.me 2019

This year the organizing team has already made some exciting announcements! 2018 saw the conference surpass new heights in participants and interest. This year the conference will move to a larger venue in Porto Montenegro in Tivat!

The Spark.me conference is not only about the keynotes and speakers. It also includes being a part of a transformative and engaging community. Tickets have gone on sale. I recommend grabbing your friends, team, or business partners and become a part of the community in 2019!

Experience Spark.me and experience Montenegro!

(For tips about what to explore in Montenegro in May check out my post here. And let me know you’re coming.)

A Marketer, An Astronaut, And A Cyborg Walk Into A Bar: Preparing for Spark.Me 2018

preparing for a conference

Tomorrow begins Spark.me, a conference dedicated to curating one of the best businesses and internet conferences in Southeast Europe. And final preparations are being done to make the most of this unique opportunity to connect with leaders from wide ranging fields. I feel like this year will be one of the more diverse set of speakers. Marketing kingpins, an astronaut, and cyborgs. CYBORGS!!!

The night before a conference brings final preparations and checks to make sure everything is in place, every chord has been packed, electronic devices have been charged, and depending on departure time and destination asking over and over, “Did I forget anything?”

With so much going on and such diversity, here’s a checklist to help prepare the night before coming to Spark.me or any other conference where you are sure to engage unique and respected individuals that offer a new dimension of understanding of the world around us.

  1. Logistics

This is the boring stuff. Checking flight information, confirmation numbers, and times are all important to making sure your conference experience does not get derailed before it starts. I traveled recently with someone who was on edge at every hiccup, however, many of the bumps in the road were discussed in the travel notes sent out prior to departure. Do a last minute check and read over the information you have.

Pro tip: If you are unfamiliar with your destination, check local Facebook groups, expat groups, and travel groups about the area. Ask ahead and figure out best modes of transportation for getting between cities and to the venue.

If you are coming for Spark.Me, feel free to find me on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter, and ask! Or if you are visiting Montenegro for any reason. J

  1. Supplies

Make a quick check of your supplies. Nothing is worse than getting to a conference and realizing something was left behind. Especially a necessary piece of equipment. Set it all out the night before and get organized. Create a checklist and go through it. Power chords. Power supplies, Cameras. Nerf Balls to hit John Burkhart in the face?

  1. Do some homework

It should have already been done, but if not stay up late tonight and do some research on the speakers and attendees of the conference. Doing a little research will make the conference experience more beneficial in the long run. Begin interacting and connecting with speakers and attendees prior to the conference. Visit the Spark.me Facebook page to meet others before, during, and after the conference. Utilize these tools.

  1. Create a plan

Begin setting a plan for those you want to reach the most. Look over the schedule, and make notes of the speakers that you know will be interesting and fit your field the most. See if there will be any attendees that might present a good networking opportunity. Write down names and set plans to meet up. Some conferences are dedicated to making these networking opportunities happen naturally. Spark.me is one that does this well. However, it always requires a little work to reach out and set the time. Be intentional with the time that is spent at the conference. Do not let it go to the waste. Maximize your experience.

Conferences are an excellent opportunity to connect with those me may not meet in any other circumstance. You may get to speak to a marketing guru who spurs your strategy forward. Or you may talk to a cyborg that forces a change in perspective and how you experience the world around you. Making the right preparations will help open these opportunities and keep your experience on track.