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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.)

Why I want to attend Spark.me 2017

spark.me 2017 why I want to attend

Spark.me 2017 is headed this way quickly. The annual conference is already shaping up to be another stellar affair with a speaker line-up sure to deliver. Spark.me is a conference about emerging and innovative business models, disruptive tech, digital marketing strategies, and transformative initiatives. With a pristine location just outside of Budva, Montenegro on the Adriatic Sea, there are no valid reasons to skip Spark 2017. However, some still need reasons to come.

Inspiration v. Motivation

Right now, it is easy to scroll through Facebook or any other feed and find countless “motivational” speakers that try to get people amped up to go do something. Anything. While motivation may be necessary at times, I find it lacks substance that will push forward day after day when the grinding is the hardest.

The majority of what I take away from Spark.me is inspiration. Inspiration feeds on what is already beating deep down within us, and gets triggered to burst forward and outward. The stories shared at Spark.me, those sitting around you, and those who take the stage offer inspiration to make the decisions and actions that have been hiding deep within you. The substance of real examples and the information being dispersed do not push you to a pipe dream belonging to someone else. Instead, they provide practical and applicable steps to accomplish goals while overcoming real challenges.

Spark-Me-Brian-Solis

Interactions with the Speakers

While Spark.me may not be biggest conference regionally, the organizers created a venue to allow attendees to get up close to world class speakers/practitioners. They are not only speakers. These are people who are currently leading changes in their fields and expertise. And the intimacy of the venue produces the perfect environment to interact, engage, and learn. This would be my third year at Spark, and I cannot wait to see the list of speakers continue to unfold.

What I have found helpful in leading up to the conference, is reaching out to the those who are especially interesting or inspiring. I did this over the last two years and received quite a bit of openness for future projects. Spark.me is the first opportunity that I had to connect in easy and natural ways with those who graced the stage. BTW, reaching out prior to Spark also landed me some excellent coffee thanks to Jovana and Frank!

Beyond the Speakers

Spark.me is so much more than the speakers, venue, and other things that usually stand at the forefront. When you sit down in your seat, look at the people around you and introduce yourself. Go to lunch and roll up on someone to introduce yourself. Meet the media companies present, the bloggers, and whoever else. NETWORK.

Spark.me is the perfect place to network. Again, not overly crowded where networking can be intimidating, but also large enough to strengthen your network internationally. Start expanding the brand, and possibly learn new skills or meet the person that will help overcome specific challenges being faced.

These are my top 3 reasons for why i want to attend Spark.me 2017. Do not hesitate. Pick up your tickets hereWhy do you want to participate this year? And when will we meet for coffee? 🙂

Past talks and posts from Spark.me are linked below:

Chris Fabian and Innovation Solving World Problems 

How to address change

Reflections from 2015

As a bonus, here are some ways to explore Montenegro when visiting for Spark.me.

photo credits: Jennifer Buxton visit www.RealPoshMom.com to chat travel, food, fashion, and work.

Innovation, Tech, And Solving World Problems

Matt Lambert; Spark.me; Solving world problems

In just under two weeks, Spark.Me will kick off. In preparing for it,  listening to the talks from 2015 and previous years is an excellent way to observe what the conference is about and set expectations. For other ways to prepare, I suggest you check out RealPoshMom’s article here.

Spark provides opportunities for entrepreneurs and startups to rethink their ideas, systems, and industries to develop their product. One talk from 2015 stands out as a way to use innovation and tech for other purposes aside from building your startup, or in conjunction with your startup. Chris Fabian from UNICEF gave a talk on the growth of tech in solving world problems, and the importance of investing in localized development that can scale up and be applied on larger levels.

Why is localized development so important?  

To Fabian, locally developed platforms help form solutions in context to the challenges that are being faced. It is an advantage over existing platforms that have already been significantly developed across the world. Local development puts the solution in a language and context that local people can understand. Of course, this does not discredit the strides that existing platforms such as Facebook and Twitter have used in meeting crisis situations. However, Fabian used two examples of Ebola outbreak and the Nepal earthquake to demonstrate how solutions developed on the ground of these disasters proved more beneficial for the response.

Startups and solving world problems

One of the better discussions that is raised during the talk happens in the Q and A. Chris talks sustainability, and startups looking to do do good. In a conversation that usually involves pursuing money or creating a social model, Chris pushes businesses to think differently offering that most businesses are looking to do good in the world. Startups have the freedom to solve a specific challenge or crisis while building a business model that will make money through a proper exit strategy or transforming the product to meet similar challenges in a different context.

Chris also pushes startups and companies to enter a new relationship with existing power structures and working between different groups. He does this by pointing back to UNICEF’s 9 principles for innovation and tech development. These principles, no matter how obvious, represent the existing change occurring across business lines and development in crisis areas. In the end, Chris looks to leverage the value and innovation of the startup community for solving world problems, and doing so in a way which invests in the local and global markets.

Check out the full talk below. Look ahead for Spark.me at the end of the month with an openness to challenge your own ideas for startups.