This past weekend I went to the 16th Annual Boston Vegetarian Vegetarian Food Festival. I have been a vegetarian for 13 years and have been to this festival before. There are always intriguing speakers and delicious food samples. This year I went with a new perspective of checking out the branding of the exhibitors. For some context, the festival takes place in the gym of a community college, giving it a casual feel, and many exhibitors are small businesses or grassroots non-profits. These are my favorite examples of best practices for event booths:
If you can have the real thing instead of pictures of the real thing – Do it! The Sproutman‘s exhibit made it pretty clear what he specializes in.
No Meat Athlete
In a space where most exhibitors just used the table given to them, No Meat Athlete used vertical space in back of its table to really catch my eye. The consistent color scheme throughout the display and the logo everywhere was a great example of branding done right.
Go seasonal! Vegan Treats had Halloween-themed mini-cakes on display, which gave them the impression of being current while other booths’ food doesn’t change much month to month. Their branding was consistent through the font and and designs of the signs you can see a bit of in the picture and you should really check out their one-of-a-kind website.
Interactive is always better. It’s that simple! Viana cooking their tofu bratwurst right in front of me actually drew me in and I ended up buying it while I didn’t buy any other faux meats that I sampled and liked. Doing a live cooking demo led lots of people to start a conversation with the cook (“Is that done cooking? Can I take one?”) who could then launch into his pitch whereas with other samples you could more passively take one and keep walking without saying anything.
The last exhibitor I have to give a shout-out to is Mercy for Animals. I don’t have a picture of their booth, but you can see their display from the Boston GreenFest from my last Exhibitors Who Got It Right post. Their campaign is “We’ll pay you $1 to watch this 4-minute video.” I took them up on the deal this time and around minute 2 converted from vegetarianism to veganism. The video had a profound impact on my life (and the lives of animals) and it goes to show the power of marketing and exhibiting. The beauty of non-profit work is that every once in a while you remember how everything you do every day is furthering a mission that you believe in, and no matter your position in your organization, you are having an impact on the world.
Over the weekend I attended the second annual Boston GreenFest at Boston City Hall Plaza. Almost 200 exhibitors were vying for the attention of me and hundreds of my fellow attendees. Here are three that stood out to me with their ideas for promoting their missions.
1. Mercy for Animals: We will pay you to educate you about our cause.
This animal rights organization offered to pay anyone $1 who would watch their video. At festivals and conferences I expect to be given things for no money and offers to get things for less money, but I’ve never made money before. I know what animal rights videos are like (that’s why I don’t eat animals!) so I didn’t take the deal. I imagine others didn’t for similar reasons, but I did see several people watching. What a direct way to make the most of your advocacy and outreach budget! Instead of running your video as a TV commercial (muted or skipped on Tivo), get viewers involved in person and invested like its their job. Even smarter, I saw a donation bin full of $1 bills. I guess after seeing the video many were inspired to donate it right back. Raise awareness and funds at the same time = A pretty win-win campaign.
2. Boston Collaborative for Food and Fitness: We will have you play a game to educate you about our cause.
This may not be anything new, but I love the way that they did it. I felt less pressure to buy anything or sign up for anything like other booths, but it still got me thinking about nutrition. They had me spin a wheel (always fun to spin a big wheel like a game show) and I got the category of vegetables, which got me a trivia question about…vegetables. I learned that the most consumed vegetables in the U.S. are lettuce (because of fast food burgers) and potatoes (because of fast food French Fries). I’m sure other answers were just as inspiring to make people want to do something about health.
3. Environmental Insurance Agency: We will give you prizes if you let us educate you about our cause.
First, I think this non-profit mission-based insurance agency (apparently not an oxymoron) is a genius program. The Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) started it to incentivize driving less. Your rates go down the less you drive. A part of your policy goes to funding the CLF’s work. Again, I say genius. They had a raffle at their table. Like #2, not necessarily something new but I love the way they did it. First, you’re asked to sign up for an email list (“just one email a month”) in exchange for a raffle ticket. Then you’re asked to play Transit Trivia to get a second ticket (I learned from experience that you get a ticket whether you get every one of them wrong or not). The raffle prizes are things you want but still related to their mission (whale watch tickets and DVDs). I walked away with two chances to win and new knowledge about commuting pollution in Massachusetts. They gained an email address and raised mission awareness. Another win-win.
I learned a lot through the process of planning my wedding, like how to walk the line between being a detail-orientated planner and a detail-obsessed bride. But between negotiating contracts and placing orders, sometimes it felt more like a business experience than a personal one. Mass mailings (invitations), website design and writing (wedsite), brand identity (theme/color scheme), and obviously event planning. It even involved writing for the press and video editing when we were selected to be featured in the New York Times (announcement and video here). It all reminded me a lot of the branding process at work.
In branding an organization or a wedding, you want to make sure that there is a cohesive feel to all of the materials without getting matchy-matchy. Open and frequent (but not too frequent) communication with your constituents/guests as well as your partners/vendors is key. Most importantly, you need to have a strong base of knowing who you are as an organization or as a couple to be able to come up with any of this. Our wedding stayed true to who we are: environmentally-friendly, vegan, personal, and just a little silly. I wouldn’t necessarily say we are casually elegant, though that is the feel we were going for.
This week brought the official launch party of my employer’s new identity: our new name, our new brand, our new website. I have learned some do’s and dont’s for these kinds of parties through the process:
- DO invite the whole world. We tried to keep the guest list manageable since we have a relatively small space and didn’t really open it up to the public. We wanted mostly the leaders of the organizations we work with and want to work with. But a small guest list means a small party and less of a party feel.
- DON’T allow there to be too many speakers. Want to know another detractor from a party feel? A PowerPoint presentation. Or multiple PowerPoint presentations… Yes, its true. In our efforts to be inclusive of every stakeholder, our event turned into a bit of a lecture. Highlight the leader of your organization talking about what you are there to celebrate and he/she can mention and thank the stakeholders, but doesn’t need to give them 5 minutes to speak.
- DO serve food and give out swag. We chose dishes that reflected the cuisines of the countries we work in and gave away our new promotional items like Post-It notepads.
- DON’T forget about the details and to have every detail branded. We had orange programs, orange balloons with our new name and tagline, and orange signs to describe the food. We also had a greeter at the front of the building and a greeter at the elevator door at all times.
- DO put out a press release about your event. Ours got picked up by a regional paper (see portfolio).
Visual brand identity, that is. Much more than just a logo, a VBI is what your fonts and colors and designs are, but also what is behind that. Without knowing who we are and who our constituencies are, it wouldn’t be possible to develop a visual brand. Our identity as an organization isn’t just the groundwork for creating graphics, it the reason to create the graphics and it must always remain our core focus over the graphics.
Nevertheless, the graphics are very pretty. We have a logo, a business card design, a report cover design, and some general motifs to use throughout our print and web presence. It was a challenge to come up with a logo for our program since we have a parent company already has their own. We decided to have the logo be a stylized way of writing our name so it wouldn’t overpower the parent logo. It’s pretty exciting to have this major step completed!
We are completely re-branding our organization and starting with the re-naming. If you’ve ever had to name an organization or a child, you know how hard it is. You need to make sure it will work for it as it grows for years and years. You need it not to hold it back and you don’t want it to get teased. Quite the opposite: You need it to inspire confidence and make a good first impression.
It’s a lot of pressure on a couple of words and there are many stakeholders (directors/parents, CEOs/grandparents, staff/siblings). Getting everyone’s input and trying to get 100% consensus on one name can feel impossible. Our process was no exception and there were several disagreements along the way. But in the end, we found a name that expresses the core of who we are.
Our old name was something along the lines of ”The Institute for Training and Community Organizing.” One of our main pain points with this name was its lengthy drawn-out wordy longness. “The Institute” and “ITCO” were its real names and these said absolutely nothing about who we are. The other central issue was that we had outgrown this name: “Training” and “Community Organizing” are now only two of our eight service areas.
It was a descriptive name (like Florida Orange Juice and British Airways) that had lost its descriptive quality. Knowing that our service areas may continue to change, we did not want to go this route again. Different communicationist camps will tell you different categories of name types, but I think descriptive vs. evocative basically covers it. “Evocative” meaning the name evokes a feeling or idea about the product or company instead of being literal. Our new name focuses on our approach instead of services, but isn’t direct about saying it. I think having to describe it will actually be useful in a pitch.
Our new name is meant to highlight what we think makes us unique: our approach, not our specific services. We also went from a name that was 6 words long to one with just 2 words. I believe the change will be well-worth the investment of time and resources and the risk that goes along with feeling like you’re starting from scratch. If you could change your non-profit’s name, would you? What would it be?