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Building Your Brand Despite the Pandemic

Building Your Brand

As we move into a full year of dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, many organizations and festivals have had to redefine plans, change those new plans, and look at different ways to keep relevant. Organizations have had to look at ways to keep their brand in the minds of their fans and constituencies.

This is required for a few reasons.

  • First, the constituencies are needed to help support the organization through donations, especially if the traditional revenue streams of sponsorships, ticket sales, and food and beverage sales are either limited or nonexistent if the event is not run.
  • Next, many organizations still have bills to pay – overhead for buildings, staff, or other costs.
  • Third, there might be ways to develop new revenue streams through different ways to keep the brand in front of people.
  • Lastly, you do not want to have to build excitement and support once we are through the pandemic and your typical events and plans happen again.

Branding during this time without your signature events can be something simple or complex. What is important is to evoke emotions of your audience – what do they treasure about your event and what makes your event special and different. It can be as simple as some social media posts. Merchandising can be a great way to promote your brand and help with some revenue for your organization. Small events or different takes on your signature events can even keep the brand front and center and create a positive image. Telling your story and your impact is another way to keep your festival or organization in the forefront of the community. Consider having some type of media event, advertorial, broadcast or podcast to explain how your organization benefits the community. What you want to avoid is doing nothing and then having the only media be that the event is not occurring – turn it around to make it positive and a way for people to share their memories.

One thing I like to do is to see what organizations are doing. This inspires new ideas or can spur something for your own community. By following a variety of organizations on social media, there have been a number of great ways that festivals and organizations have been keeping their brand in the news or have created some new excitement in the covid cloud of isolation.

Winterfest Boat Parade, Fort Lauderdale, FL
They cancelled their boat parade in 2020 and 2021 is ushering in their 50th anniversary. To help celebrate and recognize this milestone, they have been having some fun social media posts. They have recognized past Grand Marshals with photos and trivia and shared the who’s who of those famous celebrities through the decades. They could fill their own Love Boat episode! In addition, they post the top music and memories from their first year to help those baby boomers remember the 1970’s when the organization first started and are now moving through the decades, which is also a great tie to their title partner.

ArtFest Fort Myers. Fort Myers, FL (and other art festivals)
With concerns about safety, ArtFest worked with other art festivals to build a virtual platform for artists. Many festivals around the country will be using this platform and it allowed ArtFest to hold an in person event and virtual event at the same time. Artists sold pieces on each platform and it gave the artists the chance to build their first online store and presence that can easily be used for the various festivals throughout the country.

Mardi Gras
Many people have seen this as it was national news. Instead of having floats go down the various streets of the French Quarter, houses were decorated with the items that are found on the Mardi Gras floats. People could then wander safely around to see the houses that represented the various krewes and take photos safely.

Cherry Blossom Festival, Washington D.C.
Even though their events are modified this year, the cherry blossoms still bloom. This was one of the first festivals last year to build a virtual presence with a variety of events and performances. This year, they have focused on the creation of blossom sculptures that various artists have designed and showcased the blooming of them and placement throughout the DC area. With the uncertainty of events now, they have really showcased the art from the artist studios to the placements in and around DC and Northern Virginia.

Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, Tournament of Roses Parade, and other Parades
Having my start in the industry as a volunteer with a Christmas Parade, I am always looking to see what other parades are doing. Even though many parades did not occur this year, they had some type of televised special or look back to showcase their past and look forward to the future and still allow their audience to celebrate.

Even as we all slowly reopen, it might be another year before you are running everything at full speed like you did before the pandemic. Think about ways to keep your fans excited and build momentum by keeping your brand front and center throughout the year. This can only help you in the future and secure why the community needs your organization and your event or festival.

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