Going through an event rebrand can sometimes feel like you’re the subject of a makeover scene in a romantic comedy. The hair, eyebrows, clothes – all of it gets revamped during a spunky montage, and the person (usually female) magically turns into a knockout beauty. Despite the new look, this individual still remains the same wonderful person at their core.
For AMA Baltimore, our annual awards ceremony was the makeover subject, and Bates Creative was our stylist.
We wanted to do something fresh and different for our 34th annual marketing awards. AMA had just completed a national rebrand, and we wanted to build on that success by transforming our Marketing Excellence Awards into the MX Awards – the same ceremony that recognizes the most creative, successful marketing campaigns in the area, but with a new look.
We spoke with Amanda McCarthy, Director of Marketing, and Cecile Jordan, Art Director, at Bates Creative to get their insights on event rebranding, the MX Awards Creative Process, and more.
Why Rebrand an Event?
Think about your end goal. What are you trying to achieve? “I think from an overarching perspective with any rebranding initiative, there needs to be that end goal, which could be looking to expand into a new audience segment,” explains McCarthy. “For AMA Baltimore, with over 30 years of running this program, they wanted to refresh, reignite, and re-engage various groups with a modern edge. There are very specific reasons why an organization would want to rebrand. It comes down to audience, positioning, and engagement.”
Whether you’re trying to sell more tickets, expand to a new audience, or simply get people excited about the event again, it is important to recognize your goal and stay true to your mission. “If you think something may look outdated, you may need a refresh, but you want to make sure your goals tie into it,” says McCarthy. “It needs to be tied to business goals and strategies. What are the metrics to see how it will be successful? It can be a fun experience to rebrand, but that shouldn’t be the only reason why you’re doing it.”
Start with Research, then Get Creative
You can’t start the creative process without research. Bates Creative worked with AMA Baltimore to collect information regarding the awards program. “Initially, any rebrand endeavor we do, we want to start with research,” states McCarthy. “We gathered the right information for what the goals were, what we wanted to achieve, and analyzed other awards programs in the space through competitive analysis. By looking at the history of how the program was run for over 30+ years, we were able to expand where we could through the creative and design of the brand. After the analysis comes the fun part.”
Using the research, Jordan said that were able to develop a number of concepts and names using ideas that ranged from playful and fun to elegant and clean. “There was this great opportunity to marry this award ceremony with the national brand in the MX letters. I was excited that AMA Baltimore went in that direction, and I felt that it made total sense,” says Jordan.
AMA Baltimore gave Bates Creative the room they needed to create something amazing, and it shows in the end result. “It’s not every day that we get to incorporate the trophy design and pieces for these unique applications,” explains Jordan. “It’s seldom that the printer says, ‘Go crazy, do whatever you want.’ Any of these elements where you’re using nice paper supplies, die cut, folds, foil – it’s fun seeing it all come to life and be able to play with the pieces in my hands.”
Creating with Intention
It may have been fun to play with the creative elements and design, but everything needed to make sense for the event. The pieces were created with intention and served a purpose. “The devil is in the details. Anyone can create a logo, but if you are able to pull all of those elements and details together, people will take notice. When you get to the event, you want to see that people took the time to carry that through,” says Jordan.
The print pieces were a major change for AMA Baltimore. A “Marketing Excellence” poster was included in the Call for Entries piece, and a clear MX Awards coaster was included with the program. “The paper was heavy and had a luxurious feel. We could have printed it on anything, but people may want to hold onto it now because it has weight. We could make a program like we’ve done before, or do something unique and memorable,” Jordan argues.
“It’s an investment to print something that intricate, but we did that with the intention that people would want to hold onto it,” says McCarthy. “People may want that artistic poster to put in their office to promote marketing excellence. The program paired with the coaster was a little more special, and people may want to keep it throughout the year.”
If you’re considering an event rebrand, McCarthy and Jordan have a few tips for you:
- Make sure you have enough time. It takes three months to promote an event, and a rebrand needs more time to build up that engagement.
- Ensure that you have the right partners in place. Doing everything in-house is tough, but the right partners can help you tackle everything on your list.
- Find a great project manager to make sure all of the moving parts are being considered.
- Have patience. “People can get cold feet or get tired of looking at the same thing and want to change it up. Trust the process that the design and strategy team have in place,” says Jordan.
The newly rebranded MX Awards looked and felt different from past years. The energy in the room was electric, and the feedback on the event was positive. It was important for both AMA Baltimore and Bates Creative to develop a brand that could be built on and expanded over the years to come. “For those who didn’t go, we want them to know they missed out. There were interesting projects, brands, and networking. It was a great opportunity,” states McCarthy.
“We really hope we conveyed the energy, excitement, and celebratory nature of the awards itself and the environment and vibe that people are celebrating the community. We wanted that tone to come through everything and create cohesive excitement,” says Jordan. “Put it on your calendar for next year. Spread the word, and share how much fun it is.”