Event innovation, Disney, and souvenirs

event innovation Event innovation has to be more than giving attendees souvenirs.

Seth Godin, writing about extending brands, points out that to be successful you need to create something that’s both additive and new. For example, he compares Disney’s development of Disneyland from its movies, versus Leica announcing a watch.

Unlike Disneyland, Leica’s watch is “a souvenir of a feeling, not the creator“.

“The crappy t-shirt you bought at your favorite musician’s concert is a souvenir, but they shouldn’t count on that as their legacy or the engine of their growth.”
—Seth Godin, Extensions and souvenirs

Disney didn’t just coast on the success of Disneyland. Instead, the company continued to broaden its brand by creating different kinds of theme parks, each presenting “a distinct vision with its own diverse set of attractions”.

Each Disney theme park has a different conceptual focus that differentiates it from the others. For example, Epcot has a “World’s Fair” theme, Hollywood Studios revisits the movie universe, and Animal Kingdom is built around zoology.

Park-specific Disney souvenirs complement and strengthen attendees’ experience at each park, rather than being an afterthought.

Extending your event brand

Similarly, to successfully extend your event brand you need to design appropriate additive and new experiences into it over time. Having a new lineup every year of speakers at conferences, or different decor and F&B at special events is not enough. Providing souvenirs will do little to fix the event in attendees’ minds if their experience is essentially one they have had multiple times before.

It’s hard to create genuinely new experiences for special events like galas, life celebrations, and incentive programs. (Hey, if it were easy, everyone would be doing it.) The JKWeddingDance, invented in 2009, became a fun and novel format for Western weddings, but such innovations are rare. It’s not surprising that special events rely largely on creative decor, production, and F&B in an attempt to make the event memorable.

But conferences, where people come to learn and connect, are a different matter. There are many powerful, appropriate, little-used formats available besides lectures, panels, breakouts, and socials. I’ve written books about them. You can fulfill your event’s objectives by incorporating these appropriate formats into your meetings, creating unique experiences worth remembering.

So don’t serve up the same stew of event formats year after year. Event innovation? Or same-old, same-old? It’s your choice. To extend your event brand, choose innovative formats, so those souvenir T-shirts will become something that people will hang onto for years!