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Joella Hopkins

Event Pros Rebrand to Build Business

Rebranding your event business can open the door to new clients and new success.

Expanding from Events to Marketing

what From Simply Mumtaz Events to Mumtaz Marketing & Events

where Burbank, Calif.


Founder Joella Hopkins, CSEP, CMP, explains:

When did you start thinking about a rebrand, and why? Simply Mumtaz Events Inc. is just about seven years old, we originally launched June 1, 2005. I started thinking about rebranding in January 2011. [The rebrand launched to the media two months ago.]

It was a natural change because as we grew as professionals we began to understand the “big picture” events are not just parties. They are strategic in nature and the experience that attendees have at the events you produce gives that particular brand a feeling. If they have a bad experience they may not want to continue to purchase that product, keep spending their membership dollars, or give word-of-mouth referrals. In addition, besides providing the desired experience, it is about: What message did they get?

We began to realize that corporate America views event planning companies as “task managers" or "logistics-type" people--not strategic, big-picture thinkers, marketers, membership retention [experts] …

So, we went back to school. We were talking "marketing," so we got the credentials behind it and expanded to Mumtaz Marketing & Events. This takes us also into a higher professional bracket.

The other thing we’ve noticed is that the majority of PR or marketing firms offering event management services have all started from the "big picture" side of things. We come from the details up. We understand how each detail makes a difference to the big picture.

What has changed, what has stayed the same? We wanted to keep "Mumtaz" because we’ve slowly began to be known as the "Mumtaz girls" or “Mumtaz” as a standalone. We’ve been able to brand Mumtaz. So, [the rebrand is] a slight change in name but a huge change in feeling. We’ve gone from a boutique-feeling event planning company to a mainstream, more corporate-stylized template. We still wanted to have our event photos be our business card to the world, so our site still is photo-heavy. We’ve eliminated tons of copy to make it much more clean and simple. Less is more…

What elements have been rebranded?: We’ve completely rebranded. This includes everything from email addresses, website, business cards, letterhead, social media accounts--everything! We're even training ourselves to answer the phone differently.

Why was the rebrand essential? The rebranding was essential for us because we want to grow and be better at what we do. We provided most of our new services to clients as part of the benefit of contracting us to do their events. However, we wanted to get the credit for being strategic, improving the bottom line, helping to retain members, etc. We needed to educate our clients to our new, upgraded and strategic services.

What forces led to the rebrand? The main force would be the change in our capabilities. We also grew to the point where I was able to now focus more on client’s overall goals. Most of our clients are contracted for as little as three months out to nine months. This allows us to really get to know our clients and what their goals are--why do they put on events? It is no longer just OK with saying, "It’s a fundraiser." There’s so much more to events--networking, messaging, branding, membership retention, etc. Events are just a part of the overall plan.

How will the rebrand pay off? We are still in the process of “educating” potential and current clients about our rebrand and what that means. We are really looking forward to getting new clients that may also just want to utilize our marketing expertise--in particular associations and small businesses.

Has the rebrand caused any ripples with current clients? It has--some clients are now afraid we will no longer want to work with them since we are “too big” for them. My answer: "I/we would not be where we are without you," and we will be happy to service them as long as they’ll have us. We will never forget our roots. Otherwise, clients seem very excited to encourage our growth. They realize they are getting their money's worth.

Is it expensive to rebrand? Yes! I always say, if you are going to do something, you better do it right!

We are showcasing our launch in stages: The next stage is delivering special packages to strategic folks in the industry, clients and potential clients. Since we are "green," we’ve had reusable bags, made from three years' worth of cloth banners, branded with our new logo. We will have our new marketing “book” and have everything hand-delivered or FedExed!

Our goal is to re-introduce ourselves and products. We will also be doing a huge mailing this summer for those that haven’t yet gotten the message, which will be our last push. By that point we will have done two electronic notifications, one snail mail, and one specifically targeted introduction.

The time involved to redesign the website, revamp copy, [take] new headshots, create new templates, etc.--it’s almost like starting a new business.

The cost is also more than one would expect. Again, I like to do things a bit more dramatically than others so I, of course, always spend more! Kick me now!

Next Page: From Founder to Professional Team

From Founder to Professional Team

what From Jodi Moraru & Associates to EVOKE

where Washington


Founder Jodi Moraru explains:

When did you start thinking about a rebrand, and why? Due to the economic crisis that hit hard in 2009, the event industry in Washington--like everywhere else in the country and in countless other industries--was hit hard. Business was down and with that was the realization that clients were particularly attached to “Jodi Moraru.” Although there was an event team in place with seasoned event managers, I was finding that if clients could not contract directly with me as their project manager, they did not want anyone else in the company. Additionally, as I had begun growing the corporate sector of the business, I felt it was time to give the company a more corporate presence. [The rebrand launched to the media in 2010.]

This is my first and only rebrand. I think it’s important when making the decision to rebrand that it is done in a way that will stand the test of time, through change, growth and expansion.

What elements have been rebranded? The elements of the rebrand were several-fold:

  • Hiring of a PR/marketing/graphics firm--great decision!
  • Name change to EVOKE
  • Logo
  • Tagline “unique yet timeless”
  • Clear and consistent messaging carried throughout
  • Redesign of website
  • Launch party
  • Full-out social media effort: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, blog
Why was the rebrand essential? The rebrand was essential for growth. EVOKE was started, 14 years ago, as a single person—me—planning social events. The company has grown into a team of five full-time (and still growing), along with subcontractors as needed, who now produce both social and corporate events of all sorts, both locally and nationally.

What other forces led to the rebrand? Aside from the economic issues that were the impetus for the initial stage of rebranding, I and EVOKE both have had personal and professional growth and growth opportunities over the last two years. This comes from the building of the team, which brings a variety of talents, strengths and relationships that allow for support and continued growth. At a certain point I realized that although EVOKE is my company, it is not about me anymore.

How has the rebrand paid off? The rebrand has paid off in spades. Our business has grown considerably over the last two years in both the corporate and social sectors. EVOKE has opportunities now that we did not have two years ago. Our work ethic, professionalism, creativity and logistical ability to create outstanding events are what they always have been; however, there was a shift in the mindset of colleagues, vendors, etc., once the rebrand happened. We are now seen as a top player in the event industry.

Did the rebrand caused any ripples with existing clients? Clients have responded favorably to the rebrand on both the social and corporate side. Because of this, my team has grown over the last two years. When approaching any event from a team standpoint, there is a lot more comfort and credibility.

Was it expensive to rebrand? It was expensive, I will not lie. I am still paying back the loans on the rebrand. (And I am almost done --and it only took two years.) But the reward and growth has been well worth it and very exciting as well. I believe you have to spend money to make money.

Additionally, because we’ve more than doubled the EVOKE team in the last year, I took this home-based business into an exciting office space in September. We are now all together, working towards common growth goals, with daily support and interaction. Our conference room allows for client meetings, which only add to the level of professionalism.

What should those contemplating a rebrand keep in mind? As a business owner, and I am sure many business owners will understand this, if you want to grow and to be progressive, you must be willing to take risks. Managing a team brings its own set of challenges but with a great team there are great rewards. I want EVOKE to succeed and the individuals who are part of my team to succeed and be happy. That is critical to me.

One example of an interesting opportunity we decided to take advantage of was that we just co-hosted a social media seminar for local industry colleagues of ours. We realized that people are absolutely apoplectic about social media. Unless you are in your early 20s, social media is overwhelming and daunting. It was met with great success.

What made us do this? Well, as part of the rebranding, as I stated earlier, social media came into play, and we’ve seen the rewards from effective social media and wanted to share with our colleagues the information, tools and benefits. The more successful we are and the more opportunities we have to produce events of all natures, the more successful we can help our industry be.

Next Page: Divide and Conquer: Creating Brands Based on Capabilities

Divide and Conquer: AOO Creates Brands Based on Capabilities

what AOO Events plus AOO Live and David E. Merrell Signature Events

where Los Angeles

websites AOO Events and AOO Live

Founder David Merrell explains:

When did you start thinking about a rebrand, and why? I started AOO in 1989. It was originally called “An Original Occasion”; I started as a full-service caterer. At the beginning of the recession back in 2009, we like many other companies were “deer in the headlights"--kind of frozen and not knowing what to do.

After the shock wore off, we went into the knee-jerk reaction and started cutting any unnecessary expenses. This helped to stop the bleeding while the world was trying to figure out what this recession meant. By the summer of 2010, it seemed like everything was coming back to life again. What a relief, and while we had now cut significant staff and expenses, we were back in “event mode,” thinking the bullets were no longer flying at us.

We had a good run of business till about December of that year and then all of a sudden, it froze again! RFPs were still coming our way, but the proposals that used to knock it out of the park before were now being “turned down.” This is when we started to pay more attention to, why? How were corporations purchasing?

Long story short, we realized that the words “custom,” “events,” “decor”--all of which defined who AOO Events was--were falling on deaf ears. Corporations were purchasing meetings, with technology, with few frills, and purchasing our product was irresponsible. Now, it’s not to say that they were not purchasing it [at all] anymore, as they still added it on the tail end of the planning. But mostly they are concerned about branded messaging, the “takeaway” for the guests attending, is there a purpose to everything that is being presented in front of their attendees?

We added the brand AOO Live to our portfolio, and in the launching of this new brand, which has been relatively recent, our response from clients is very different. We already produced the live shows, meetings, etc., it’s just that we didn’t market that way because we are “known” as a high-end custom event design company. We simply “re-tooled” the message of how we present our product to the client.

The launch of AOO Live isn’t your first rebrand, is it? In 1989, we were a caterer. My full company name as AOO Event Inc. dba An Original Occasion. When 9/11 happened, the industry froze again, and for awhile, no one was purchasing anything in the event business. I had 32 employees at that time, and I made the decision to drop the catering side of the business and keep the decor and event production side to drop a lot of my overhead. With this decision, the clientele changed from social to more corporate. The name “An Original Occasion” was too “mom and pop”-sounding for the clients I was now marketing to, so I dropped An Original Occasion and just went to AOO Events. Each one of my changes has been forced--if you will--by a recession. Necessity breeds invention, right? So this recession required a new way of selling.

What elements have been rebranded? Other than the logo and the sizzle reel, we also have a new electronic marketing kit and printed materials. We did not drop AOO Events, as we know that the name is too deeply entrenched in the industry and our reputation, so now we ask the question: Is this client interested in a custom design house--and some are, and it does seem to be coming back--or is the client more interested in a marketing company that can create an experiential event with a branded message? And there are more of these type of purchasers in the corporate world in the present economy.

Why was the rebrand essential? I cannot change my physical plant and all the know-how that we have, or else I am talking about a complete re-shutting down, complete message change, and re-introducing ourselves to clients and an industry that knows us a certain way. AOO Events is well-known locally, nationally and internationally.

While what we do hasn’t come back completely, and may not for years, it is coming back. If we change the message of what we do, which is what we always have done, then we are getting bites again. AOO Live was simply a way of introducing a product that is more relevant to purchasers now, even though we have already been doing it for many years--we just didn’t sell it that way.

Now, we are also announcing a “social” division, and it is still in the works and all we have is the name and logo created. It will be called “David E. Merrell Signature Events.” Because the marketing for the social world is so different than the corporate world, this requires a complete new website, letterhead, sales team--bigger investment and more time to create it.

Look for more on this later … it will takes months and months and money to pull this together. But, we have the portfolio already, we have the experience--we just need to change our pitch as this is a very different audience.

What forces led to the rebrand? Every major change in my company has been due to the economy. There is a level of success that just gets larger and larger, and then the economy pulls the purchasers back. Now you have a big overhead, so you are forced to make the tough decisions to survive.

How do you expect that the rebrand will pay off? It is already bringing the larger corporate clients that we always target in our marketing. All of our sales efforts at this point are targeted at a certain profile of corporate client. The rebranding is absolutely catching their eyes!

Has the rebrand causes any ripples with current clients? Current clients can still know us as AOO Events, as they are all happy with what they got service- and product-wise from us. And, those clients will be purchasing decor again. But for those clients who don’t know that we produce live shows, this gives us another reason for them to pay attention to us.

Has the rebrand been expensive? AOO Live was less expensive as we have combined AOO Events and AOO Live onto our existing website. The logos are different but obviously tie together. These changes to the website, the logos and the sizzle reel were “relatively” inexpensive and didn’t take a lot of time--about two months.

The new social division has to be totally separate, separate message, etc. And the costs for this and the marketing that ensues will be very expensive--thus why the social division is going to take longer.

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