So in a big move for us this past week, I pushed to change our annual content marketing conference’s name in order to focus on building a movement first and a brand, second. We initially called our event “The Uberflip Experience.” As I write this, I feel a little sheepish, seeing in hindsight how self-promoting the event’s name was (As a matter of fact, I’m going to reference “X” for ‘our brand’ for rest of this post, so you don’t mistake this as further self-promotion). We were aiming to educate our audience on our vision of how great content experiences can fuel the entire buyer’s journey. But we threw “X” right in our event’s name!
The idea for the conference name change came to me just three weeks ago. In the lead-up to our big event in August, we were hosting our first roadshow in Atlanta. Taking a queue from others in the industry (i.e., Unbounce, et al.), the one-day event focused on the importance of a great content experience, with phenomenal speakers like Sangram Vajre talking about trending topics like ABM and its impact on content.
Part way through performing my MC duties, I fielded a question I didn’t expect: “When will be doing our product demo?” My reply came quickly: “Today is more about the ideas than our product, though our team members would be happy to coordinate something for you when we’re back in the office next week.”
Later I started wondering, “should we have done a demo?” I quickly dismissed the thought. After all, our mission for these events was loftier — to bring like minded people together to change the way people thought about not just managing content — but the whole content experience. Yes, our long-term goal was customers and advocates, but we really just wanted people to buy into our vision and movement. But why were they expecting a demo in the first place?
And then it struck me. We’d promoted this as The “X” Roadshow. These prospects, and likely others who came or didn’t attend for this very reason, expected it to be a day-long product pitch! We’d unintentionally placed a hurdle right in front of them. We were basically saying, “Come to our “X” event, where we promise not to push our product on you.” I can imagine the skepticism. Yeah right. Eye roll. Sign me up. Cue the boos...
The saving grace in all of this was that, despite the name, last year’s big annual conference wasn’t brand-led, but industry and content driven. After all, it featured some of content marketing’s very best: Jay Baer, Ann Handley, Lee Oden, Ron Tite, and Andy Crestodina. I’ll stop there for fear of being played off the stage like a long-winded Oscar-winner. But, for those of you in a different industry, think of it this way — it’d be like Elon Musk, Tim Cook and Bill Gates discussing the future of tech with Sergey Brin backstopping the event!
So “all” we needed was to reposition and rebrand!
A major challenge was that I came to this realization for a rebrand when our conference was only 130 days away. I was already anticipating blowback from my team once I announced my decision. Now, my team responds well to challenges from their CMO, but moves like this can really test their resolve! With that in mind, I decided to arm myself with insight from successful leaders who’ve managed to build a movement without putting their brand first.
I sent a short note to a few of my friends and peers in the industry with a simple question: How did you land on The Movement Event vs The Brand Event?
Here are some of the replies I received:
I’d love to ask Marc Benioff what first inspired Dreamforce, but I don’t have his email address yet :). I believe he’d likely highlight the opportunity to unite a community of users and vendors aiming to solve for a better customer experience. (Feel free to comment below if I’m off-base, Marc!)
A huge relief for me was that upon presenting to our team, everyone was pumped! I like to think that every “Uberflipper” has joined us because they believe, as Dharmesh put it best, that there’s an opportunity to “catalyze a movement” where experiences drive the buyer journey. So, within just seven days (not a typical 40-hour work week), our team relaunched “The Uberflip Experience” as The Content Experience.
From this somewhat obvious, yet hard learned lesson, my advice to marketers and branding experts is that sometimes you need to let your brand take second place. In our case, that doesn’t mean our brand won’t have its moments to shine before, during, and after our conference. It just won’t be front and center.
Randy Frisch is President and CMO at Uberflip, a platform that allows marketers to create, manage, and optimize content experiences at every stage of the buyer’s journey. Randy wears many hats, including overseeing the marketing, strategy, operations, sales, and execution of Uberflip's solution. He is also the co-host of the podcast Content Pros, which unlocks the strategies and secrets of the best content marketers in the world.