Relevance is a book that mostly discusses marketing the brands of products, but to me the subjects this book explore are even more interesting to think about from the perspective of Events. A product — and even most types of services for that matter — are tangible in the sense that clients should be able to have a clear idea of the value of the offering before paying for it. An Event on the other hand, and one of the great mysteries I love about this industry, is much more elusive in its value proposition. I always believe that a great event should be purpose driven, and as such, the concept of relevance is very important.
This is a well written book first of all, with lots of case studies that as I said are mostly from the world of physical products. Companies like Ford, Target, Apple, The Four Seasons, brands that have or produce tangible assets that consumers can see and understand. For me, the most interesting and broadly applicable takeaway from this book, and something the book iterates many times, is this concept of the Relevance Egg, that to be functional a brand must appeal to an individuals on 4 levels: thinking, sensory, community, and personal values.
The book has an appendix at the end that contains a portion of the raw research from their lab. The author Andrea Coville is head of a PR agency in Boston that produced this research as part of the research for this book. They applied the 4 appeals of the Relevance Egg across different sectors of the economy and compared how people rate the level of importance of each. For example, which of the 4 appeals is most important when choosing a nonprofit vs a commercial brand, or a high end product like cars vs a personal product like clothes. All these are interesting, but still it is my inclination to think from the perspective of event productions when I read any of these business books, and from this perspective the challenge of attaining relevance is both more elusive and more fun to explore.
What is the relevance of the TED Conference? This was the only event brand that was specifically alluded to in this book. Unfortunately for me, it was only used as a backdrop for Andrea to cite the fact that the topic of Relevance is being discussed at the TED Talks, which hardly helps our case of exploring the relevance of TED itself. But yeah, what is it about TED that makes it relevant? What makes it exactly $10,000 worth of relevant according to its attendance fee? Is it the content? The community? The online platform that reaches over a billion people worldwide? That makes for I think a very interesting discussion…
Most Event brands in the world is like TED — and most singular events, whether attached to a brand or not — in that they mean very different things to very different people. It is often said colloquially that we each need to “make the most” of our social outings at events, to meet as many new people as possible, to learn as much as possible, to expose your brand as much as possible, or any number of other objectives. On the other hand, as event professionals on our end we are always thinking about how to make our event more engaging, how to design a setting that engages people and sends the appropriate messages to achieve the purpose the event wants to achieve. And then there are also always those who goes to an event just for the free food and alcohol, or to just accompany their friends or dates or family or colleagues. Relevance for events is much more elusive than for tangible products.
And yet it is also essential for an event to prove or at least convince the stakeholders of its relevance if it is to be successful. Most professionally produced events are either for making money and/or for helping a cause. In most cases, the goal of these events is to live on beyond the first event, to become an annual or recurring event at some sort of frequency. Also in most cases, these events are financed by sponsorships — both corporate and individual — and that kind of money is almost impossible to come by if the sponsor doesn’t believe you’re relevant. On the highest end of this, companies like Coca Cola and Proctor & Gamble spend $100 million to be sponsors to the Olympic Games that happen every four years. The Olympics message is that it unites the world through its human endeavors of athleticism. Something about that is $100 million worth of relevant.
See you at the next exploration!