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Expert Interview: Outstanding Events Start with a Clear Vision

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Q&A With Etienne Sanz de Acedo, CEO of the International Trademark Association

In a world of blurring borders and growing global reach that extends from large organizations to mighty small ones, branding and trademarking practices are more crucial than ever. A legal understanding of an organization’s international rights can be the difference between success and failure. These issues mark the central theme at the Annual Meeting of the International Trademark Association (INTA) — and were discussed with INTA CEO Etienne de Acedo. 

Among other topics, Acedo shared how INTA engages and educates its attendees so they leave the annual brand experience with valuable information and solutions that make an impact on the world. At its core, INTA believes attendees own the conference — so all content and design should reflect their professional needs and national backgrounds.

Q: What are the goals of the International Trademark Association (INTA), and why are those goals so important to businesses and consumers?

ES: As the largest association of brand owners globally — with 7,000 organizations and 32,000 members from nearly 200 countries — the International Trademark Association is leading the effort to advance and observe trademark rights. By improving trademark laws worldwide, we promote fair trade and effective commerce while protecting consumers against counterfeited goods.

For companies, their brands or trademarks are titles — a proprietary right granted by states. And for consumers, branding is essential to helping them make the right choices among products. 

But what happens if that right is taken away? For example, the World Health Organization has been reviewing a case on plain packaging for tobacco products, where branding is eliminated from packaging due to health concerns. The apprehension is that plain packaging legislation could expand to other industries — such as alcoholic beverages, confectionaries, food products, and infant formula. We fear that without brand packaging, the number of counterfeit or untrustworthy goods will increase, putting consumers at risk.

Q: What did you want to accomplish for the attendees of INTA’s 2017 Annual Meeting?

EA: We wanted to address three key questions:

  1. What are our top priorities?
  2. What is our vision for the future?
  3. What are our strategies for executing this vision and achieving our goals?

Throughout the event, we explored the answers to those questions. This led to broader conversations around our organizational goals, which included lobbying for:

  • A better internet
  • More consistent procedures
  • Strategic approaches to combat counterfeiting
  • Better branding laws, including eliminating brand restrictions that don’t benefit the consumer.

We offered more than 300 customized educational sessions to our more than 10,600 attendees. Each session helped participants better understand the industry, take away something that would benefit them in their roles, and understand how INTA could benefit them as a whole. We also offered numerous opportunities to network and to receive training, which attendees had expressed was important.

Q: A record number of attendees arrived this year. What’s your secret for engagement?

EA: We’re advocates for all brands, regardless of size. Trademarks and brands don’t exclusively benefit big corporations! We also realize that branding and trademarking is increasingly important. Because we’re the industry leader in this area, we’re actively growing participation in two key membership segments: corporate employees and corporations themselves.

To continue increasing engagement with these groups, we must focus on the industry’s pressing issues and help our membership grow within their organizations.

Going forward, we plan to continue offering our members innovative solutions to their branding and trademarking problems. Our first step will be to transform our website into an information hub that will benefit members and visitors alike. 

Q: How does selecting the right speakers improve the attendee experience?

EA: Kicking off an event with the right speakers infuses the event with energy and conveys a specific message to attendees: “This is your event. Take advantage of the opportunities, but also enjoy it.”

Q: With members from 190 countries, how do you appeal to everyone at a single event?

EA: I’ve already mentioned the diversity of our membership, and if we look at our board of directors, we have 37 directors plus three advisory directors from 18 countries and five continents. We have an incredible amount of diversity.

We enjoy honoring our multicultural membership by hosting our conferences and annual meetings in locations around the world. Hong Kong, Seattle, Cartagena, Berlin, Boston — our destinations really reflect the mix of members we have.

And with this diversity, we realize that producing content in multiple languages is critical. We’re very proud of the efforts we put into communications and materials that reach each attendee.

Q: What makes your partnership with Freeman so special?

EA: We have been so pleased with every aspect of our Freeman partnership. We truly have become a cohesive team over the four years I’ve served as CEO. Freeman carefully listens to what we need to achieve with each event — and what messages we need to convey — and then they build our events to our exact specifications.

From creating memorable opening ceremonies to building our exhibition hall, Freeman never lets us down. Our events have come a long way since partnering with Freeman, and it’s easy to put our complete confidence in them, knowing they have our best interests in mind.

Want to cultivate better events? Download our insights paper and guide to get started.

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