Inside the TED Brand

TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design) talks have become extremely popular, with millions of viewers watching more than 1,900 talks on an extremely diverse set of subjects. Some of the world’s most notable figures, including Bill Clinton and Bill Gates, have given TED talks, which can be viewed free of charge online. Let’s take a look inside the TED brand and examine some of the most notable features of the brand’s approach.

Stories Are Key

TED’s motto is “ideas worth spreading,” a concept that guides its curation efforts. It is equally accurate to say that TED is focused on storytelling — and its speakers do it well. TED talks are known for being understandable and clear, which allows the story to shine through and reach the audience.

Curation as a Business Model

When looking inside the TED brand, it becomes clear that curation is an essential part of the business model. The speaker is carefully chosen for their interest to the public, their insight into a story or idea, and their ability to give a great talk. After finding a speaker, the organization also provides coaching to help speakers reach TED’s high standards. For talks on the Vancouver stage, speakers typically train for months before the big day.

TED doesn’t just curate its speakers – the audience is also curated. The organization weeds out marketers, and seeks people who will fully engage with the content – members of the community. This ensures that the reaction to each TED talk feels authentic and exciting.

Changing with the Times

The first TED conference was in 1984. In 1990, the annual event was established, attracting a few hundred people each. The brand truly came into its own in the 21st century, when it evolved rapidly to meet changing market demands. The brand recognized the importance of embracing the role of the Internet, and used the Internet as a platform to reach a much wider audience than ever before. In 2006, TED released all of its talks for free online. Now, TED’s audience numbers in the millions, and it has become a household name.

The Art of Letting Go

One of TED’s most controversial and successful moves was the launch of TEDx, which gave local organizers the ability to host TED-style talks without the core brand’s strict oversight. TEDx talks tend to focus on local voices and are more likely to tackle local issues, while TED talks have a more global focus.

When TEDx was introduced, many observers worried the organization was relinquishing its hold on the brand; some criticized the subjects of certain TEDx talks. For TED, letting go of strict brand control was an essential move, and one of the driving forces behind the organization’s immense growth. At the same time, TED still carefully controls its main event in Vancouver, which is also essential to the brand’s continuing success.

What do you think about the TED brand? Share in the comments!

This post was originally published on the One Smooth Stone blog on June 9, 2015. For a complimentary 30-minute consultation on how to build your brand and inspire an audience through events and communications, please contact Brian Duffy by calling 630.427.4235 or by emailing


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s