Many of the most successful companies in the world today – Apple, Google, Facebook, and so on – are built around a brand. Consumers see a logo and instantly know the company. They experience the products, the packaging, the web presence, the messaging, and the general communications, and trust them. It all seems to fit together. When you have your brand figured out and implemented early on, you get all kinds of leverage with stakeholders that can last a long time.

Why don’t all companies get their brand act together early on? It’s hard work, and often expensive. In the early days of C Space, I used to fantasize about how amazing it would be to have one of the great ad agencies helping us figure it all out and translating everything we did into something powerful in the marketplace. If I could have waved a magic wand, there would have been a Brandathon.

Now, there is. Four years ago Kathy Kiely, President of The Ad Club, the largest trade association for the advertising and communications industry in New England, and David Chang, investor, entrepreneur and, back then head of PayPal’s Start Tank, collaborated to launch The Brandathon, bringing together their respective worlds: agencies and startups.

This initiative gives a dozen Boston startups – selected by a panel of judges — the opportunity to be paired up with one of the top marketing and advertising agencies in New England, who will provide a brand makeover and marketing campaign. These startups will see their brand become more powerful in the course of just 72-hours. It’s magic, and one of the most unique and inspirational events of the year in Boston.

David Chang explains:

“I’ve lived in the startup world for the past 17 years, and the Brandathon is one of the most unique gatherings I’ve seen in one place. I think of it as Mad Men meets Silicon Valley, and it’s an eye-opening experience for startups to be exposed to such creative talent. The whole event is amazingly fun and has both the steak and the sizzle.”

Ad Club President, Kathy Kiely adds:

“Oftentimes, entrepreneurs have other pressing matters to deal with than to stop and think about their company’s branding. But it can’t be understated how important these are to the success of a business. For instance, it was a total thrill when one of last year’s participants, Tranquilo, got a total transformation of their look and feel just in time for the successful experience on Shark Tank! The Brandathon gives startups a true identity for their business from the top creative minds in New England.”

The process? Startups apply, judges select 25 semi-finalists, the 12 participating agencies select their top picks for finalists and are each matched with one, the work gets done, and on August 17th, the rest of us get to watch as the agencies unveil their work right in front of the startup teams. A panel of finals judges select the winners, but all of the finalists get to keep their work forever.

If you are leading a startup, please apply! If you are not entering, come to the event anyway (see below). It is always sold out, and it is an absolute blast: great food and drink, and a chance to see the unbelievable creative talent in our city.

Here’s what you need to know about entering the 4th Annual Brandathon:

Expert Branding: The best creative minds in the region. You can’t afford to hire any of these agencies, so take the chance on having them do it for free!

You Own the Rights: All the materials and work created by the agency on your behalf during the Brandathon are 100% your property and right to implement.

Exposure: Once you submit your pitch, it will be voted on by a select group of influencers in Boston – Angels, VCs, CEOs, CMOs. It will live on the Brandathon site, and you never know who might see it.

Startup Criteria: Under $5M in funding, less than 25 full-time employees and past prototype phase. Full criteria here. 

Applications: Open now through Tuesday, July 25 at 5 p.m. 

Key Dates: Startup applications will be voted on by an independent panel and narrowed down to the Top 25, who will be invited to the Match Up event on August 3rd at WeWork South Station. There, the final 12 pairings will be matched with their agency teams, and the work will begin! Branding campaigns will be presented by the agency teams at the main event on August 17th at Google in Cambridge. This event is open to the public, and tickets are available here.

Agencies: 36creative; Arnold Worldwide; Allen & Gerritsen; FORGE Worldwide; Genuine; GPJ; GYK Antler; Racepoint Global; SapientRazorfish; Small Army

Sponsors: Liberty Mutual, Boston Globe Media, Element, Elkus Manfredi Architects, Google, WeWork, BostInno, Eliassen Group, Boston Business Journal and Air Graphics.

I look forward to seeing everyone there!

Diane Hessan is an entrepreneur, investor, and Chair of C Space. She is also proud to be Chair of the Brandathon for the third year in a row.  Follow her or ask her Brandathon questions at @DianeHessan.