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What is brand activation in marketing? | Definition & Ideas

In today’s digital era, consumers are increasingly bombarded with impersonal advertising and communication initiatives. In a context like this, it becomes more and more important to engage in non-traditional marketing actions and add them to your 360° campaign to maximize your results. One of these non-traditional marketing actions is brand activations.

Brand activation allows a brand to have a privileged moment with the consumer one-on-one to showcase the features and advantages of a product. The attention span is much longer for these types of experiences than for a 30 second TV ad or web banner. Plus, in these situations, the consumers choose on their own to dedicate their time to you (your brand). It is therefore less intrusive and more holistic, which is why this marketing strategy is capable of altering consumer behavior in a positive manner.

Brand activations require the implementation of an action plan, which details the interactions and image that are necessary in order to portray the desired brand identity. Apart from defining your brand strategy, you have to make sure that your interactions drive this strategy in order to deliver an experience that is not only satisfactory, but also memorable.

If you’ve just launched your brand, chances are you know who your target audience is but they probably don’t know who you are yet. In order to get the word out and propel your brand awareness, you have to do something remarkable and get people excited about your brand. You have to create a meaningful connection with your target group and generate engagement. The best way to do this is to activate your brand – aka bring it to life. This will help you reach your customers and shape how they perceive you. 

Did you know that the majority of brand strategies are not implemented correctly? This is why brand activations are an integral part of the brand-building process. In this article, we walk you through the definition of brand activation and explain its process, benefits and much more. We also give you some examples of successful brand activations to inspire your future activations.

Definition of Brand Activation

The way we like to define it is an interaction, event or campaign through which businesses are able to increase brand awareness and brand LOVE. The main advantage of brand activations is that they are interactive so they enable the creation of long-lasting relationships between a brand and its target audience by engaging it in exclusive experiences. These unique experiences created by brands generate FOMO with the generation Z and millennial audiences and the reach goes much further than the actual people onsite.

What are the benefits of brand activation?

In today’s ultra-connected world, companies need brand activations to set themselves apart and succeed in their respective industry. Businesses that are able to create an emotional connection between their brand and target audience are capable of making consumers associate certain emotions or feelings to their brands. This then incentivizes them to purchase the company’s products or services. In fact, 98% of consumers feel more inclined to purchase a brand’s product after an activation (source). 

The benefits of planning differentiated actions and proposing unique experiences, whether in the form of experiences or product offerings, makes all the difference for brands and their consumers. 

Here are some of the main benefits of activating your brand: 

  • It strengthens the client-brand relationship
  • It increases brand awareness and engagement 
  • It generates a positive ROI 
  • It increases the buyback rate
  • It provides measurable results 
  • It enables customer data collection 
  • It helps companies strengthen their brand position in the market 
  • It reduces the cost for other marketing activities 
  • It enhances the brand experience and drives consumer action 

4 different types of Brand Activations

Brands that want to distinguish themselves in today’s competitive landscape have a variety of strategies to choose from. Here are some of the most effective types of brand activation: 

1. Experiential marketing

Experiential marketing, also known as engagement marketing, is a marketing strategy that focuses on provoking feelings and emotions so that the consumer connects with your brand. It consists in creating interactive and immersive experiences that showcase the company’s values in order to connect and engage with a brand’s target audience and wake the consumer interest. 

Experiential marketing campaigns make consumers participate in authentic and real experiences that increase memory retention of the brand. The challenge here is identifying what excites or moves your consumer in order to create an experience that will provoke the right emotions and make sure he/she never forgets this brand experience.  

Although experiential marketing campaigns generally involve live engagement and interaction, in recent years augmented and virtual reality have been increasingly leveraged. Plus, with the advent of the coronavirus, XM agencies have been developing new ways to connect through digital platforms. 

For example, in order to promote its IPS LED monitors, LG replaced the floor of an elevator with 9 IPS screens and a sound system to give the illusion that the floor of the elevator was collapsing while people were inside of it. Thanks to the quality of this new product, people were able to experience the ability of this new technology developed by the brand to simulate a situation that is quite close to reality. This experience left a lasting impression on consumers but it was also widely shared on social networks and received a wide coverage online.

2. Sampling campaigns

Sample campaigns are one of the most commonly used forms of brand activation. Their objective is simple: interact with customers and make them try a product for free and hope that they will love it enough to purchase it.  Sampling allows brands with smaller budgets to interact directly with consumers. As for bigger brands, they have the opportunity to generate unique experiences and greater resonance with their consumers. 

Brands that want to create successful sampling campaigns have to find the right way to engage with consumers without looking like they want to sell them the product. The idea is to find a way to pique their curiosity so that they genuinely want to try the product. It’s also important to find the ideal location so that your audience is more likely to be open and sociable. For example, you could organize your sampling campaign at a popular festival. You could also do a sampling campaign at a busy transit area in order to surprise consumers and make sure they start their day on a positive note.

Brands can also organize digital sampling campaigns by collecting data from customers and sending them an exclusive sample in the mail or offering a free trial of their service or product. 

3. Trade shows and industry events

Let’s be honest, organizing an event from scratch is expensive and it’s not accessible to all. This is why companies have been taking advantage of events and established trade shows to activate their brands. Whether you book a space to set up a custom booth or host an online seminar, industry events are a great opportunity to enhance brand awareness. They are also a great stage for experiential marketing actions and sampling campaigns.

4. In-store retail marketing activations

In-store retail marketing activations have the potential to make consumers choose a certain brand over another in a department store. They shine a light on the brand and enhance its image by highlighting the different ways consumers will feel when using the product.  They associate feelings and a lifestyle to the product instead of just describing its characteristics. 

Successful Brand Activations

Nutella’s Interactive Panel

Nutella set up a billboard on the street and made passersby engage in conversations with an interactive jar of Nutella. The objective of the campaign was to give compliments to people to make them smile. This way, consumers would associate the brand with emotions such as happiness, fun and compassion. It’s an innovative way to share the values of the brand and make consumers want to share their experience on social media as well as with their friends and family.

COVID-19 is forcing companies to adapt and rethink the way they do business. Marketing agencies are shifting their attention to virtual experiences and using this time to adapt their long-term strategy and improve areas that need it. However, once the pandemic is behind us, there is no doubt that in-person events will maintain the popularity they had before the crisis. After all, nothing can replace the value of human interaction and live experiences.

Amazon’s Jurassic World Delivery

Amazon, in collaboration with Universal, surprised the people of Los Angeles by driving around a huge and mysterious package to promote the premiere of the new Jurassic World movie.

Volkswagen’s Fun Theory

Volkswagen had a fun initiative a few years ago called The Fun Theory. The objective was to achieve challenges while making sure people were having fun. One of the challenges consisted in making people use the stairs on foot more than the escalators. To do this, they converted the stairs in a piano so that people could play music and have a good time. And it worked! 66% more people chose the stairs over the escalator.

Ready to activate your brand?

Building a solid brand is a gradual process that requires time and strategic planning. While a single event or campaign can have a significant impact, brands do not become the next big thing overnight. Keeping this in mind, companies who want to sustain their market share and brand love should accompany their ongoing marketing efforts with brand activations in order to increase brand awareness and reshape consumer perceptions in this fiercely competitive market.

If you want to activate your brand, organize a sampling campaign or any type of event, don’t hesitate to contact us. Prime Marketing has helped hundreds of brands boost their growth for over two decades now. Let’s build your future together!