When I first heard about the term brand activation, I thought it was just another marketing jargon that I have to write about.
But as I researched about it, I realized activation is one of the stages of brand campaigns, and what piqued my interest further, is how this simple term has the power to help you connect with your customers in the noisy world of the internet.
In this blog, we will understand what is brand activation and why is it essential for your business.
What Is Brand Activation?
It is often difficult for brands to get noticed in the world of the internet full of competition and media clutter. In this day and age, an average consumer is exposed to millions of products, how can a brand get noticed? Brand Activation is the answer.
Brand Activation forms a part of the overall brand strategy and helps the brand to connect with a consumer at a personal level, increasing brand engagement and awareness through brand experience. A study performed by Event Marketing Institute’s EventTrack study, 98% of users feel more inclined to purchase after attending an activation.
Brand activations are one-off, in-person events, experiences, and interactions that forge lasting emotional connections between a brand and their target audience.
Let’s understand with a simple example when a person starts a new business no one knows about him/her and the brand, the brand is lifeless and needs to be activated to bring it to life and create a position in the mind of the customer. The same logic applies for the businesses who want to rebrand itself for people to notice it.
How Is Brand Activation Important For Business?
The term ‘brand activation’ is not merely another marketing jargon but is a very powerful tool in this advanced and well-connected world where customers are more demanding. Consumers are tired of promises that are not delivered and due to this, it becomes difficult for brands to build up because the success of building brands depends on trust.
It involves building trust in people for the product and services as well as the company. Trust guarantees that people will receive what is promised and the company gives more importance to value and content than advertising. However, to establish this trust, the brand has to be exceptionally different from the others and provide the right products at the right time to stand out.
Therefore, all successful companies have built a strong brand with strong followers using brand activation. This creates an emotional connection with your customer. The stronger the bond, the better the brand, and this reflects on the sales rate.
Evidently next question is, how to build trust in a brand using brand activation?
How Do You Implement Activations Of Brands?
It easy to write or talk endlessly about brand activation as its an abstract topic but it is equally important to understand how can it yield tangible results for a brand. So, what are the methods to start activations with a bang?
With increasing channels and touchpoints, there are many ways to create a brand activation campaign, and below is a comprehensive guide for brand marketers to understand ways to create an effective brand activation strategy. It will also act as a resource for marketers to enable marketing activations in this digital era.
1. Experiential Marketing:
Perhaps, one of the best ways to activate a brand is to allow people to experience it for themselves using experiential marketing.
To define experiential marketing in simple words, it not only advertises brands but allows customers to interface with the products, get engaged, and feel more connected. These event activations can be conducted physically or digitally. Participants are encouraged to play games and apps or take a virtual car ride or have the photos taken. However, brands prefer an external vendor to achieve the goal of reaching people, connecting with them, and provide them first-hand experience.
70% of users become regular customers after an experiential marketing event. (Event Track)
One such experiential marketing campaign that created a WoW moment for visitors is IKEA’S FURNISHED CLIMBING WALL.
Ikea stunned the marketing world with the incredible furnished climbing wall, an experiential marketing campaign to promote the opening of France’s 30th IKEA store. A simple stunt but visually an effective brand activation campaign was conceptualized by the best experiential marketing agency Ubi Bene of France. The company installed a vertical rock-climbing wall covered with the brand’s furniture. The wall that looked like one floor of the house was operated by experienced climbing professionals who guided any willing customer to scale the temporary exhibit. The creative activation campaign also showed the sturdiness of its furniture as it supported the weight of the participants.
2. Digital Campaigns
A brand activation campaign can happen online or in-person. Digital marketing campaigns enable brands to reach audiences beyond physical interaction. Brand activation online engages customers and provides marketers a chance to collect data and gain insights to improve their marketing and sales campaigns. Digital marketing is a part of the larger brand activation and supports in-market campaigns.
An interesting example is Pepsi’s interactive drink bottles to understand digital brand activation. During the 2014 World Cup, Pepsi led a football-specific augmented reality campaign with Blippar as a flavor of the month. 250 million interactive cans were produced where users can play a football game with the world’s five leading players. The result was 60,000 hours of engagement on the cans within a month and a conversion of 2 percent.
3. Sampling Campaigns:
In simple words, sampling campaigns are events where a potential consumer can try a sample product of a brand or get the product or service free. Determine the target audience and find relevant events or spaces to get the right audience to try the products. The positive brand experience from the audience can boost sales and create brand awareness. A study reveals,
80% of polled attendants mentioned that live demonstrations and free samples drastically helped solidify their purchase decision. (Event Track)
An unusual but brilliant sample and storytelling campaign by Lays in Argentina.
Pepsi Co salty snack brand Lays did the sampling campaign just right. Consumers of every participating store were given a raw potato with a sticker as a sample. The participant had to follow the sticker instructions and reach the endpoint – the snack aisle. In an unusual vending machine that looked to manufacture Lays potato chips accepted potato as a payment mode instead of coins. The potato ensures that the machine rolls out the hot chips bag.
4. In-Store Brand Activation:
Another way for activations is through in-store campaigns or events. This also involves an experiential element of brand activation where customers can touch, feel, and interact with brands. These types of activations are suited more for a restaurant or a retail store where people can experience products than any service business.
IKEA has always surprised marketers and consumers with its unique campaigns. One such brand activation strategy was creating a pop-up restaurant in London that allowed visitors to cook their meals for family and friends and “celebrate the joy of cooking together.”
The event showcased their products (kitchenware to kitchen outfits) and their food product line. The event activation was for 2 weeks that offered guidance from chefs and press coverage. Such brand activation events help to reach a larger audience and create brand awareness.
5. Promotional Marketing
Promotional marketing is a technique of brand activation to promote the product and services of a brand to raise awareness, build a customer base, and increase sales. There are various ways for consumer promotion like a loyalty program, contests, sampling, giveaways, special offers, and digital campaigns especially mobile interactions. Business promotions include trade shows, events, email campaigns, or reward sellers.
An example of consumer marketing is Wrigley’s #5 Game On. No Pain, No Gain Contest.
Wrigley invited consumers to buy a pack of 5 Gum and upload the UPC code online to win daily prizes and a Grand Prize Trip to the EB Games conference. The brand gathered more than a thousand entries from the consumers who went in-store to purchase the pack of gum.
6. Social Media Engagement:
Social Media is a component of larger brand activation. It drives engagement, creates brand awareness, and generate buzz with compelling content and offers. With experiential marketing at its peak, it is essential to incorporate social media activity to ensure the campaign receives the exposure that is needed.
One of the finest and relevant instances is Carlsberg. Part of the campaign was promoted on social media encouraging user participation that gave the campaign an additional push and publicity.
— Stuart Aitken (@stuart_aitken) April 8, 2015
How To Plan A Brand Activation?
After learning and understanding what is brand activation and its importance, let’s explore how to plan it. It doesn’t need a big budget but a creative and strategic approach. The momentum set by brand activation should be carried forward in all the marketing campaigns and messages. Simple steps to be followed to plan a brand activation campaign.
1. Set goals: Decide what you want to achieve through your market activation campaign. Set SMART goals:
- Specific: Who are the participants and what is the activation about?
- Measurable: What is the quantifiable change you expect to see through the objective?
- Achievable: Are the targets achievable with the available resources and time?
- Realistic: Set a realistic objective or goal to be achieved.
- Time-Bound: Decide a timeline to achieve the goal or objective.
2. Create a budget: Though brand activation doesn’t require a huge budget, you should allocate a budget for the marketing activation campaign. It will help you to measure the ROI after the campaign is over.
3. Know your audience: It is essential to know your target audience so you can plan your promotional activities and communication accordingly. Targeting the right audience will help in the success of the campaign.
4. Create a compelling call-to-action: Every brand activation campaign needs CTA. After reaching your audience, telling them about the product or service, and holding their attention – it’s time to create CTA that will help you achieve your goal. For example, if the goal is to increase participation in an event, then the CTA should be ‘to register.’
5. Choose the right platform to deliver the marketing message: The experiential brand activation would have been a success with all participants loving it but there is a larger audience on the Internet to be catered via the online campaign. Make the campaign viral to let more people know and engage users in the online brand activation. Let the participants tag the brand on social media platforms, share videos, or engage them in online activities.
Psychological Tactics Behind Successful Brand Activation
As a brand or marketer, one would want that its social media activation campaigns show results. Many times the likes, comments on the posts shared seem insignificant but it counts. What if one can understand the psychology of social media so that it can help to connect with the customer, create brand awareness, and build a better relationship. Let’s decode the psychology of social media.
Every color associated with a brand has a specific meaning and conjures an emotion. The below infographic shows the emotional meanings of colors. Take advantage of the color psychology for the activation campaigns on social media. A compiled research by Colorcom reveals,
Research reveals people make a subconscious judgment about a person, environment, or product within 90 seconds of initial viewing and that between 62% and 90% of that assessment is based on color alone.
2. Social Proof
It does what it sounds like. It’s proof that people are happy with what you do. Social proof can be a review or testimonial from users or followers and engagement on social media.
When people notice how others trust and like a brand, they are compelled to learn more about your service or brand or purchase it. User-generated content (UGC) and positive reviews show the audience how happy and loyal customers are of a brand. It helps to distinguish a brand positively from its competitors. A study by Olapic states that 76 percent of consumers believe the content that the average people share is more honest than advertising from brands.
3. Visuals are appealing
Visual content like images, videos, infographics, GIF, or any other form is important for interactions with your audience. Visuals are the most effective way to engage the audience with the content. Research compiled by HubSpot reports 80% of marketers to use visual assets in their social media marketing.
Another study reveals visuals are processed better–60,000 times faster than any text. Strong visual elements help to promote products successfully and create brand awareness.
4. Aspirational Content
Aspirational content inspires emotions and evoking emotion has a positive impact on the audience. Joy, excitement, sadness are some of the emotions that resonate with consumers. Create drool-worthy content that fits the brand and helps to connect with the audience’s real aspirations.
The surprising discovery that wields emotion power is ‘emojis’. The study by Emoticons and Phrases: Status Symbols in Social Media supports this fact. After studying emoji use on Twitter, researchers found “individuals who use emoticons often (and positive emoticons in particular) tend to be popular or influential.” Brands like Ikea, Coca-Cola, Burger King have created their own branded emoji for their fans to share.
Next time do not hesitate to use an emoticon in the social media content.
5. Build a brand voice
The internet and technology have given brands many ways to connect and engage with consumers. To attract a new audience and maintain a customer base it is essential to have a brand voice and a unique identity. Customers are likely to engage with brands that resonate with their values. Therefore, it is vital to know your audience and tailor your identity to increase engagement and build a customer relation.
In general terms, it means when someone does something nice for you, instinctively you would feel to do something nice for them.
For brands, this could mean being generous with the audience with a product giveaway, any type of free content, or anything else that is suitable for the business. Freebies are a type of promotional marketing and help to build trust with the audience. It encourages the user to return and that might be to purchase the product, follow you on social media or promote you in their network.
These are the general tactics for impactful marketing activations. Let’s explore the psychology specifically to individual platforms apart from the above and know the most popular social media platforms:
1. Show Faces:
To draw attention to the campaign, make sure to add a face to it. The study reveals that a specific part of the brain responds to only faces. People can easily recognize faces as well as read the emotions which are ultimate social tools. Hence, faces are a great way to gain attraction from users especially if they are of known personalities.
2. Emotions always win
Emotions rules heart and mind. Generally, people are more drawn to emotions in particular in their faces. Therefore, it a perfect blend of faces and emotions and a great way to use the above tactic.
Facebook campaigns get more attention with positive emotions but one may find a few ads that can use any emotions and get noticed. Below is a Snapwire Ad showing happy faces with positive emotions.
3. Color is the key
The color of Facebook ads is to stand out from the rest. The brighter and contrast colors are the best bet for Facebook campaigns. And red is the color for Facebook campaigns as it gets the most attention. The color red excites the brain cell most, reveals a study in 2008. A study suggests color increases readers’ attention spans and recall by 82%.
Other colors also work well but red signifies boldness, attraction, and strength. The opposite of red’s excitement is blue’s calm and friendliness. Facebook platform color is blue and it would be challenging to use the color on Facebook for any campaign as it wouldn’t stand out. The Elegant Times are surely gaining attention with the bold ad.
4. Fear of Missing Out (F.O.M.O)
In simple words, if there is scarcity then people feel they are missing something valuable. This is also the psychological tactic behind sales, exclusives, or events. You can see FOMO in any advertising. For instance, Banana Republic uses scarcity to drive sales and membership card.
Present cardholders would go shopping in the fear of not missing out and non-card members shall fear missing the exclusive offer. Double FOMO.
5. Visuals are appealing but so are words.
Images are king but words also weave magic and hold value. Therefore, words should not be neglected. Copyblogger Gregory Ciotti has picked out the 5 most powerful words – new, because, instantly, free, and you to be used in a context that is effective for the business and audience.
1. Visuals are everything
‘A picture speaks a thousand words ‘, a proverb is made for Instagram. Images are a powerful tool and the photo-sharing app as it is all about visual content.
According to research from 3M, our brains process visuals about 60,000 times faster than they process text and visual aids have been found to improve learning by up to 400 percent. So, utilizing images makes a story effective and more efficient.
2. Engage your followers
Instagram is not only about posting drool-worthy images but interacting with your followers and building a community around your brand. Users don’t scroll social media feeds out of habit but because they feel connected. When participants post on social media and do not receive any response, they feel ignorant and affects their self-esteem.
Brands should proactively respond to all the messages and comments. Another way of interaction is by tagging people on the posts. They will share the content further in their network increasing the reach.
Most successful and memorable brand activation campaigns appeal to people’s emotions. In an analysis of the IPA dataBANK, campaigns with purely emotional content performed about twice as well as those with only rational content. Images play a huge role as it is a great way to grab user attention to convey a message and evoke an emotional response. Brands should list down the emotions (joy, happiness, humor, or others) to inspire and then plan their campaign accordingly to connect with the users.
The concept of reciprocity is important in social psychology and Instagram is all about connectedness. Brands can reward their followers with promo codes, frequent discounts, exclusive offers, or product giveaways. Brands can select followers of the week or conduct live Q & A sessions to create brand awareness, build customer relations, and increase engagement.
Brand activation campaigns should be lively, consistent, and interactive. Brands need to post regularly to create an interactive and engaging feed with a predictable schedule. They cannot show up once a while as the famous saying is true; ‘Out of Sight, Out of Mind.’ The more frequently the followers see posts, the more they will remember and value the brand.
1. Use image psychology
Studies show that images have the highest conversion or click-through rates but what kind of images? The close-up face of a person increases the success of an ad or webpage. Similarly, tweets with images get more engagement. Research by Buffer shows sharing images on Twitter increases retweets by 150%.
To make the brand recognizable and build awareness for your Twitter audience, head up your profile image with the face of a company or founder. This will help the user to relate to the brand on a personal level. If it’s a SaaS company include images of happy customers within individual tweets and link it to blogs and articles.
2. Share Positivity
The campaign should offer positive messages and tweets. The audience is more likely to respond to positive tweets or funny posts over negative ones. Researchers believe such positive tweets have a psychological effect that spreads across Twitter and outside too.
3. Usage of Initial Caps
A study by Conductor shows 64% of users favored sentence case when given a variety of headlines to choose from all caps to all lowercase.
The use of initial caps increases the speed of reading shows studies by James Cattell. Brands should use initial caps in their tweets especially while promoting the headline of a blog or an article. This will catch the attention of more users and improve the speed of reading of the audience to digest the headline. Buffer is a classic example of initial caps while promoting its blog to engage readers.
4. Tweet on how-to-Type of content
While planning your campaign, understand what kind of posts gains attention and retweets. According to QuickSprout, tweets linked to a how-to or list-based articles received 3 times more retweets than any other text-based content.
The psychology behind the fact is simple. Such tweets fill in the knowledge gap of the users, receive more retweets, and following as well as more engagement.
Sourdough Bread – How it’s done
I’ve learnt myself, no training, just my own ‘technique’
— Damian Wawrzyniak 👨🍳 (@ChefConsultant) September 26, 2018
5. Images perform better than videos
QuickSprout suggests that users on Twitter tweet images 361% more than they tweet videos. Most people use Twitter by just scrolling through the feed and scan through the tweets for interesting and valuable information.
This implies that brands need to post tweets that are self-explanatory without clicking on it with a WoW factor. Brands can embed images and videos in their tweets with valuable information in an effective way within the character limit to drive engagement.
The Rise of Robotics and AI #AI #infographic #tech #MachineLearning #BigData #IoT #VR #DataScience #blockchain #ArtificialIntelligence #robotics #technology #data #DataAnalytics via @AnsonMcCade @athis_news @JackChurch_AI MT: @MikeQuindazzi #AI #IoT #BigData #infographics MT pic.twitter.com/xlcJ3lvJXy
— Harry Miller (@Harry_Robots) September 30, 2018
6. Promotional Tweets
Brands should design their activation campaign in line with the concept of reciprocity. Brands can reward with giveaway promotions and prizes. The promotional tweet can also include an easy-to-follow CTA to boost engagement with a self-explanatory image. This will also ensure brand awareness and grow Twitter following.
To kick off Monday and celebrate 400k followers on Twitter – we're giving away 2 Buffer bottles: retweet to enter 😃 pic.twitter.com/jditNMlV40
— Buffer (@buffer) November 2, 2015
5 Brand Activations That Will Inspire Your Next Campaign
Brand activations require the right strategy, content, and execution to engage consumers and build a loyal brand community for its products and services.
Below are five successful brand activation campaigns to learn from.
1. Google Home Mini
To activate its latest new home assistant, the Home Mini which is roughly the size of a donut, the search engine giant set up a tour of eleven pop-up donut shops around the States.
Well, what is the connection between a donut and a home assistant?
Image Credit: The Drum
The catchy slogan -The size of a donut, the powers of a superhero, Google launches its Home Mini. This quirky brand activation created an interactive Google home experience inside 11 pop-up donut shops. Every visitor inside can ask Google Home Mini a question and the donut box slides down from the conveyor belt. The fun and excitement part comes here- Will it be a new Google Home Mini or two delicious donuts?
A win-win situation, isn’t it?
2. Aperol Big Spritz
Aperitif brand Aperol executed a well-thought and fun brand activation in Shoreditch. It involved elements such as a rowboat on the orange river, swinging seats, and Aperol spirits which made it attractive. The bartenders were well informed and answered every product-related questions as well as explained about the Italian heritage and event. The orange palette, swinging seats, pizzas, and branded giveaway made it Instagram worthy. Following week after the event, there was a lot of outside advertising to continue the buzz about the brand and stay fresh in the minds of the people. Perfect Timing!
3. Sonic Square Shakes
Sonic prepared a delightful on-site campaign for Coachella, the music and arts festival in California for their celebrity-chef-backed brand activation. The highly designed campaign especially for Instagram to promote the brand’s premium flavors. Festival-goers could view, order, and post about the square milkshakes on Instagram and then the shakes would be delivered on the ground free of charge. After delivery, there would be a #squareshakes post made by the customers.
The aim is to build the brand among millennials by growing its social media presence and building a community and followers on Instagram.
4. Intel Drone Light Show
Activations allow brands to get more attention and transform themselves in more creative ways. It is not necessary that the brand activation campaigns should directly be connected to the primary function but gives a chance to consumers to see a different version of the brand outside the functional view. This is what happened with Intel, a company known for microprocessors transformed into a company for its spectacular world record-breaking drone light show at the 2018 Winter Olympics.
Over 12 billion media impressions in under 12 hours and trending #1 on the internet made Intel memorable across the world.
5. Charity Water Waterwalk
Charity Water is an organization that creates clean water sources for remote villages in developing nations. It participated in a trade show and is an excellent example of experience marketing.
It created a lifetime experience for their booth visitors by inviting them to walk two 40lbs jugs of water across 50 yd platform, which African villagers do every day. This gave a reality check to the visitors about the real and challenging situation faced by the villagers in the developing nations. This experience helped the visitors connect with the brand and boosting the chances of donation for the cause.
Tips For Effective Brand Activation
There are multiple types of brand activation and creative campaigns and the process would be different for every brand. However, no matter what method you choose but the ultimate goal is the same for all- to reach the target audience, increase sales, and help business leverage. Here are a few tips that will help you to build a brand and successful campaigns to stay ahead in the race.
1. Know your audience:
While planning the brand activation events, remember this simple rule -Put the customer at the center. Brand activations should be engaging and fun but not offensive, annoying, or inappropriate. Understand your target audience and market segment to engage with the brand. Avoid bad brand activation and inconvenient interaction which will lead to prospects and customers avoiding the brand. Ensure to prepare the brand activation while keeping the audience in mind.
2. Keep it simple:
AD Scholars have been managing brand activation campaigns for brands from various industries, and if there’s one tip that we can share from our personal experience is to keep it simple. Really, as simple as it sounds, most brands mess up in trying to be out of the box constantly without even identifying what their audience wants. Let the brand get acquainted with the audience using proven brand activation ideas, and gradually spread wings in testing out new ideas. Obviously there are certain brands that are new but still hit the bull’s eye at the first attempt and become viral. However, that’s an exception and not the norm.
3. Build connections:
Human interaction is the best way to begin meaningful relationships with the audience. There can be any method of brand activation but the crucial factor is to involve real human beings who are associated with the brand. Human interactions give a face to the company and a personal touch to the campaign. Humanize the brand in a way that makes it more relatable.
4. Include storytelling:
Storytelling is the most creative way of brand activation campaigns. It is the most crucial component of brand communication and marketing. It can be executed in several ways such as AR and VR experiences, other digital elements, face-to-face interactions to name a few. Brands should involve the audience to offer a personalized experience and encourage them to share on social media platforms. The positive experience will give way to extend reach to a wider market and help to boost sales and create brand awareness.
4. Listen to the responses:
Ensure to collect the feedback before, during, and after brand activation. For an effective campaign, the interaction has to be a two-way street. Document all the positive and negative interactions during the activation -digital or live event. Take a survey post-campaign to understand what worked, what failed, and did it help to achieve the desired goal. This will also ensure that future activations are improved and assist brands to grow and learn.
Rome wasn’t built in a day!
Building a brand is a gradual process and cannot expect any event or campaign to turn the brand into a phenomenon or increase your audience overnight. The ongoing branding initiatives and brand activation will help to build the brand and give the boost to achieve the set objective. It will help to build customer relationships, create brand awareness, and reshape the way customers perceive the product or service. Brand activations are an integral part of brand strategy and will help to engage with the target audience and establish an emotional connection.
- Neha Mehta
- Neha started her journey as a financial professional but soon realized her passion for writing and is now living her dreams as a content writer. Her goal is to enlighten the audience on various topics through her writing and in-depth research. She is geeky and friendly. When not busy writing, she is spending time with her little one or travelling.
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