What Is Brand Activation? Brand Activation In A Nutshell

Brand activation describes any interaction or experience that allows a brand to connect with a consumer and build a loyal community around its products and services. The main aim of brand activation is to encourage consumers to take action by injecting life into a brand through experiences that result in emotional connections. Brand activations, therefore, are interactions, experiences, or events that facilitate a connection between a brand and the target audience.

Understanding brand activation

Brand activation is sometimes confused with other brand strategies since it shares the common purpose of building brand awareness and connecting with an audience. However, it is important to reiterate that brand activation refers to single events or campaigns that are designed to elevate a brand among consumers.

Brand activation types and examples

To better understand brand activation and how it can be applied across multiple touchpoints, consider the following types with an example included for each.

1 – Experiential marketing

Experiential marketing is one of the most popular ways a business can activate its brand. The approach is used to enable consumers to experience and immerse themselves in the brand as opposed to being told about it by the company.

To market the release of its 2007 debut movie, popular cartoon series The Simpsons built a life-size replica of the show’s Kwik-E-Mart convenience store. Flotation jacket brand Tribord also created a fake drink called “WAVE” that was actually just canned seawater. In so doing, the company intended to mimic the experience of drowning and by extension, associate its brand with water safety. 

2 – In-store

Experiential, brand-activating events can also occur in-store and as a result, tend to be the domain of B2C brands.

Department store John Lewis & Partners utilized this form of brand activation during its Penguin Christmas campaign. The company set up a “Monty’s Den” in 42 stores with various features used to tell consumers the stories of characters featured in the advertising campaign. This was facilitated by stuffed toys, clothing, a storybook app for children, and a magical toy machine that allowed kids to scan their toys and transform them into digital characters that moved and danced on a screen.

3 – Events and trade shows

Events and trade shows are another way a business can activate its brand, whether that be through a paid booth, live seminar, or presentation.

Many brands also install pop-up experiences at these events. For example, Vitaminwater installed a misting station at the WayHome Music Festival to allow fans to cool off in the heat. The station was decorated with bright colors that appealed to the company’s target audience while serving a purpose at the same time. 

4 – Samples and free trials

Samples and free trials are another way for consumers to experience a brand. To maximize effectiveness, this form of brand activation should be associated with a current event or run in such a way that the consumer does not have an unpleasant or uncomfortable experience. Indeed, for consumers, there is nothing worse than a pushy representative who tries to force a product on them despite their obvious disinterest.

After noticing a Facebook group with more than 100,000 members that wanted to stay the night in an IKEA store, the company allowed a select few to do exactly that. Fans were shown films, read stories by celebrities, and had access to food and drink, massages, and manicures. Most importantly, they could got to experience the IKEA brand by sampling its beds and hospitality.

Key takeaways:

  • Brand activation is interactions, experiences, or events that facilitate a connection between a brand and the target audience.
  • Brand activation is confused with other brand strategies since most build brand awareness and connect with an audience. However, it is important to note that brand activation refers to specific events.
  • Brand activation is described across four main types: experiential marketing, in-store, events and trade shows, and samples and free trials.

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Connected Business Concepts

Content marketing is one of the most powerful commercial activities which focuses on leveraging content production (text, audio, video, or other formats) to attract a targeted audience. Content marketing focuses on building a strong brand, but also to convert part of that targeted audience into potential customers.
Integrated marketing describes the process of delivering consistent and relevant content to a target audience across all marketing channels. It is a cohesive, unified, and immersive marketing strategy that is cost-effective and relies on brand identity and storytelling to amplify the brand to a wider and wider audience.
Grassroots marketing involves a brand creating highly targeted content for a particular niche or audience. When an organization engages in grassroots marketing, it focuses on a small group of people with the hope that its marketing message is shared with a progressively larger audience.
Writing a copy is the art of crafting catchy texts to persuade a particular demographic. “A copy” is the written content aimed at converting impressions to clicks and converting clicks to high sales. Any form of writing that persuasively requests an action from your audience is called copywriting.
Buzz marketing leverages the power of word-of-mouth advertising to create products or services with enough novelty that they go viral. In many cases, buzz marketing leverages on versatile content that can easily scale and be readapted to various contexts and fear of missing out (FOMO) to amplify the effect of word-of-mouth campaigns.
Inbound marketing is a marketing strategy designed to attract customers to a brand with content and experiences that they derive value from. Inbound marketing utilizes blogs, events, SEO, and social media to create brand awareness and attract targeted consumers. By attracting or “drawing in” a targeted audience, inbound marketing differs from outbound marketing which actively pushes a brand onto consumers who may have no interest in what is being offered.
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