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.

Main Free Guides:

Marketing Glossary

Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate marketing describes the process whereby an affiliate earns a commission for selling the products of another person or company. Here, the affiliate is simply an individual who is motivated to promote a particular product through incentivization. The business whose product is being promoted will gain in terms of sales and marketing from affiliates.

Ambush Marketing

As the name suggests, ambush marketing raises awareness for brands at events in a covert and unexpected fashion. Ambush marketing takes many forms, one common element, the brand advertising their products or services has not paid for the right to do so. Thus, the business doing the ambushing attempts to capitalize on the efforts made by the business sponsoring the event.

Brand Building

Brand building is the set of activities that help companies to build an identity that can be recognized by its audience. Thus, it works as a mechanism of identification through core values that signal trust and that help build long-term relationships between the brand and its key stakeholders.

Brand Equity

The brand equity is the premium that a customer is willing to pay for a product that has all the objective characteristics of existing alternatives, thus, making it different in terms of perception. The premium on seemingly equal products and quality is attributable to its brand equity.

Brand Positioning

Brand positioning is about creating a mental real estate in the mind of the target market. If successful, brand positioning allows a business to gain a competitive advantage. And it also works as a switching cost in favor of the brand. Consumers recognizing a brand might be less prone to switch to another brand.

Business Storytelling

Business storytelling is a critical part of developing a business model. Indeed, the way you frame the story of your organization will influence its brand in the long-term. That’s because your brand story is tied to your brand identity, and it enables people to identify with a company.

Content Marketing

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.

Digital Marketing

A digital channel is a marketing channel, part of a distribution strategy, helping an organization to reach its potential customers via electronic means. There are several digital marketing channels, usually divided into organic and paid channels. Some organic channels are SEO, SMO, email marketing. And some paid channels comprise SEM, SMM, and display advertising.

Growth Marketing

Growth marketing is a process of rapid experimentation, which in a way has to be “scientific” by keeping in mind that it is used by startups to grow, quickly. Thus, the “scientific” here is not meant in the academic sense. Growth marketing is expected to unlock growth, quickly and with an often limited budget.

Guerrilla Marketing

Guerrilla marketing is an advertising strategy that seeks to utilize low-cost and sometimes unconventional tactics that are high impact. First coined by Jay Conrad Levinson in his 1984 book of the same title, guerrilla marketing works best on existing customers who are familiar with a brand or product and its particular characteristics.

Inbound Marketing

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.

Integrated Marketing

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.

Marketing Mix

The marketing mix is a term to describe the multi-faceted approach to a complete and effective marketing plan. Traditionally, this plan included the four Ps of marketing: price, product, promotion, and place. But the exact makeup of a marketing mix has undergone various changes in response to new technologies and ways of thinking. Additions to the four Ps include physical evidence, people, process, and even politics.

Marketing Personas

Marketing personas give businesses a general overview of key segments of their target audience and how these segments interact with their brand. Marketing personas are based on the data of an ideal, fictional customer whose characteristics, needs, and motivations are representative of a broader market segment.

Multi-Channel Marketing

Multichannel marketing executes a marketing strategy across multiple platforms to reach as many consumers as possible. Here, a platform may refer to product packaging, word-of-mouth advertising, mobile apps, email, websites, or promotional events, and all the other channels that can help amplify the brand to reach as many consumers as possible.

Multi-Level Marketing

Multi-level marketing (MLM), otherwise known as network or referral marketing, is a strategy in which businesses sell their products through person-to-person sales. When consumers join MLM programs, they act as distributors. Distributors make money by selling the product directly to other consumers. They earn a small percentage of sales from those that they recruit to do the same – often referred to as their “downline”.

Niche Marketing

A microniche is a subset of potential customers within a niche. In the era of dominating digital super-platforms, identifying a microniche can kick off the strategy of digital businesses to prevent competition against large platforms. As the microniche becomes a niche, then a market, scale becomes an option.

Relationship Marketing

Relationship marketing involves businesses and their brands forming long-term relationships with customers. The focus of relationship marketing is to increase customer loyalty and engagement through high-quality products and services. It differs from short-term processes focused solely on customer acquisition and individual sales.

Sustainable Marketing

Sustainable marketing describes how a business will invest in social and environmental initiatives as part of its marketing strategy. Also known as green marketing, it is often used to counteract public criticism around wastage, misleading advertising, and poor quality or unsafe products.
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