Did you know that it takes 5 to 7 impressions to remember a brand? With branding, the goal is to continuously leave positive impressions. One way to do this is through brand activations.
This post will tell you what brand activations are, how to strategically plan brand activation, and give you some ideas to inspire your own branding events.
What is brand activation?
Brand activations are events, experiences and interactions that create a lasting emotional connection between a brand and its target group. These activations are usually a specific campaign or event that aims to create brand awareness and interactivity with your audience.
While brand activation is a single event or campaign designed to highlight your brand, it shouldn’t be confused with an ongoing branding strategy. So what does a brand activation strategy look like? Let’s dive in now.
Brand Activation Strategy
Before you start planning different brand activation events, it’s important to understand the goal of each campaign.
The best way to plan a strategy is to identify your goals. This can be customer acquisition, user registrations, social media engagement, etc. Ultimately, you want to increase brand awareness, but narrowing your goal down even further will make it measurable and achievable (hello SMART goals).
Once you know your goals, you can start brainstorming various brand activation events or campaigns that you can run to achieve your goals.
For example, suppose your goal is user logins. A brand activation for this goal could be a visit to a trade fair. There you can talk to potential customers and then hopefully register users on site (depending on the offer).
Once you have a list of ideas, goals, and metrics, it’s time to start your brand activation plan. You should choose a campaign or event to move forward, plan the logistics of that event, and use your branded playbook (with a clear vision, value propositions for key goals, brand personality, character, voice and experiences). Remember, brand activations don’t necessarily have to be events, but can be sampling campaigns, social media contests, or other digital marketing campaigns.
Now let’s go over some ideas to help you develop your own brand activation plan. Below, the ideas are separated by goal to give you an idea of how to strategically plan brand activations.
Brand Activation Ideas
Objective: user logins
- Experience marketing event
- industrial fair
- Digital marketing campaigns
Goal: Increase in impressions / brand awareness
- Sampling campaign (giveaways)
- In-store / virtual events
- Digital marketing campaigns
- Influencer Marketing
Goal: customer acquisition
- Digital marketing campaigns like PPC, display advertising, etc.
- Interactive events
- Live demonstrations
Goal: social media engagement
- Social media competition
- Social media movement
- Behind-the-Scenes series
- Influencer Marketing
Now that we have some ideas, let’s look at some examples of brands that have hosted great brand activation events.
Examples of brand activation
1. Vitamin water | Brandon
A colleague, Clifford Chi, uses this as a great example of brand activation. He usually doesn’t pay much attention to subway advertisements, but Vitamin Waters “Brandon” was so funny it made him laugh out loud. Then, a few weeks later, while walking around Boston, Chi was strolling past Forbes Under 30 Summit and saw someone holding a sign that said, “Need tips on shaking hands?”
This person was part of Vitamin Water’s “Brandon” marketing campaign. There were other members of the campaign handing out Brandon’s business cards, some loot, and even bottles of vitamin water.
However, the funniest (and most impressive) part of Brandon’s marketing campaign was getting members to pretend they actually work for Brandon.
Vitamin Water’s “Brandon” campaign resonated with so many people because instead of giving subway riders a quick laugh on their way to work, they made extra effort to interact with their target audience and display the ad To bring life to life. To make it even more personal, Brandon accepts all of his LinkedIn requests.
2. Rotate | Non-rotating
A great example of brand activation is the Revolve Festival, which Revolve hosts every year (or at least several years in a row) at Coachella. This is often referred to as the celebrity party of the year.
Revolve selects celebrities and influencers (macro or micro) to celebrate during the music festival.
Revolve Fest trending on social media almost every year due to the influencer marketing the company is focused on. Influencer marketing helps the company generate sales for their clothing line and more. In fact, influencers make up 70% of the company’s revenue.
Each of these festivals is a brand activation to generate sales and increase brand awareness.
3. HBO | SXSWestwelt
To promote the second season of their hit show Western world, HBO built a miniature replica of the show’s Wild West themed amusement park in Austin, Texas for SXSW 2018 attendees to explore.
With over 40 “hosts” guiding attendees through their own unique narrative within Sweetwater, attendees felt like they were on an episode of Western world, traverses a city full of trotters, restless bandits and greedy gamblers.
The park also included clues about the season two plot and new characters that helped create a lot of tension and anticipation for the upcoming premiere.
4. HubSpot | INCOMING
Every year HubSpot hosts the INBOUND event. This brand activation is a way to increase brand awareness and customer registration and ultimately help our customers in every possible way as a company.
INBOUND is a great example of brand activation as it is a unique event each year that drives engagement and interactivity for HubSpot.
With INBOUND we can offer our customers and any company that wants to learn from the best of the best an experience.
5. Netflix | Altered Carbon at CES
At CES 2018, Netflix designed one of the event’s most popular exhibition stands. But it didn’t reveal the inner workings of their recommendation algorithm or their green light show process. It actually put a concept of their show in the spotlight Altered carbon turns around – immortality.
In their booth, fictional employees of Psychasec, the company that offers the transfer of the consciousness of its customers to new bodies or “sleeves” Altered carbon, presented the benefits of their service and even showed some models of their sleeves.
Netflix immersed CES attendees deeply into the narrative of their hit science fiction show and made them feel like they could actually live forever – if only the service from Psychasec was real.
6. REST | Project 84
In the UK, suicide is the leading killer of men aged 18 to 45. CALM, a suicide prevention charity, has decided to raise awareness by creating 84 life-size sculptures of hooded men, the number of men who kill themselves each week in the UK and put them on one of the buildings of the largest British television station.
Each sculpture is unique and tells the story of a real person who committed suicide. And in order to advertise as much as possible for suicide prevention among men, ITV, the TV broadcaster CALM partnered with, agreed to air the campaign on their morning show, devoting three days to male suicide. The campaign also sponsored a petition calling on the government to take suicide more seriously and take more action to help resolve the pressing problem.
Brand Activation Insights
Running a brand activation event or campaign can help you increase brand awareness and impressions and ultimately attract new customers. You can use tactics like experience marketing, digital campaigns, influencer marketing, and in-person or virtual events to address and interact with your audience personally.
To be successful with brand activation, it is important to focus on your audience, share your experience, and be creative.
Editor’s note: This post was originally published in April 2019 and has been updated for completeness.