What is brand activation & why do you need it?

Research on the topic led us to realise that it is actually a rather interesting topic and that sometimes we just need a simple term with which to refer to something in a quick and easy way.

Here, we will go beyond the fluffy words and explain what brand activation is and how it can benefit your business.

What is brand activation?

Brand activation refers to the process of making your brand known, increasing awareness and engagement through a form of brand experience.
Imagine starting a business for the first time. They don’t know who you are and they certainly aren’t familiar with your brand. As a result, your brand is effectively lifeless. Before it can be used, it must be ‘activated’. This applies to all brands, not just new ones. Changing a few things and hoping people notice is not enough for a business to rebrand. The new brand needs to be brought to people’s attention, switching their minds over to the new branding.

That’s just brand marketing, isn’t it?

In a way, yes. Except it specifically refers to moving your brand from one state to another, better state. Brand marketing refers to the process of promoting and maintaining your company’s brand.
The firelighter that makes your brand burn hot and bright in the dark is brand activation. Consider a few examples of brand activation and the types of activities that might be involved.

How do you ‘activate’ a brand?

A growing number of channels and touch points make it easier to introduce your brand to people.

Here are a few of them.

1. Experiential marketing

Getting people to experience your brand first-hand may be the best way to activate it in their minds. Carlsberg’s ridiculously successful beer poster campaign may be the most famous example of experiential marketing in recent years. Using this type of campaign can be an effective way to get your brand in front of people and get them to remember you.

A good example is this campaign from the company Tribord, which manufactures water sports equipment. The company created a fake drink called ‘WAVE’, which was actually seawater in a can, to promote its new flotation jacket. By simulating the drowning experience, i.e. getting your mouth filled with salty water, the idea was to remind people of the dangers of the ocean.

A brand that uses this approach is far more likely to stick in someone’s mind than one that uses an online banner ad or junk mail.

2. Sampling campaigns

Activation campaigns can include experiential elements that are more stripped-back. Your products could simply be available for people to try. People can be introduced to your brand and get excited about your new products when you give them free samples. Be creative and timely to ensure the best results.

In 2012, Mountain Dew ran a sampling campaign at festivals and other popular events across the country. They gave out bottles in an enormous, branded truck.
That’s certainly better than trying to stuff product samples into the hands of impatient commuters during rush hour.

3. In-store brand activation

A brand can also be activated through in-store promotions or events. The key is to create an experiential element where your brand can be touched and interacted with by customers. This was the approach taken by John Lewis’ Monty the Penguin Christmas campaign in 2014. Using immersive technology, the company created a ‘Monty’s Den’ in 42 stores across the country, telling stories about the characters in the ad campaign.

John Lewis was able to really bring Monty’s Christmas Storybook to life in-store by offering stuffed Monty toys and clothing, as well as an app version of Monty’s Christmas Storybook.
A lifelike toy character was created on a screen from toys purchased by children using the company’s ‘Monty’s Magical Toy Machine’ at its flagship store. During the run-up to Christmas, these efforts helped launch Monty the Penguin.

Join it all up.

Marketing has more channels than ever before, so it is important to understand how to connect the various points of contact with customers to activate the brand.
Social media is the first thing to mention. To ensure an experiential campaign gets the exposure it deserves, you should coordinate social media activity.

Putting a lot of time, effort, and resources into something without shouting about it is pointless. In addition to Carlsberg’s experiential success, its social media efforts generate a lot of user-generated content that boosts their campaigns’ visibility.

PR plays an important role in the process as well. You’re likely to get press attention if you give away cans of seawater. This kind of thing doesn’t happen every day.
To ensure maximum coverage, you need a robust PR strategy so the right publications know about your campaign at the right time.

What is the end goal?

Brand activation should not always be measured purely in terms of increased sales, as with all types of experiential marketing. Obviously the goal of every marketing campaign is to increase revenue, but a brand activation campaign is more about raising awareness and engaging potential customers. In order to create a lasting emotional connection between your brand and your customers, you must create an emotional attachment to your brand.

Emotional Reaction through Interaction.

With brand activation, it is especially important to evoke an emotional reaction through content. First impressions matter the most. As a result, making a good first impression is crucial. It is unlikely that anyone will remember your brand or experience if you do not create some sort of emotional connection, be it anger, sadness or happiness (depending on your product and target audience).