A relatively new term, brand activation summarises the process of making a brand better known to its target audience. Think about when a business first starts out: it may have a target consumer in mind but the likelihood is that no-one has heard of it, rendering their offering effectively useless. It has to be activated in some way to drive consumer attention its way.
However, brand activation should not just apply to new brands. If a business wants to reinvigorate the way it communicates with its audiences, it needs to go through the same, often rigorous process of altering or raising consumer awareness and perception. Before that begins, there are a number of things to bear in mind.
Firstly, with so many channels to market across, it will be important to consider each of them in order to create an optimal strategy. Furthermore, the 21stcentury world is an experienced economy where consumers want brands to stand for something and stimulate an emotional response rather than simply sell them more stuff.
With this in mind, we've highlighted a variety of ways that a brand can activate itself, no matter whether it has start-up status or simply wants to build new momentum.
1- Experiential Marketing
Today’s business climate is one of an attention economy where consumers value experiences over ‘stuff’. This may seem like a major challenge for brands whose ultimate goal is to sell more. However, it has actually paved the way for a highly successful form of brand activation that puts consumers at the heart of all actions.
Rather than simply trying to sell items or services to a chosen demographic, a brand activation campaign offers the chance to showcase a brand’s personality and values to its consumers, whilst getting to know them better.
From pop-up booths to PR stunts engaging directly with consumers, experiential marketing is all about evoking a particular emotion and getting people involved with the brand. This is a great way to differentiate and build brand equity, as it shows that a company wants to offer something more than a product or service.
If an event or interaction stirs genuine emotional connections, people are more likely to then associate it directly with the brand. We all know that purchases are driven by emotion, so awakening it may well lead to many feeling compelled to purchase.
Often this form of marketing goes viral, which makes experiential marketing a powerful activation strategy and a memorable first impression of a brand.
2- Interactive Sampling & Giveaways
If a brand is trying to launch with very limited resources, offering free samples is a great way of driving consumers’ awareness and interaction with your product. The bottom line is that people love free stuff and will almost definitely interact with a brand if this is offered.
If the product is good, consumers will undoubtedly like it and remember their first interaction with your brand as a positive one. As part of the sampling, you can incentivise them to purchase. Think of it as a mutually beneficial exchange where the consumer must learn about your offering in exchange for their free treat or sample.
Although simplistic, this can work incredibly well in spreading your brand message without the need to hard-sell the benefits. What’s more, if you’re launching a product that is totally different to anything you’ve ever done before, then a “try before you buy” offering is a great risk-free way to engage and educate consumers. This form also creates a reciprocal relationship between the brand and customer via the ‘gift’ sentiment and may even trigger a subconscious mental obligation to give back by purchasing.
Considering consumer-centric and engaging experiences is perhaps the most vital takeaway as it is important to look at things from the perspective of those on the receiving end. Free sample? Fun. Being accosted in the street? Not so much!
3- Guerilla Marketing Stunts
If making a bold first impression is the number one priority, “guerilla marketing” is the way to go. For those unaware of this term, it is a marketing strategy that focuses on unconventional, often low-cost tactics that are visually rousing and aim to reach a wide variety of people.
From graffiti to flash mobs, projections to treasure hunts, guerilla marketing is designed to be remembered. Highly Instagrammable, slightly mysterious and stopping people in their tracks, these stunts make a lot of noise about a brand and its message.
Even if a company is not well known, a giant inflatable shark close to Leicester Square is likely to go viral on social media and therefore bring awareness to its creator brand. Not everyone will understand it, some may even call it naff but it will certainly generate awareness.
Besides being fun, this technique is also much more cost-efficient than conventional methods, such as TV advertising. As such it is an ideal activation strategy for startups or companies with a limited budget.
4- Consumer Promotions & Money Off
While this is seen to be slightly unimaginative and ‘typical’, product promotions are always a sure win for any brand activation strategy. Consumers love to feel like they are getting a good deal. Any product offered at a discounted rate and cheaper than a competing product is one of the most persuasive factors in securing a purchase.
However, be careful if you are offering something new or revolutionary, as people may not understand their motivation to purchase, discounted or not. Alternatively, why not take the opportunity to sign consumers up to your mailing list in exchange for access to your promo or money-off deals?
Above all, it is vital to get your brand out there and promote it via as many channels as possible. Often the most persistent (read: not annoying) marketing gains the most traction, embedding itself in the consumer mind for recall at a later date as described by the Touchpoint Theory.
If your brand communications are frequent, targeted and consistent, and delivered across multiple channels and touchpoints, then your brand activation plan has every chance of success.