The Power of Brand Activation [Your Complete Guide]

Todd Kunsman

Director of Marketing

16 minute read

Brand Activation

If you’ve been around the marketing and brand world for a bit now, you’ve probably heard all sorts of industry terms and “buzzwords” that sometimes lose their value. 

Marketing is always evolving, which means industry trends and tactics are always popping up with many novel strategies that are worth exploring and implementing at work. 

One of these newish terms is brand activation, which can appear to be just another idea that people throw around and does not really matter.

However, if you dive further into the topic and process, you quickly realize that it’s a necessary procedure that your organization is probably doing — and could be doing better. 

Here’s what is covered in this article: 

What is Brand Activation?

There are plenty of associated terms when it comes to talking about branding, and no doubt many come to mind right now. But is brand activation one of them? Maybe it is, but most likely if you are reading this section you are looking to understand this term more. 

If you work in marketing, you are aware that it is imperative to find better ways to build trust and personalization between the brand and audience. This is exactly where brand activation plays a key role. 

Here’s how we can define brand activation: 

Specific campaigns, events, or interactions that directly transpire through your organization’s brand. The overall goal is to help generate much more awareness and build trusted relationships with your target audiences — prospects, customers, and employees. 

Now that might sound similar to other terms in the branding space and you’d be correct in thinking that. There is certainly overlap between those terms and with any branding strategy which generally involves building awareness and better connections with audiences.

The best way to differentiate and understand brand activation, is that activation is always focused on a particular experience that serves to level-up your brand. 

Meaning, your brand activation campaigns are to ensure your brand is growing — not just maintaining a particular state of being. And to ensure that your audiences start taking more actions after particular brand activation campaigns are launched. 

 

Why is Brand Activation Important?

Any process or strategy that involves your company’s brand is naturally important. Whether your brand is completely new to audiences or has some established presence — activation ensures your company does more than stay just relevant. 

Why should people care about your brand, products, or services? What captures their attention and engages them? How will you ensure your business grows and that your brand stays ahead of the economic times? 

Showing your brand off is one thing, but letting people experience it and build a connection is what takes your brand results to that next level.

It also helps your company with what might not be working and facilitates critical feedback that can inform a pivot to where your brand needs to point. 

 

The Essential Types of Brand Activation

So, how does a company actually activate their brand? 

Remember, this process is more about specific campaigns based around certain goals to achieve some desired result related to your product or services. This means there is probably more work in planning, setting up, and launching compared to other marketing tactics. 

Yet just like most marketing strategies and plans, with brand activation there are still different types and creative elements you can include.

Let’s look at some of the high-level types of activation your company might want to consider utilizing. 

 

Experiential Campaigns

The goal here is to allow people to experience your company and products on a personal and emotional level. These campaigns allow audiences to engage with the people at the company and test drive the products or services. 

This is where creativity becomes key, because you want people to walk away with the best brand experience possible. These campaigns take time to set up and won’t be things you traditionally do all the time.

But these are ways to gain attention while simultaneously delivering a dynamically activated brand message. 

 

Digital Campaigns:

With your company’s marketing team, there will always be some digital campaigns running. Many of them will have specific goals to achieve. 

However, with brand activation there will be much larger and specific campaigns that will be focused on the online experience. Afterall, most people are online and on social media these days, looking to engage with brands and people who work at these brands. 

Most digital campaigns will be a complement to the larger brand activation strategy, but social media can be an entirely separate part of the process. 

Social media is where your brand engages with customers, employees, and general audiences. It’s where your brand can have a voice to share personality, mission, values, and awareness.

But it can help bring attention to events, specific products or upcoming campaigns, and reach the people that matter most. 

Social platforms are the best way to elevate your message through employees and customers who are connected to your brand and products or services. Amplifying reach, share of voice, and increasing activation.  

 

Sampling Campaigns:

One of the best ways to boost brand activation is to focus on something called “sampling campaigns.” 

These are specific tactics that your team and company use to give audiences access to products or services. This could mean different things for various industries and whether your company is B2C or B2B. 

Handing out samples to people is a good analog here, providing free product trials, and even beta-test accounts to exclusive audiences so you can get valuable feedback but also boost word of mouth marketing among audiences. 

And these campaigns can be executed digitally with social media, emails, ads, sent via direct mail, or during in-person events.

Remember to think about your audience carefully and how you target. If you are too aggressive and cast too broad of a campaign, you could alienate and annoy people with irrelevant content and unwanted brand material. 

 

Brand Activation Tips

Since there are multiple types of brand activation and various creative campaigns you can run, your process can be different from other companies. However, all good brand activation campaigns have overlapping elements that make them stand out. 

Here are a few tips to consider and implement as you build your brand and campaigns. 

 

Know your audiences 

The last thing you want to do with your brand activations is deliver an experience that annoys your audience or does not connect with them.

It means you need to do your homework about who your audiences are, what segments you may need, and how those segments are substantiated and engage with your brand. 

It’s okay to be creative and deliver something fun, but there needs to be thought behind any campaign before blindly launching. A great way to see if a campaign idea is on the right path is to talk to some of your top customer advocates to get feedback. 

 

Include human emotion

You can’t escape the idea of brand empathy or humanizing your brand. Empathetic branding is everywhere lately and more important than ever before.

People are getting used to the digital noise and are looking for humanized brand experiences and emotional appeal. 

Whether that is via brand activation campaigns on social media, ads, or in-person events — everything should read as human and engage using genuine emotions.

When your brand connects with the emotional anticipations and responses of your audience, you’ll find those audiences trust and identify more with your brand. 

 

Audience participation and action

Any good brand activation campaign will include some form of audience participation or a way for them to easily take a specific action. This is what differentiates brand activation from any traditional marketing campaign. 

These campaigns must get them involved in some way, as it makes the experience more memorable when they are a part of and participant in the campaign. If it’s an online experience, make it interactive.

If it’s some public event, get them to be part of the campaign like trying your service or testing a new product. 

 

Don’t follow traditional rules

Now, don’t get too crazy with your ideas here — you’ll still need some boundaries with your campaigns. But, what I mean here is that when it comes to brand activation you do need to think creatively and as the cliche saying goes, “outside the box.”

Technology has made brand activations more interactive, engaging and unique, ultimately resulting in more engaging experiences for audiences who will perceive your brand as memorable.

And not every campaign needs an insane and expensive “wow factor,” but something creative will figure your brand in people’s minds much easier. 

Being surprising or different is good, but remember to set up some limitations. If you go too far and steer away from your core brand ethos, brand over-activation can do more harm than good. 

 

Ensure your campaigns are connected

When you are thinking of various brand activation campaigns, they should all serve to improve the big picture of your brand strategy. Meaning, each campaign should have some element that ties everything together and stays on brand. 

Your organization’s goal should be to create a uniformed strategy where your campaigns work together to ensure that audiences are receiving a consistent brand message over time.

The last thing you want to do is confuse your target audiences with messaging and communications that are not aligning.

 

Encourage employees to be a marketing channel

As you are gearing up for specific brand activations that want to impress more people, you’ll need to get the word out. A great way to drive additional engagement, while  your brand is to involve employees.

Employees are (and should be) the closest to your brand, they will have their own thoughts and insights, and also have networks of people who will be more engaged when it’s not coming from the brand or executives.

Consider the value of employee advocacy to best activate your employees for brand ambassadorship and sharing content. 

When users create and share content on social media channels, they get 28% higher engagement compared to standard company posts.

Related: Learn how Coupa Software encourages employees to help with brand activations and marketing campaigns through social media. Snag your copy of the case study here.

Listen to campaign responses

Since your brand activations are heavily focused on participation or actions from your audiences, they will be key to evaluating your campaigns.

You want your target audiences to trust, feel connected, and value your brand through these activation campaigns. 

By collecting insights during the entire cycle of the campaign you can learn what is working, what may have failed, and if your goal for the campaign was achieved.

It helps you learn and grow, to ensure future brand activations are improved and working as desired. 

 

Avoid brand exhaustion

Getting your brand messages out to the world is critical, not to mention having set brand activation campaigns is a must.

But there is a fine line to walk as well, because if you belabor your campaigns and messaging to the same audiences you can easily come off as inflated and lose their interest. 

You’ll notice engagement dropping, maybe people venting frustrations, or when you are social listening you find less positive chatter.

Finding a balance for your brand is important and keep in mind there may be some trial and error if you are starting fresh.

A great way to space out your brand activations is to segment audiences, look at geo locations, and find a cadence that won’t overwhelm each group. 


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