Welcome to the world of brand activation strategy. It’s not terribly complicated nor will it require you to reinvent the way you do business. Think of this as getting a dessert with your meal, notes Digital Marketer David Tsoeute who was charged with responsibility for explaining the concept to readers of “Huffington Post.”
“For brand activation to work effectively, it must be part of a larger marketing strategy with efficient planning,” he explains while giving the world his best elevator pitch. But in fact, this is serious business in today’s competitive business world, so allow us to give you the skinny in language you can understand.
– David Tsoeute
What is brand activation strategy?
Mind if we start with what it’s not? It has nothing to do with general branding strategies, yet it is frequently confused with or misconstrued by folks who haven’t kept up with terminology. Best described as an event, a campaign or some type of interaction that is so effective, it establishes lasting connections to a target market, brand activation strategies tend to be interactive since the goal is direct engagement between stuff and folks.
For those insisting on cerebral definitions, brand activation is often described as a marketing discipline that drives consumer action; a seamless integration of myriad communication types, all wrapped up in a ribbon of creativity. It’s like a present. When unwrapped, consumers are thrilled. Or at least that’s the objective.
What’s so important about brand activation?
We’re not certain who to thank for writing a compelling but anonymous blog post on Medium.com, but that writer nailed the skeptical nature of today’s consumer. They’re weary of promises. Tired of one-of-a-kind sales. Fed up with the disappointment they experience when yet one more marketing campaign bombs.
Consumers crave a world where brand success is tied to trust. Sound trite? It’s not—especially in an uber-connected business environment where demand multiplies exponentially like rabbits in the wild. When a brand is trusted, consumers can sense the fact that folks behind the brand are more concerned about value and satisfying brand fans than they are about creative excellence.
How to build this loyalty? Ah, there’s the hard part. Deliver on your promises. It’s the only way to build that bond of trust and if this relationship is strong enough, competitors won’t be able to permeate this connection because if you do screw up, previous exceptional behaviors will already have built that trust.
6 Types of brand activation
Excel at delivering all six and you will meet your goal of serving clients brilliantly. Is one more important than another? That depends upon market, industry, client demands and your ability to explain how important each one happens to be.
1) Experiential marketing
Mercedita Roxas-Murray, CEO of Montage Marketing Group, pulls no punches when describing the role experiential marketing has played over time. “Experiential marketing used to be the red-headed stepchild of the marketing world,” and the term itself has been around several decades, but it didn’t flower until the Age of the Customer dawned.
Experiential marketing is all about branded engagement authenticity rather than implementing attention-getting gimmicks that only engage a target audience momentarily. Instead, this marketing niche is all about implementing three fairly simple dynamics: 1) Know your customer; 2) know your brand; 3) Conjure up a mutually beneficial touch point. Not easy to do when eight seconds is the average attention span of today’s consumer!
2) Digital marketing campaigns
No marketer worth his or her salt would venture into the abyss without a plan. If you are already skilled at writing marketing plans, it’s time to move that needle into the digital realm. Components necessary to accomplish this are:
- A solid marketplace analysis that is both realistic and creative.
- Clear objective(s); e.g., increase customer retention or decrease the cost of acquiring clients.
- Objective(s) deconstruction to articulate each one in digital terms.
- The adoption of tactics that deliver on your digital goals.
- Defining main key performance indicators (KPI).
- Advance audience segmentation intelligence to identify emotional, lifestyle and informational details.
- Conceive a clear value proposition based on data, using it as a base from which to identify digital behaviors.
- Complete a digital channel strategy by mapping channels into the sales/buyer cycle.
3) Sampling campaigns
Free stuff. What’s not to love? Product sampling has been around long enough to prove that it works. Marketing historians say that sampling first appeared in the 14th century, but credit goes to Benjamin T. Babbitt, a 19th Century soap manufacturer who understood the impact a free bar of soap could have on a recipient.
Sampling campaigns, when done right, are impactful. You need a product and distribution plan, but first, you need content writers, graphic designers and media types to pull things together. Identifying a target audience is the first step. Once you’ve got that, how will you reach these folks? By mail? At the retail level? Or will you give your item away at targeted venues like sports stadiums, fairs or markets?
The outer package (determined by delivery method and mail tested to make sure it survives sorting and shipping) needs to be attention-getting, bearing highly-identifiable logos, marketing messages and a call to action that should link to social media, YouTube video or other engagement avenue. The more personal the message, the more likely you will hit your target. Online response is the best confirmation of all!
4) In-store events
The in-store event planning process includes setting goals, determining foot traffic, store capacity and other store promotions that could compete with your effort. You’ll interact with store management to get this event off the ground. Next up, you need a logistics map; where will you set up?
How will you get your samples to that spot and what about a contingency plan that takes into consideration liability and risk management issues that could arise while you represent your brand? What can go wrong? A candy sample that lodges in the throat of a shopper or a trip-and-fall resulting from the unit used to hold your samples.
Up your publicity effort by offering incentives–add a coupon or build urgency into your plan (e.g., while supplies last!). Make messages clear, have fun and always follow through on requests for information that, if not acted upon, could inflict damage on the brand reputation you’ve worked so hard to build.
The Forbes Communication Council had it right when they published a succinct guide to brand promotion tips, defining the overall goal as establishing a connection with customers that emphasizes storytelling. Panelists on this “invitation-only” council offer effective tips that are not hard to put into practice.
- Alyssa Kleinman urges marketers to ensure brand consistency by using colors, fonts and messages that echo the brand’s values and feelings.
- Billie Kay Asmus says that if you don’t show customers that you care, you’re not going to garner their trust.
- Mallory Blumer’s biggest brand strategy advice consists of authentic storytelling through tales and case studies that have been proven to build brand loyalty.
“Leverage news events,” recommends Lisa Dreher. Link your company to something newsworthy and your brand is likely to stand out from the crowd.
- Arthur Alvarez says that nothing resonates with people like a story that is capable of imprinting a brand on the mind. “We avoid using sales speak,” he adds.
- Lee Watts is all about “creating thought leadership via published media.” To accomplish that goal, marketers should figure out key issues clients are facing and use that information to further their brand.
- Christopher Long believes the landmark 2017 Edelman study that revealed that “51-percent of people believe brands can do more to solve social ills than government.” In short: promote social good and your brand comes off like a hero.
6) Social media contests and movements
What role does social media play in brand activation campaigns? In the minds of forward-thinking marketers, the biggest role of all—surpassing giving away product samples and letting consumers test drive cars, says Anand Srinivasan, whose insights appear on the Socioeconomics.net website. His take on this topic is easy to understand: “In essence, social media helps amplify your brand activation strategy by reaching out to more customers than you [can] do directly.”
Anand stresses that product review videos “are the rage on YouTube” because potential customers get to see how something they want actually works. This experience has been proven to increase the connection between shopper and brand. Experiential videos that appear to have been shot in someone’s kitchen can be the most powerful because viewers can relate to the location.
What are the two most important roles social media plays? Serving as an “amplification chamber” that pushes your brand into the stratosphere and as a platform from which a campaign can spring successfully.
One of Adand’s favorite examples, when asked to cite an outstanding social media campaign, took place during the 2009 Tour de France. “Tweets of hope from viewers were captured and painted along the circuit,” appearing on pavement as chalk markings along the cyclist’s route. The “chalkbot” picked up these messages and tweeted them back to senders around the world, delivering instant gratification to all virtual observers. A brilliant campaign that’s worth borrowing.
4 Steps To Create A Successful Brand Activation Strategy
Having reached a point of saturation when it comes to descriptions of ways to reach your market, it’s time for a few pointers on creating your own. The folks at Killer Visual Strategies don’t mince words when they recommend taking these critical steps:
- Inform employees and stakeholders of your brand activation plan so they understand why it is so important.
- Brainstorm ideas using basic “behavioral” tools like determining what folks love about your category or industry so you can appeal to them on an emotional basis. Your goal? A communications strategy that showcases ways your brand differs and use that to drive conversion efforts across channels.
- Get down to nuts and bolts planning that includes covering all bases: marketing, customer service, PR and anything else that contributes to this effort. Empower teams to work independently on the same set of shared goals. Schedule update meetings that bring people together, review plans and identify problems.
- Devise a brand playbook that includes these components: a clear vision, value propositions for key targets, brand personality, character, voice and experiences—each should be packed with what the Killer marketers call “emotional and functional reasons to believe” in the brand.
6 Ways to measure brand activation success
While brand brainiacs disagree on the number of ways brand activation can be measured, there are 6 you can take to the bank that prove you did everything (or most things) right while developing and implementing your brand activation campaign:
- Customer acquisition: An increase in revenues and sales numbers following your brand activation efforts is a sure sign that you did something right.
- Social media engagement: Shared content is a huge driver, especially when you’ve come up with a fun, memorable or outlandish hashtag.
- Data capture: What methods will you use to ascertain and measure the data you collect so it’s available for analysis and future mining?
- Product sampling hypes sales. Arbitron and Edison report that 35-percent of people sampling a product will buy it, thus an uptick in product sales is a great way to determine whether your campaign worked.
- Metrics captured as a result of crowd intelligence technology that tracks targets using location software in real time is invaluable. If you aren’t equipped to do this yourself, engage a company like Crowd Connected to do the heavy lifting for you.
- Live Consumer engagement. It’s the easiest way of all to determine how customers reacted to your brand activation campaign. If you’ve inspired, excited and engaged your target audience, you’ve done your job. Bravo. Take what you’ve learned and make your next campaign even better!