How to Develop a Brand Activation Strategy that Works (with examples)

If you’re in the marketing business, you may have noticed that much on the subject of branding has changed in the past few years. 

Nowadays, successfully managing your brand means more than just implementing clever, creative, and timely ad placements. It requires gathering inspiring ideas that can help you accomplish a positive brand awareness. 

With branding, the goal is to continue making those meaningful, engaging impressions on an ongoing basis. One way to do that is through brand activations.

Whether your brand is releasing a new line that could use some extra hype, needs a little TLC to get some more recognition, or is just starting out, a brand activation campaign is a great way to get the ball rolling in the right direction.

Our goal here is to help marketers like you understand the foundations of developing an effective brand activation strategy. In this post, we’ll dive into what brand activations are, how to strategically plan one, and give you some brand activation ideas to inspire your own campaigns.

What is brand activation?

Brand activation is the process of building awareness for a company by engaging directly with target audiences consumers. 

Contrary to popular belief, brand activations don’t necessarily have to involve an event. They can be as simple as a virtual interaction, or as complex as an in-person experience. 

Depending on your brand, industry, and audience, there are different types of activation campaigns that might yield the best results:

  • Experiential marketing – offering customers an experience at the point of purchase. Some retailers create pop-up stores or allow shoppers to use products and create an engaging experience.
  • Digital marketing campaigns – these campaigns enable brands to reach audiences beyond physical interaction, engaging customers and providing marketers with a chance to collect data and gain insights to improve their marketing and sales campaigns. 
  • Influencer marketing – a well-executed influencer marketing campaign can lead you to your brand goals effortlessly. There are many ways to convey your message to the intended audience through influencers, like social media account takeovers, giveaways, guest blogs or personalized discount codes. Don’t forget about the crucial metrics that can help you measure the impact of your influencer marketing campaigns.
  • Social media engagements – nowadays, social media is a component of any brand activation. These types of interactions drive engagement, create brand awareness, and generate buzz, to ensure the campaign receives the exposure it needs.
  • Sampling campaigns80% of attendees think that live demonstrations and free samples drastically helped solidify their purchase decision. Sampling campaigns can help you better pinpoint your target audience and the positive brand experience can boost sales and create brand awareness.
  • In-store/virtual events – this type of activation involves an experiential element of brand activation where customers can touch, feel, and interact with products.

Every one of these activations is meant to generate brand awareness and interactivity with your audience, helping you forge lasting emotional connections between your brand and its target audience.

Benefits of brand activations

There are a number of proven benefits of brand activations:

  • Reach new audiences that have yet to engage with your brand.
  • Reinforce your company’s position in the market, as an established brand.
  • Acquire relevant customer data and opt-ins.
  • Collect consumer feedback in real-time, as they interact with your brand.
  • Cut through traditional advertising clutter (TV Commercials, print or digital ads)
  • Make your brand more relevant.

Are brand activations only intended for new brands?

The benefits of brand activations aren’t just reserved for industry newcomers. They can also be beneficial to well-known, established brands that want to attract attention. 

New brands, existing companies, as well as businesses looking to rebrand can use this type of marketing tactic. In fact, activations are ideal for brands that are:

  • not getting valuable feedback from customers
  • failing to connect with their customers and generate emotional attachment
  • trying to increase brand awareness
  • introducing and marketing a new sub-brand or product

It’s tough to stand out from the crowd, especially in an overcrowded market. Overall, brand activations are a great way to show a business’ personality and identity.

Brand Activation Strategy: 8 steps to a brand activation strategy that works

  1. Define your goals 

A great strategy always starts with identifying your goals. Ultimately, you’ll want to create a brand activation strategy that increases brand awareness. However, narrowing down your goals even more will make them more measurable and attainable

You could have one main goal, or multiple smaller ones:

  • Increased impressions/brand awareness
  • Customer acquisition
  • User sign-ups
  • Social media engagement
  • Brand recognition & reinforcement
  • Brand virality

Once you know your goals, you can begin brainstorming various brand activation campaigns that you can do to achieve them.

  1. Focus on your audience

Every single brand activation should start and end with your specific audience in mind. Having this kind of mindset will naturally translate into more customers and sales

Ask yourself: how can your audience benefit from your marketing activations? Will you: 

  • Surprise them
  • Make their aspirations come true
  • Start a conversation
  • Spark emotion
  • Market to customer desires
  • Help customers create a positive impact
  1. Solve problems

Consider an idea that can actually address your customers’ issues. This could help build a more positive brand recall, meaning that your customers may remember their experiences with your brand, in the future. This could mean:

  • Resolving customer issues
  • Directly addressing customer reservations
  • Proactively communicating sensitive product touchpoints
  1. Take advantage of specific trends

Using trending ideas is an older tactic that still works. By relating your brand activations to what’s popular, you’re increasing their potential to reach a larger audience. Here’s how:

  • Relate to what’s popular on social media or in pop culture.
  • Use fun, relatable, and relevant hashtags.
  • Grow visibility based on algorithms.
  1. Set yourself apart through differentiation

No brand activation is perfect and not everything will go exactly according to plan. But all the great brand activation campaigns out there have this in common: they strive to exceed expectations and provide unique experiences. 

Answer the following questions to know how to position the campaign: what makes your brand stand out? How are your products helping customers? What differentiates your brand from other brands in the industry?

This will allow you to create a brand activation strategy that:

  • Exceeds expectations. 
  • Promotes your brand’s values.
  • Creates a fun way to share your brand’s origin story.
  • Provides unique experiences.
  1. Partner with influencers

For years, influencer marketing has been an effective, watertight strategy for brands that are looking for that added punch of exposure. Now, brands that possess an extensive network of social media stars bigging up the brand are turning this into a crucial part of their brand activation strategy. Partnering with influencers for a brand activation allows you to:

  • Attract both your brand’s and the influencer’s target audience.
  • Make the campaign interactive.
  • Demonstrate product features.
  1. Make your experiences shareable

No matter what brand activation campaign you go for, make sure people can share and talk about it. The easier it is for consumers to share their experiences with your company on social media, the more often they will. Your brand’s following will shower you with free promotion if you:

  • Make sharing simple or rewarding.
  • Get your team involved.
  • Create a giveaway.
  1. Use technology to your advantage

Technology can be a great tool to help market, rebrand or introduce a brand. It can help your brand reach audiences in different areas and encourage business growth. 

That in-store experiential brand activation may have been a success among participants, but there’s a larger audience online that should also be catered to. Reap the benefits of your marketing efforts by using content across all your brand’s channels. This helps the campaign go viral, letting more people know and engaging users in the online brand activation. 

ProductLead’s omnichannel distribution feature allows you to meet your customers across all touchpoints. It can be implemented anywhere from an in-store display to a large event interactive panel, and allows you to create a more relevant and meaningful experience. 

Use ProductLead to engage customers during a brand activation with product pictures that speak their language on large screens placed in-store. Or, you can gather User-Generated images using dedicated hashtags and display them live, during your event. 

ProductLead in-store display example
In-Store Displays by ProductLead

When paired with data gathered during the activation, ProductLead’s powerful analytics can help you see the direct impact your activation has on consumers’ purchasing habits. This allows you to:

  • Reach audiences in different areas and encourage business growth.
  • Use data to get the most out of your brand activation campaign.
  • Invite customers to discover your products, engage with them digitally, and see how they best fit their needs and expectations.
  • Automate new creative content, to generate hundreds of engaging digital assets in minutes.
  • Enrich your marketing channels with content that matters to your customers.
  • Choose the right platforms to deliver the marketing message.
ProductLead Instagram analytics
ProductLead Instagram Analytics Dashboard

Once you have a list of ideas, goals, and metrics, it’s time to begin implementing your brand activation strategy. Decide on one campaign to move forward, plan the logistics and use your brand playbook, value propositions for key targets, brand personality, character, voice, and experiences to your advantage.

Brand Activation Examples: 3 brand activation ideas to inspire your next campaign

Putting on a brand activation event or campaign can help you increase brand awareness, impressions, and ultimately bring in new customers. 

Using tactics like experiential marketing, digital campaigns, influencer marketing, and in-person or virtual events, you can engage your audience in a more personal way.

Let’s take a look at some examples of brands that have run some of their best brand activation campaigns in recent years—and what makes them stand out.

1. Revolve Fest | Using experiential marketing to influence their way to bigger sales and better awareness

The festival that clothing brand Revolve puts on every year at Coachella is an excellent example of brand activation that uses a combination of experiential and influencer marketing tactics

This event is often known as the celebrity party of the year, with the brand hand picking influencers to wear and promote their products during festival parties. Their influencer strategy relies just as strongly on micro and midtier influencers as it does on its stars. 

Revolve requires its influencers during events to post twice a day using pre-designated hashtags to promote the brand. The result is a yearly viral campaign that capitalizes on influencers that drive 70% of sales for the company.

Each of these annual events is a brand activation to bring in sales and drive awareness for the brand. With the help of influencers, Revolve has successfully bridged the gap between fashion and influencers in a way that few others have been able to replicate. 

Using ProductLead, you too can generate influencer marketing campaigns where influencers use your hashtags and connect with your audience. Using the analytics feature, you can then track and analyze which of them are the best fit for your brand, curating an array of influencers to sell directly to consumers.

ProductLead's Influencer Analytics
ProductLead’s Influencer Marketing Analytics Dashboard

2. Top Line | An exemplary product discovery campaign to boost sales and improve customer experience

An industry leader in a space crowded with local and international competition, beauty company Top Line knows how to adapt to their clientele’s expectations. And with ProductLead by their side, Top Line succeeded in revamping their online store without losing sight of their years-long identity.

The brand decided to capitalize on their strongpoint: an audience with a clear affinity for visual experiences. Using ProductLead solutions stemming from the latest martech innovations, Top Line developed and implemented a Shop your Mood feature. This fully digital brand activation increased conversion rates and kept visitors lingering across Top Line product pages longer than usual.

Top Line's Shop your Mood Feature

The challenge was to turn an inventory of 12,000+ beauty products into an interactive system of recommendations. The solution presented itself in the shape of implementing shoppable galleries into category pages, which led to 9,000+ total visuals and over 3,300 live assets, collected automatically under interactive and visual stores.

Find out more about how Top Line built a winning strategy solely on social media assets in a span of a few days in this Beauty Industry Case Study.

4. Samsung | Increasing awareness for a cause using omnichannel communication for an All-Screen UGC Distribution experience

You wouldn’t normally associate smartphones with museum art. However, in 2018, Samsung managed to do just that. 

Realizing that 60% of the Romanian urban population had never been to a museum exhibit, the Korean manufacturer encouraged users of its Samsung Galaxy S9 smartphone to take perfect photos in any conditions, using the #reimaginemuseum hashtag.

Then, using ProductLead’s omnichannel feature, Samsung created a unique museum experience from scratch. The Samsung Live Museum was launched on the International Day of Museums and democratized art and its curation by exhibiting Instagram photos as art, in real time. 

ProductLead’s complex distribution features were the perfect fit for the brand activation, which involved displaying brand-owned and user-generated content on any screen. This custom design for all screen types made sure the brand was shining on the big screen, mobile and in-store displays.

Countless ad design templates meant that Samsung could test different ways of formatting branded or UGC content, and choose what worked best for this particular brand activation.

With ProductLead, you can innovate brand activations in no time. Sign up for a free demo or request a personalized offer to get started today.

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