What is brand activation

Brand Activation: How to Create a Winning Campaign

Brand Activation is essentially the process of making a brand well-known and loved by consumers – by promoting it in an experience-based way that generates interest, allowing consumers to experience the brand.

Through this experiential approach, the brand activates its benefits and positioning in the minds of consumers – who ultimately become customers and loyal advocates for the brand.

This experiential process of building a positive perception of a brand is a powerful way of driving customer engagement. It helps customers to cut through the clutter of competing advertising messages and choose the 'activated' brand. The success of Brand Activation campaigns can be measured in terms of brand awareness as well as sales increases – as new consumers step ever closer towards purchase.


Brand Activation Process: Key Insights

Brand activation processThere are several keys to Brand Activation; all of which centre around showing that your brand promises and advertising messages are demonstrably true:

  1. Uncover what consumers really care about
    For creating desire and demand, Brand Activation experiences must resonate with the customer. Professionals use consumer research and insights to uncover and tap into consumers' passions.
  2. Two-way conversations with consumers
    The foundation of the Brand Activation process is developing two-way conversations with customers about the brand by creating compelling, engaging, and authentic experiences at every point where they meet your brand.
  3. Leverage the experience unique to each channel
    Brand Activation is a multi-channel process. Leverage specific benefits and characteristics of each channel to build engagement. For example, a dedicated mini-site for a product brand is a useful channel to explain the product in the most detail. All other channels used would typically have less detail.


How to Create a Powerful Brand Activation Campaign

Brand Activation is still one of the newer terms in the industry – often leaving in-house marketing teams and agencies wondering what it is, what do others think it is and how to create a brand activation campaign? From our experience working with some of the world's leading brands, we've tried to simplify the process with ten actionable steps to creating a powerful and effective brand activation campaign.

Set objectives.
Agree on the brief.

Albert Einstein once said that if he had one hour to solve a problem, he'd spend 55 minutes defining it and 5 minutes solving it. Having a clear and agreed brief and expectations is a key to the success of the project. Briefs often evolve in the early stages of the project so it’s important to recap the requirements and get alignment before proceeding.


Brand Activation campaigns can typically take 3-6 months to complete, so spend effort on building good client/agency rapport with the team. Take time to understand their working preferences and protocols, so there is less chance of 'rub' developing on the project.

Brand activation trends: 86% of people say they skip ads


Understand the customer group.
Extract insights.

Make the campaign as data-driven as possible from the outset to understand and segment various customer groups by what they find relevant and interesting. By putting a smaller filter on a wider customer segment, the Brand Activation focuses efforts on high-quality influencers and, consequently, achieves greater brand awareness and sales.

Customer segmentation has been made considerably more accessible through various analytical tools like social listening, Google analytics, double click, and Facebook analytics.

Armed with the data, extracted insights that are actionable can reach every cell of the campaign. The higher the percentage of insights made actionable, the greater the success of the campaign.

Brand activation trends: The human brain absorbs twice the amount of information when it is presented in a novel way


Who shares the competitive landscape?

The main competition that every brand faces is extreme clutter in the marketplace. Customers see thousands of adverts daily, all-competing for limited consumer mind share.

Being differentiated and giving customers an experience rather than a choice is essential to Brand Activation.

Diagram who your brand competes with at every touchpoint and examine its benefits, sales messages, and prices – look for weaknesses and gaps in the market where you can introduce differentiated, more compelling messages and ways to experience it.

Brand activation trends: two thirds of people who are given promotional merchandise are able to remember the brand up to a year later


Make the Brand Activation strategy Fully actionable.
Communicate on many levels.

From customer data and competitive analysis, make logical deductions and extract insights that are actionable and deliverable to every cell of the campaign.

Actionable strategies are often the product of brand strategists (thinking) and the creative team (action) in brand workshops to prototype the best ways to deliver the message.

Use combinations of rational and emotional benefits to engage as many senses as possible, ensuring the customer receives the message on many levels.

Brand activation trends: 65% of people recall information better when it is presented visually


Allocate resources carefully.
Focus on multi-sensory experiences.

Allocate campaign budgets carefully to ensure that you attract and engage influencers on an emotional level in the right place at the right time.

Drive customer engagement by combining different media at each touchpoint – such as digital media with roadshow events and social media with product samplings.

Combine reward loyalty programs and giveaways with product sampling and points of sale engagement.


Work in parallel.
Design all ingredients at once.

A well-executed Brand Activation campaign will contain as many as 20 different touchpoints, each needing a specifically adapted creative, media liaison, and analytics monitoring.

The most streamlined and time-saving approach is to create a set of design ingredients upstream – key visuals, grids, logos, colours, product shots, sales messages, etc. – that can be easily resized or re-tasked for different media.

Having this organized system saves time downstream, which can be used on analytics and making improvements. One of the main hindrances to a Brand Activation campaign's success is an agency running out of resources due to the high demand for design adaptations all at once.


Monitor in real time.
Recalibrate and adjust.

Undertaking a Brand Activation campaign is in itself, an opportunity for great qualitative feedback. Decide the best key performance indicators (KPIs) for each channel to use as a measurement and then set up all the analytics tools.

Remember that brand awareness is usually as important as sales increases in Brand Activation campaigns. Look at the campaign's ability to capture emails, likes, and customer data. Monitor the ripple effect of shared media through social sharing.

Consider how to amplify a campaign and recalibrate based on the results. Small adjustments in messages based on the learned insights can help you reach other segments like millennials.

Brand activation trends: adding a form of engagement activates the long term memory system



Brand Activation Case Studies


Nike Brand Activation

To promote their new running shoes, Nike React, Nike created Reactland. The giant side-scrolling video game gamified in-store brand activation, taking shoppers and making them into avatars on a large screen. To play, customers would run on a treadmill, dodge obstacles and jump onto digital springboards – the whole experience highlighting the unique properties of the new sneaker. By the end of the activation, new customers came to play the game, repeat customers came to climb the leader board, and 48% of participants bought the shoe.


Coca Cola Brand Activation

The “Share a Coke” campaign launched in 2014 is one of the most innovative brand activation examples. The campaign encouraged people to “Open Happiness” with Coca Cola and share it with others and online by printing names and monikers on the iconic cans and bottles. More than 500,000 photos were shared online using the #ShareaCoke hashtag, and the Coca Cola Facebook page garnered about 25 million new followers.


SXSW Brand Activation

Beginning as a small even focused on the music scene in 1987, SXSW has turned into a significant venue for other brands to flex their innovative and creative muscles on a stage now synonymous with engaging, experiential, and interactive brand activation. Some of the standouts in 2019 were dating/friendship app Bumble’s Hive, a physical location dedicated to friendship finding and business networking mentoring and breakout sessions, and HBO’s Bleeding #ForTheThrone, an inspiring “Game of Thrones” and American Red Cross partnership encouraging blood donation for a good cause and a chance to win trips to the shows finale season premiere.

Brand Activation looks different in every industry, so see some good examples of luxury brand activation, food brand activation, and festival brand activation.



Creating a brand experience rather than a choice is the key strategic insight of Brand Activation. With that in mind, all the tactical details will fall into place.

Harness as many analytics as you can to view performance and create a detailed set of design ingredients ahead of time to ensure a streamlined process.

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