Getting your brand to stick, like a song in someone’s head, is especially difficult in the evolving world of marketing.
According to Base Creative brand strategist Rod Parkes,
“The brand owner can no longer dictate the meaning of the brand – the customer defines this, and today’s customers cannot be so easily told what to think.”
One way to adapt to today’s customers is through brand activation.
Brand activation is still one of the newer terms in the industry and often leaves client marketing teams and agencies wondering what it is, what do others think it is, and how to set about creating a brand activation campaign.
Brand activation is essentially the process of making a brand well-known and loved by consumers. The activation process is about promoting the brand in an experience-based way. This generates interest, allowing consumers to use and experience the brand.
Through an experiential approach, you activate the brands’ benefits and positioning in the mind of the consumer. With proper brand activation, the consumer ultimately becomes a customer and loyal advocate for the brand.
The experiential process of building a positive brand perception is a powerful way of driving customer engagement. It helps customers cut through the clutter of competing advertising messages and choose the ‘activated’ brand.
You can measure the success of brand activation campaigns in terms of brand awareness, as well as sales increases, as new consumers take closer steps towards purchase.
1. Set objectives. Agree the briefing.
Albert Einstein said,
“If I had an hour to solve a problem I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes thinking about solutions.”
A clear and agreed-upon briefing that sets accurate expectations is a key to the success of the brand activation project. Briefings often evolve in the early stages of the project, so it’s important to recap the requirements and get the alignment before proceeding.
Brand activation campaigns can typically take 3-6 months to complete. Spend time building good client/agency rapport with the team and take time to understand their working preferences and protocols so there is less chance of ‘rub’ developing on the project
2. Understand the customer group though data mining. Extract insights.
Make the campaign as data-driven as possible from the outset. This means understanding and segmenting the various customer groups. What do they find relevant and interesting?
By putting a smaller filter on a wider customer segment your brand activation efforts will be focused on high-quality influencers.
Armed with data, extract insights that are actionable and can reach every cell of the campaign. Your campaign will be more successful with a higher percentage of actionable insights.
3. Who shares the competitive landscape? Differentiate from the clutter.
The main competition every brand faces is the extreme clutter in the market place.
Customers see thousands of ads on a daily basis, all competing for limited consumer mind- share.
Differentiating and giving customers an experience rather than a choice is an essential to Brand Activation. Diagram who your brand competes with at every touch-point, and examine their benefits, sales messages, and prices. Look for weaknesses and gaps in the market where you can introduce differentiated and compelling messages—ways to experience the brand.
4. Extract insights. Make the strategy fully actionable.
Delivering an actionable strategy often means you’ll need brand strategists (thinking) and a creative team (action) in brand workshops. Get your best people together to prototype the best ways to deliver the message. Use a combination of rational and emotional benefits and as many of the senses as possible to ensure customers receive the message on many levels.
5. Allocate your resources on channels where you can win. Focus on multi-sensory experiences.
Allocate campaign budgets carefully to ensure you are attracting and engaging influencers on an emotional level, at the right place, at the right time. Drive customer engagement by combining different media at each touchpoint, such as digital media with road show events and social media with product samplings. Combine reward loyalty programming and giveaways with product sampling and points of sales.
6. Work in parallel to shorten lead times. Design all campaign ingredients at once.
A well-executed brand activation campaign contains as many as twenty different touchpoints. Each touchpoint needs a specifically adapted creative, media liaison and analytics monitoring. The most streamlined, time-saving approach is to create a set of design ingredients upstream—key visuals, grids, logos, colors, product shots, sales messages, etc., that you can easily resize or re-task for different media.
Having all this organized saves a lot of time downstream. You can use the extra time on analytics and on making improvements. One of the main hindrances to brand activation success is when an agency runs out of resources due to the need for so many design adaptions at once.
7. Monitor in real time. Recalibrate and adjust.
When you undertake a brand activation campaign, it’s an opportunity for great qualitative feedback. Decide on the best key performance indicators (KPIs) for each channel to use as a measurement. Set up all the analytics tools.
Remember that brand awareness is usually as important as sales increases in brand activation campaigns. Look at the campaigns’ ability to capture emails, likes, and customer data. Monitor the ripple effect of shared media through social sharing. Consider how the campaign can be amplified and recalibrated based on your findings.
Small adjustments in the message based on insights can help you to reach other segments, such as millennials.
Brand activation is about creating brand experiences, rather than a choice between A and B for the consumer. A Harness as many analytics resources as you can, to view performance, and create a detailed set of design ingredients ahead of time to ensure the process is streamlined.