Brand activation is one of those phrases that sound great when dropped into a conversation about digital marketing. But what does it really mean? In fact, brand activation is far more than just a buzzphrase and is something that your business needs to be acutely aware of.
In simple terms, brand activation is the action of delivering an experience to your audience – an experience that boosts public knowledge and understanding of a brand and redefines what this brand actually means in the modern marketplace.
The second part of this definition is crucial. Brand activation is more than experiential marketing. It is a way to introduce a new way of thinking in your audience and drive new kinds of value.
It doesn't matter whether your brand is completely new to the market or you have been around for some time already and simply need a refresh – brand activation can be a powerful asset. Let's take a look at some examples of brand activation campaigns that really work so you can get inspired.
It's a myth that the digital age has destroyed the art of reading. Around 80% of individuals surveyed in 2018 reported reading novels on a regular basis. And people aged between 18 and 24 seem to be the most avid readers – striking a blow against the supposedly "poor attention spans" of younger generations.
That said, institutions such as the New York Public Library have recognised the need for a brand update. In response, they launched their Insta Novels series, publishing novels for public consumption on Instagram. This redefinition of what it means to "visit the library" led to a 75% uptick in the NYPL's following.
As one of the leaders in the self-care market, Gillette have always had a strong brand identity. Their "the best a man can get" slogan is one of the advertising world's most ubiquitous. So, why would such an established brand need to engage in activation?
Well, the company began to move its brand in a different direction to reflect the role of men in the post-"metoo" landscape. Gillette launched an advertising campaign that sought to bring an end to behaviours associated with toxic masculinity and to usher in a better way of being for all. While some may dismiss such a shift as woke opportunism, it has provided a positive inspiration for many people. And this kind of conscious marketing provokes a strong response in today's more socially engaged consumers.
For Converse, the One Star Hotel campaign, run in the trendy Shoreditch area of East London, U.K., was a masterclass in experience marketing. Converse are a venerable brand, and one that invokes a very specific image in the minds of consumers. So, for such an elder statesman of the market to tap into the experience-focused mindset of Generation Z was a significant step-change.
Converse created a two-day pop-up event, in which the brand set up a physical hotel and curated an "Instagram playground" of attractions, events and visual stimuli. With their products at the very heart of the extravaganza, Converse were able to re-announce their presence on the world stage.
It's a commonly shared legend that the jolly, rotund fellow with a red suit and a white beard, who we associate so heavily with Christmas, was in fact the invention of the Coca-Cola company and their marketing team. While this story blends sprinklings of the truth with heavy doses of apocrypha, it's interesting to even imagine that a modern-day corporation could become so closely entwined with the festive season.
In the U.K., no one has come as close as the department store John Lewis to reaching this level of yuletide omnipresence. Back in 2010, John Lewis launched the second ad of the Christmas campaign crafted by London agency Adam & Eve, featuring a plaintive cover of Elton John's Your Song, sung by artist Ellie Goulding, and a tear-jerking, but ultimately heartwarming, narrative exploring the Christmas spirit of giving.
Over the last decade, John Lewis's Christmas ads have become synonymous with the Christmas period, thanks to their emotional music, pleasant if formulaic imagery, narrative drive, and high production values.
For as long as there have been products and customers, there have been product launches. Unless the product is a serious gamechanger, a product launch isn't going to be much of a brand activation all by itself. Volkswagen's marketing team were evidently well aware of this when they crafted an innovative campaign based around the popular VW Kombi vehicle.
When the Kombi's Brazilian assembly line was shut down, VW began a campaign marking the "unlaunch" of the vehicle. Kombi owners were invited to share their memories and experiences of the commercial truck, and the marketing team created a number of ads detailing the retirement of the product line.
It was a brave move to spend advertising revenue on a truck that would no longer be for sale, but it proved an effective one. VW recast themselves as "experience-providers," and their product line as vehicles that owners could really engage and fall in love with.
Pret A Manger produce mid-to-high-end food and drink for people on the go. They are not alone in this market, so they adopted a unique brand activation campaign to help push them ahead of their competitors.
The firm reached out to customers for feedback as they crafted their upcoming range. What's more, they showed that they had really been listening, publishing many consumer-driven recipe ideas via their in-store menu and making these pieces available to their customer base. The result was a surge in customer engagement, not to mention a range of products that Pret's management team knew would be a hit.
To make sure your brand activation campaign is successful, you need a strategy – and this strategy needs to be based on data. Without data, you simply cannot know what your customers are going to respond well to and what is going to leave them cold. Digital solutions like engage™ make it easy for businesses to gather and manage this data, gaining an in-depth understanding of what users want to see.
By wielding purchase history data, online reviews and customer locations, among other key datasets, businesses like yours can deploy brand activation campaigns that achieve exceptional results. What's more, you'll be able to oversee and optimise your campaigns from a central location on the engage™ platform.