Brand Activation

05 Jul, 2016

What is brand activation and 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's benefits and positioning are activated 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 take ever closer steps towards purchase.


Key Insights

There are several keys to Brand Activation, all of which centre around showing that the promises and advertising messages of your brand are demonstrably true:

Uncover what consumers really care about
To create desire and demand, Brand Activation experiences must resonate with the customer. Consumer research and insights are used to uncover and tap into the consumer’s passions and what they really care about.

Two-way conversations with consumers
The overall 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.

Leverage the experience unique to each channel
Brand activation is a multi-channel process. The specific benefits and characteristics of each channel should be leveraged to build engagement. For example a dedicated mini site for a product brand would be used as the channel to explain the product in the most detail. All other channels used would typically have less detail.

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 set about creating a brand activation campaign? We've tried to simplify the process with 10 actionable steps to creating a powerful and effective brand activation campaign learned from working with some of the world’s leading brands.


Set objectives.
Agree the brief.

Albert Einstein said that if he had one hour to solve a problem, he'd spend 55 minutes defining the problem 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, and take time to understand their working preferences and protocols so there is less chance of 'rub' developing on the project.


Understand the customer group.
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 the Brand Activation efforts will be focused on high quality influencers and consequently greater brand awareness and sales will be achieved.

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

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


Who shares the competitive landscape?

The main competition that every brand faces is the extreme clutter in the marketplace. Customers see thousands of adverts on a daily basis, 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 their 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 the brand.


Make the strategy fully actionable.
Communicate on many levels.

Armed with the data from customer and competitive analysis, make logical deductions and extract insights that are actionable and can be delivered to every cell of the campaign.

This often means having brand strategists (thinking) and the creative team (action) in brand workshops together to prototype the best ways to deliver the message.

Use a combination of rational and emotional benefits and engage as many of the senses as possible to ensure that the customer receives the message on many levels.


Allocate resources carefully.
Focus on multi-sensory experiences.

Campaign budgets need to be allocated carefully to ensure that you are attracting and engaging 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 road show events and social media with product samplings.

Combine reward loyalty programming and give-aways with product sampling and points of sale.


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 all this organized saves a lot of time downstream, which can be used on analytics and making improvements. One of the main hindrances to Brand Activation success can be an agency running out of resources owing to so many design adaptations being needed at once.


Monitor in real time.
Recalibrate and adjust.

Undertaking a Brand Activation campaign is in itself an opportunity for great qualitative feedback. Decide what are the best key performance indicators (KPIs) for each channel to use as measurement – 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, customer data. Monitor the ripple effect of shared media through social sharing.

Consider how the campaign can be amplified and recalibrated based on the learnings. Small adjustments in the message based on the resulting insights can help you to reach other segments like millennials.



Understand the key strategic insight that Brand Activation is about creating a brand experience rather than a choice, then 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 the process is streamlined.




Matthew Kinsman