How to Develop and Implement a Brand Activation Strategy

Peter Sidney
Peter Sidney

According to a report by, it can take 5 to 7 impressions for the average person to remember a brand, depending on the industry and activation strategy budget. With the amount of information and brands flying at people nowadays, that number of impressions keeps growing.

So, knowing this, how can you grow your company’s brand awareness with your target audience? The answer may be promoting brand experience, giveaways, sampling campaigns, or pop-up events. Each of these can be an effective brand activation strategy.

Today, we’ll look at how your brand awareness can reach new heights by building top-notch brand activation strategies and campaigns!

What is Brand Activation, and How Does it Work?

There are many definitions of what a “brand” is, and our favorite is a brand is a promise wrapped in an experience. Brand activations are these experiences. They create lasting emotional connections between a brand and its target audience.

The Importance of Brand Activation in Business

You may be thinking to yourself one or more of the following questions:

  • Is this just another marketing strategy?
  • Is brand activation important?
  • What about digital marketing and social media? I thought they were the golden ticket!

The reality is that yes, brand activation is essential because without it, your marketing strategy is short-lived, and you’d have no followers on social media because nobody has taken action to follow your brand; the brand activation process also helps define the emotional connection you’ll make to your consumers. This includes your tone of voice, value proposition, and emotional satisfaction customers come to expect at each touchpoint.

These unique experiences must consistently reinforce the brand’s values and build trust, authenticity, and relationships with potential customers and long-time advocates. For companies that utilize channel partners to generate and cultivate leads, brand activation strategies can include special cooperative promotions and effective partner enablement materials that highlight the brand values shared by both parties.

How to Build a Brand Activation Strategy

Before deciding on the types of brand activation activities your company will undertake, it’s essential to determine the goals behind your brand activation strategy. These goals could include:

  • Getting more account sign-ups
  • Increasing specific product sales
  • Increasing visibility or awareness of your overall brand
  • Introduce a startup or new brand to relevant marketplaces
  • Drive consumer engagement with your brand
  • Create inspired advocates who will help introduce your brand to their followers

Brainstorming and planning the activation can begin once these goals have been defined. Now we move on to determine which of the types of brand activation strategies to use.

Experiential Marketing

Sometimes called “engagement marketing,” brands use experiential marketing by creating an immersive environment where consumers can experience the brand first-hand. While the go-to example of experiential marketing is providing car shoppers with test drives, the same emotional connection is built with other activities. Another example is a skincare brand releasing a new product and offering complimentary treatments at the beauty supply store Ulta.

Sampling Campaigns

Sampling campaigns are one of the most easily recognized brand activation strategies that general consumers are aware of. A simple example of a sampling campaign is when a company plans to release a new product, sends free samples to its best customers, and asks for feedback. An emotional connection is created because the best customers receive what they feel is an exclusive sneak peek, the ability to provide input (and feel a sense of ownership), and also receive something as a gift. The result is a lasting impression of the brand.

In-Store Brand Activation Campaign

There’s no better venue to demonstrate your product and immerse someone in your brand than being in person at a showroom or on-site at headquarters. For some, that may mean a particular display area in a retail environment or a pop-up shop at a local retail outlet.

This might not be a product demonstration or sales pitch, either. Remember, your brand promise has to do mainly with the emotions the customer’s experiences with your brand cultivates. For example, you could invite your best customers to a reception at your headquarters to meet and enjoy snacks with those responsible for designing your latest products or for hearing remarks from a celebrity guest who is an influencer in your channel partner program (plus social media selfie opp!).

Conferences, Shows, and Events

suppose your goal is to engage more leads in your target market. In that case, one of the best brand activation strategies is attending conferences, shows, and events that align with your target audience demographic. Because your brand activation goal is to create an experience that reinforces a strong brand connection, it ensures you don’t choose an activity that strays from your brand’s core values and promise.

Psychologically, brand activation works by stimulating a person’s senses in such a way that it creates an emotional imprint. Let’s say your company specializes in producing historical documentaries. You’ve purchased a booth at the American Historical Association annual conference. Instead of giving out pens and notepads like most other trade show booths, you know that your services make people think of nostalgia and films. You rent a giant popcorn machine and set it up. Now everyone at the trade show is stopping to listen to your 60-second elevator pitch and sign up for your list. They get a bag of nostalgic, classic movie theatre popcorn, and you get a new subscriber.

Passive Brand Immersion is Everywhere

When you go into Best Buy and see TVs playing videos, computers set up and running, and stereo systems blasting music, or when you enter Target and see appliances displayed out of their boxes, this is a passive form of in-store meets experiential brand activation, too. While some of these allow customers to truly try before they buy, some are set up so consumers can experience the exact size, color, and feel of things before purchase.

Your brand needs to stand out and get noticed by activating a consumer’s emotional connections.

Tips for an Effective Brand Activation Strategy

Before we continue, there are a few “must dos” with any brand activation strategy and implementation that you’ll want to include in your plans.

Respect Your Target Audience

The best brand activation strategies do their job without being seen as a publicity stunt or brand marketing ploy. Your customers will know something is up if your activation attempts feel off — they’re annoyed, pushed to discomfort, or disrespected. This leads prospects and customers to avoid your brand. To be safe, you may wish to run your activation ideas by some of your best, trusted customers to see how they would react. Ask them for their advice — hey, that’s an activation strategy, too!

Surprise Your Audience by Being Creative

In our above example with the popcorn machine at the trade show, the company went out of its way to get creative. Creating a fun and engaging activation without going too far away from your company’s values and the appropriateness of the event can create an ideal interaction — which is why we call it strategy. You’ve planned it, but the prospect and customers think it’s a natural progression of events.

However, be sure to revisit your brand activation when things change. I’ve gone to conferences where a vendor has gone through a rebrand but has not done anything to create a reactivation opportunity. In other words, if you’re gonna take away my popcorn, surprise me with something equally as fun!

Humanize Your Brand

Yesterday, a group of coworkers and I went out to lunch at a well-known restaurant. We waited at the counter for a few minutes until one person noticed there were now ordering kiosks a few feet away. So, we wandered over and put in our orders. And we felt ignored!

Human interaction is the fasted path to a meaningful relationship with your target audience. Imagine if our marketing agency had just left popcorn bags on a table with a business card stapled. Odds are they wouldn’t have collected people’s contact information, and it’s entirely possible conference-goers assumed the popcorn was put out by the conference staff, not part of a brand engagement activity. All brand activation should involve some human interaction.

Analyze and Listen to Feedback

When engaging in a brand activation activity, be sure and bring along someone whose sole job is to gauge feedback around customer experience before, during, and after the interaction. They can gently ask for input and assemble a report showing key metrics such as the net promoter score, which measures how likely a person is to recommend a brand to a friend or family member. This helps document positive and negative actions and suggestions for improvement.

12 Brand Activation Event Ideas

As you examine your brand activation event ideas, note the ones that closely align with your product or service offering, company core values, and brand promise. Some are more marketing activations or experiential marketing campaigns, while some are more tried-and-true. Think about what other brands in your industry do. What works and what doesn’t? What would be doing something that is too close an imitation?

  1. Brand Stand - Taking a public stand on a hot issue will certainly get people talking about and siding with your company. It’s a great way to show your support for what you believe in, and build a following of like-minded customers or clients.
  2. Influencer Marketing - If your target audience is sufficiently narrowed down, it should be easy to identify the influencers your audience trusts. Get in touch with those influencers and broker a deal for them to try your product and share it with their followers.
  3. Online Advertising and Digital Campaigns - This is your standard online ad purchase process that considered or tried before. But just because it’s a common marketing idea doesn’t make it any less effective. While online ads may not see the same click-through rates that they used to, they do still allow for brand awareness—which is half the battle.
  4. Organic Social Media Viral Campaigns - It’s hard to plan for a viral post, but if you keep publishing new, trendy, or surprising content, the worst that can happen is you’ll grow your online follower base. If you jump on an online trend early enough with an amusing take or commentary, odds are you’ll get your place in the spotlight as well!
  5. Trade Shows - There’s a trade show for just about every industry, and attending those events gets you right in the center of the action. Mingle with potential customers, get your name out there, and see what the competition is doing all at the same time.
  6. Music Festivals - Music festivals are great opportunities for lifestyle brands to get in touch with their audience in a relaxed, non-salesy atmosphere. It’s also an opportunity to gain new customers and help position your brand in a fun light.
  7. Virtual Events and Conferences - Brands that position themselves as experts in their industry do really well at conferences and virtual events. Allow a high-ranking official from the C-Suite to give a presentation about how you’ve achieved your success, and you gain dual benefits of increased brand awareness and increased customer inquiries.
  8. Sampling Campaigns and Giveaways - There’s tons of ways to do this one, like offering free samples in person at a store, or sending samples to different locations for them to add to each customer’s shopping bag at checkout. Alternatively, you can offer samples and giveaways to customers in an online format, where customers share their name, email address (for digital content), or physical address (for physical samples) to be shared with them. Bonus: Now you have their details for continued marketing campaigns.
  9. Social Media Contests - Increase your online followers and your follower engagement rates at the same time with a social media contest. You can do the standard ‘Like us on Facebook, follow on TikTok,’ etc., but beware that encouraging followers simply for a free entry into your contest doesn’t always result in a curated and engaged follower base. Instead, try to encourage existing followers to engage with your posts over time and build conversation, which will help educate them on your brand and lead to a longer (and more profitable) relationship.
  10. In-Store Brand Activation - Specially designed displays, interactive devices, or other experiential elements surrounding your product in-store can draw attention to your brand and encourage customers to choose it over your competitor.
  11. Live Demonstrations - Even more impressive than sending out a special display to call attention to your product, is sending a team to demonstrate and actively sell your product to interested passers-by. Having a live demonstration showcases all of the features of your product or service, while also being able to engage in conversation and quell any hesitations that would inhibit purchase.
  12. Behind-the-Scenes (BTS) content - We all like to know how things work, and posting BTS content provides that insight while also drumming up excitement about it. Take the famed Radio City Rockettes, for instance. In advance of their Christmas Spectacular, they posted videos of the Rockettes in rehearsal as they practiced their high kicks and other specialized choreography. This kind of content gets viewers excited for the season ahead, and looking into purchasing tickets for the show.

Brand Activation in Summary

To wrap up, here are some key takeaways from today’s article:

  • Brand activation means building your brand’s emotional connection with users.
  • Brand activations increase awareness and may include events, sampling, social media, contests, or pop-up events/experiences.
  • Brand activation involves creating a new psychological connection between the activation activity and the emotions generated. A solid brand activation strategy will continuously develop a set of desired goals and how to use marketing strategies to achieve them.
  • Psychologically, brand activation creates an emotional connection where the brand promises to stimulate that connection at every interaction.
  • Every time a prospect or consumer comes in contact with your brand, there is a brand activation opportunity, including partner channel marketing.

As you work to create fantastic brand activation opportunities for your prospects, consider how working with a robust demand-generation platform like Relevize can help by ensuring consistent, quality brand resources are available for every company and affiliate in your channel partner ecosystem.

Finally, be sure to check out our deep dive into the latest tools that have enabled channel partners to become more efficient, demonstrate a strong return on investment (ROI) over the last few years, and create engaging and delightful brand activation experiences using technology in our publication Leveraging the Modern Tech Stack to Become a Top B2B Reseller.

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