Building A Brand Activation Plan That Delivers Results

min read
January 27, 2024
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Executive summary

  • A brand activation is an event or engagement opportunity to encourage consumers to take action or interact with your brand.
  • Building a meaningful brand activation requires a detailed strategy that encompasses several steps before, during, and after implementation. 
  • Strengthen the impact of your brand activation by understanding your target audience, determining the appropriate channels, and surrounding it with engaging content.
  • In any brand activation, work toward success by setting clear objectives and monitoring results using relevant metrics.

Brand activation is a method for engaging new and existing consumers by getting them to take action through a brand event or campaign initiative. An activation event is a golden opportunity to engage your target audience and get them interested in what you have to offer. When you engage customers with your brand through a hands-on experience, they’re more likely to remember your products and services down the road.

However, to be successful and maintain a significant impact, a brand activation must be targeted and intentional with a detailed plan. Building a successful brand activation plan requires a conscious effort that involves several steps, from understanding your audience to setting clear objectives.


What is brand activation?

A brand activation is an event or engagement opportunity for audiences that allows your company to engage directly with target consumers. In a brand activation, the key component is that consumers have a chance to experience something or engage with the brand or product in some way.

An activation can take many forms, from in-person events to virtual opportunities. The most appropriate type of brand activation depends on your brand and your goals.

Examples of brand activations include:

  • Experiential marketing – In experiential marketing, consumers engage in an activity while also associating that experience with your brand.
  • Live demonstrations – Bringing a product out to the streets for your audience to experience is a great way to build an audience and drive engagement.
  • Interactive product launches – In-person product launches are valuable for getting eyes on a new product while getting new and existing consumers interested in buying.
  • Social media engagements – Social media engages people from many places at one time, and activations can include actions like virtual contests or sharing a hashtag. 

The benefits of brand activations include reaching new audiences, developing new leads, and gaining customer data for future communications. Any brand can benefit from carrying out a targeted brand activation as long as they have the right approach.


Understanding your brand

The foundation of any brand activation is a close connection to what your brand is all about. Any brand activation must be recognizable in the overarching theme and identity behind your brand. Taking the steps to understand your brand gives you a formidable foundation to work from and empowers you to build the most meaningful activation possible.


Define your brand identity

Your brand identity defines who you are and is the jumping-off point for informing what a brand activation should look like. With an understanding of your brand identity, you can build a brand activation that resonates with the key themes of who your brand is.

Answer questions like: 

  • What is your brand purpose?
  • What is your vision for the future?
  • What are your driving principles?
  • What are your motivators?


Craft a unique value proposition (UVP)

Your unique value proposition is what sets your brand apart from others. This proposition should answer what consumers can get from your product or service that they can’t get elsewhere—essentially, what problem you solve for the customer.

Determine the unique value proposition of your brand so you can clearly communicate it during your activation. Maybe your brand has unique production practices, a personal mission consumers can support, or solves a problem that other brands cannot.

This unique value proposition should be clearly present during your activation.


Analyze your target audience

Understanding your target audience is an essential component of building out a successful brand activation. After all, there’s no point in carrying out an activation if it will not be useful or interesting to your target audience.

To understand your target audience for a brand activation, you must know two things. First, what types of consumers are most likely to buy your products and second, how much of your full audience you want to target in your activation.

Understand your target audience by taking these steps:

  • Build buyer personas of your most common customer
  • Conducting consumer surveys
  • Performing focus groups
  • Engaging in social media listening
  • Gather customer feedback
  • Segment your target audience into different groups based on demographics or psychographics


Conduct a brand audit

A brand audit provides a picture of where your brand sitsis at in the market right now. Understanding your successes and potential areas for improvement in your current market is crucial in determining the scope of a brand activation that speaks to your goals.

The key facets of a brand audit:

  • Analyzing current brand perception – Brand perception is what your audience thinks of you and your products. Using focus groups, surveys, and social media listening, you can gather a picture of what your audience expects from you and how that compares to your ideal persona.
  • Conducting a competitor analysis – A competitor analysis gives you insight into your competitors’ sales and marketing strategies, giving you an idea of their strengths and weaknesses and how you match up.

Once you have this information, you can use it to improve upon your current strategy and fill any potential gaps.


Setting clear objectives

What are you trying to accomplish with your brand activation? Always answer this question before diving in. Set clear goals for your activation so you know what success looks like and how to get there.

Examples of activation goals may include:

  • Greater impressions
  • New customer acquisition
  • User subscriptions or sign-ups
  • Improved social media engagement
  • Increased brand recognition
  • An immediate jump in product purchases or pre-orders
  • Consumer education
  • Enhanced brand loyalty with existing customers

When you set your goals, make sure they are specific and reasonable enough to serve as a helpful guide in your process. SMART goals provide an excellent template to utilize for this.

The criteria for a strong SMART goal is:

  • Specific – Goals should have a clear objective with a narrow enough scope that avoids confusion.
  • Measurable – You should be able to measure your progress toward your goal and understand what success looks like using relevant metrics.
  • Attainable – Goals must be attainable and reasonable in the set timeframe. Don’t aim higher than what’s actually possible.
  • Relevant – All goals should make sense in the overarching context of your business. Any goal should be a stepping-stone as part of a greater plan.
  • Time-bound – The goal should have a set end date for achievement to help you stay guided and on pace.

Once you set your goal, determine how you will measure your success using key performance indicators (KPIs) and progress monitoring metrics. Consider metrics like reach, brand mentions, conversions, and sales.


How to develop a brand activation strategy

After you develop a clear foundation and formidable goals for your event, you can begin mapping out the framework for the activation itself. In this process, you should consider what type of event will most likely resonate with your target audience and how you can maximize its impact.


Determine the appropriate channels

Decide which channels make the most sense for your brand activation. As you decide between channels, consider which will best support your goals. Does your activation make the most sense for an in-person or virtual setting? Do you want to maximize reach or prioritize direct interaction? Which channel is most likely to feature more of your target audience?

Channels you can utilize include:

Social media is great for maximizing your reach since there are no physical limitations on who can join, while in-person events are the most memorable as they allow attendees to be completely immersed in your brand and the experience.

A brand activation can also span across multiple channels if you prefer. For example, an in-person event that you also live stream on your social media channels.


Create engaging content

Content is what will engage your audience before, during, and after your activation. Compelling content will generate hype for the event and effectively summarize the events afterward. 

Ideally, good content will also help attendees remember the event and highlight the key takeaways for those who did not. It will also allow you to capitalize on the opportunity for sales and conversions while the activation is still fresh.

To craft engaging content:

  • Incorporate storytelling techniques to target emotion and long-term memory
  • Leverage multimedia elements, including videos, photos, music, and text
  • Incorporate user-generated content (UGC) from consumers or influencers if appropriate
  • Take videos, photos, and interviews from the event itself
  • Find a way for consumers to participate with a hashtag or submission


Budget & resource allocation

A firm budget and resource allocation plan are essential for a successful activation. The returns from your activation should justify the spending used to make it happen to ensure the activation is truly worth it.

When developing a budget, consider the following: 

  • Identify your highest priorities and allocate resources accordingly
  • Project your return on investment (ROI) and brand value
  • Account for all potential venue and staffing fees
  • Plan for contingencies and last-minute expenditures in your budget
  • Factor where in the year your brand activation lines up compared to other important spending initiatives


Implementing the plan

With all of the background work out of the way, you can start taking the steps to implement your plan. The implementation phase should be guided by detailed logistics and thorough planning that accounts for any contingencies or extraneous factors.

As you prepare for implementation, take the following steps:

  • Coordinate logistics and assign action items across teams
  • Set specific timelines and checkpoints for tasks to be completed
  • Develop contingency plans in case parts of the plan don’t work out
  • Prepare all channels for customer use and interaction
  • Establish a method for gathering consumer information for follow-up after the activation
  • Ensure consistency for consumers across various touchpoints


Monitoring & measuring results

The work doesn’t stop after the implementation phase is complete. During and after the activation, review your metrics to determine how successful your initiative is—this will inform future brand activations and guide your strategy so you can have an even greater impact with each one.

Monitor the success of your activation by taking the following steps: 

  • Utilize real-time monitoring tools
  • Analyze the KPIs you set back during the planning phase
  • Gather customer feedback from participants
  • Make data-driven adjustments in real-time


Case studies

Brand activations are meant to be bold and memorable. The following brands have carried out successful brand activations that fit the bill.


Lay’s: Do Us a Flavor

Throughout the 2010s, beloved potato chips brand Lay’s held multiple competitions under the Do Us a Flavor campaign, asking their audience to suggest new chip flavors for the brand to produce. To spice it up even further, the winner of the contest with the best flavor would win a million dollars.

The campaign resulted in fun ideas like Cheesy Garlic Bread, Sriracha, and Chicken & Waffles. The initiative engaged consumers, getting them to suggest new flavors, buy bags of the finalist flavors, and then vote for their favorite on social media. 

During and after the contest, Lay’s sales soared as customers went to try the new flavors and likely grab a bag of their favorite classic flavors, too.


Zatarain’s: Will it Fri?

Food and spice company Zatarain’s is known for its bold flavors and New Orleans roots. Both of these factors played into a successful brand activation. At PETERMAYER, we capitalized on this boldness by designing a social experiment called “Will it Fri?” where viewers decided what standard food items, or random household objects, to fry. This event was held as an hour-long livestream hosted by New Orleans favorite Tariona “Tank” Ball.

This activation gave people the chance to interact directly with the brand, allowing them to vote on what objects to fry in real time through social media. The event also showcased the Zatarain’s Fish Fri product front-and-center in the process. The successful campaign resulted in over three million views, 61 million impressions, and 326,000 engagements.


Build a successful brand activation with PETERMAYER

Brand activations offer the opportunity to engage a wide audience and bring in new leads. A successful brand activation can take many forms, from in-person events to virtual events, while making a lasting impact on your target audience so they continue to interact with your brand in the future.

At PETERMAYER, our agency can support you in building a brand activation that drives engagement and makes your brand memorable in the eyes of your target audience. From helping you craft meaningful campaign initiatives to guiding each step with relevant data and analytics, we support your business in every facet of the process, spreading joy and creating relationships in the process. We have experience supporting brands with a wide range of successful brand activations and are ready to support you too.

Schedule a discovery call with us to learn more about how we can help you build a memorable brand activation.

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