The Science of Brand Activation

min read
March 1, 2024
Insights in your inbox
Thank you!
You are now subscribed.

Executive summary

  • Brand activation is a strategy for engaging consumers and creating a lasting impression by encouraging them to take action. 
  • Understanding consumer behavior is a key influence on developing a successful brand activation.
  • Elements of an effective activation include consistent brand messaging, a target audience analysis, a memorable experience, and a multichannel approach.
  • Brands that understand consumer behavior are able to craft more memorable and engaging brand activations by developing a clear message and creating an experience that resonates with their motivations.

Brand activation is an art that takes strategy and a conscious plan to perfect. Understanding the science of brand activation will empower you to connect with your audience in the most meaningful way possible.

A brand activation is a marketing tool that engages consumers in action to drive brand awareness, improve customer loyalty, and differentiate their brand from competitors. Brand activations can be carried out through in-person events or virtual actions.

There are many factors that brands can consider in driving a successful brand activation but understanding consumer behavior is the foundation. Brands that understand what drives consumers to act are better able to speak to their motivations, encourage them to engage, and drive sales.


Understanding consumer behavior

Understanding consumer behavior is an integral step in developing a successful brand activation. Brands that understand consumer behavior are better able to target consumers, develop an activation that is meaningful to them, and ultimately influence them to choose their products.

Psychology of consumer decision-making

Understanding consumer behavior starts with understanding what causes them to act. There is a why behind every purchase that we make, and brands that understand this have vast potential to encourage consumers to choose their products.

Consumers can be influenced by both internal and external stimuli to make a purchase decision. Internal stimuli include factors that are typically unique to a consumer’s identity, like needs, motivations, and emotions. Meanwhile, external stimuli include factors like advertising, influence from family or friends, and cultural factors.

Common examples of factors that influence consumer decision-making include:

  • Previous purchase experiences
  • Brand loyalty
  • Public conversation
  • Purchasing price
  • Consumer reviews
  • Marketing and advertising

Other factors that influence consumer decisions can include economic status, the purchasing environment, and demographic factors. Brands must be aware of all these factors in order to speak to consumer identity and influence the factors that they have control over. Performing consumer research through a target audience analysis is crucial here.

Emotions & brand connection

Emotions like joy, excitement, desire, comfort, and longing are all feelings that influence us to act and make purchasing decisions. Invoking these emotions through brand activations can establish stronger connections and position a brand as one that supports emotional needs.

In the world of marketing, we as consumers are more likely to remember the things that we experience and feel ourselves than things we’re told through a commercial—this is where brand activation comes into play.

Brands that make space for emotional engagement in brand activation are more likely to stick in their consumers’ memories. As a result, it’s important that brands can build connections with consumers through strategic activations.

Brands can appeal to emotion by:

  • Developing a strong brand story that appeals to empathy
  • Incorporating music into stories and events
  • Empathizing with customers through shared challenges
  • Understanding consumer concerns and speaking to them in messaging
  • Connecting with consumers through shared values 
  • Fostering an event or activity that makes attendees feel excited or joyful
  • Highlighting concerns or fears that consumers may have and how to address them

Cognitive processes in brand recall

Brand recall is when a customer can easily remember your brand when presented with a need they must fill. This recall happens during the purchasing process, where consumers weigh their options between multiple brands and products.

For example, if a person’s old car breaks down and they enter the market for a new one, then they’re likely to remember a brand that has made an impression on them in the past. This recall happens even easier when they’ve had a personal experience with a specific brand, like test-driving a car in the past or seeing a demonstration of the safety features.

Brands that understand this recall process can play into it by developing campaigns and activations that play into consumer memory. A brand activation is a great way for consumers to experience a brand and develop the feeling that they want to go back to interact with a brand in the future.


Elements of effective brand activation

Once you know how consumers behave and make decisions, you can tailor your brand activation to speak to and address those behaviors. There are several elements that make up a successful brand activation, from a strong message to a plan for delivering it.

Consistent brand messaging

Having a consistent brand message is key to maximizing the impact of a brand activation so your brand sticks in the memory of your target audience. To be memorable, your message must be constantly reinforced and from multiple angles. If there is any inconsistency or break in the continuity of your message, it can be confusing for consumers and cloud your overall message.

Key strategies for building a consistent brand message include:

  • Establish a communication plan before the activation
  • Maintain consistent talking points across every channel
  • Distribute materials with brand messaging
  • Have clear branding materials at a brand activation
  • Utilize a style guide that you reference for each content piece

This messaging should be developed with consumer behavior in mind. Consider what messaging may inspire them to take action based on their motivations and beliefs. Your messaging should speak to your customers’ pain points and how you can help resolve them. Be sure to craft messaging angles or stories that would resonate most with them. 

Target audience analysis

Again, understanding your audience is crucial to knowing how to act. Performing a target audience analysis gives you a baseline understanding of key demographics and psychographics that are common amongst your target audience.

Demographics include quantifiable traits about customers, like age, gender, and income, while psychographics include psychological and behavioral traits, like attitudes, values, and beliefs.

Some strategies for a meaningful and practical target audience analysis include:

  • Customer surveys
  • Analytic tools
  • Demographics from customer relationship management tools
  • Focus groups
  • Social media listening
  • Market research

Once you have enough information gathered about your audience, you can begin segmenting your audience along common traits and motivations. Audience segmentation provides an opportunity to group your audience into different subsets so that you can create more targeted campaigns and content pieces that are more likely to resonate with each group.

With these segments in place, you can begin creating detailed buyer personas, which are overarching caricatures of common consumer profiles in your audience. This persona should include demographic information as well as important customer motivations. A buyer persona allows you to create direct campaigns and activations that would likely resonate with this part of your audience.

Creating memorable experiences

The more meaningful and memorable the experience, the better the chances of brand recall in a time of need or want. A baseline understanding of your audience will help significantly here so that you can choose an event or activity that specifically appeals to your audience.

For example, Vans has hosted pop-up skate events because a large portion of its audience enjoys skating. When these attendees are in need of new shoes in the future, they’re more likely to remember this experience, engage in a moment of brand recall, and purchase a pair of Vans shoes. 

Consider what activities, events, or content may engage your audience, and develop an activation that would directly align with their interests and motivations. Memorable activations can include art installations, sporting events, product trials, or even out-of-the-box challenges.

Utilizing a multichannel approach

Today, audiences can interact with a brand through many different avenues. Using a multichannel approach will allow you to maximize the reach of your brand activation and connect with an even greater subset of your audience.

For example, if you have an in-person event, you can also live stream the event on Instagram so that you are reaching more than just the in-person attendees. You may also consider creating targeted videos to recap the event when it’s over. 

These additional channels can engage audiences at a much wider scale and encourage even more opportunities for conversions or sales.  

Incorporate a multichannel approach into your plan by:

  • Promoting and publicizing your event across multiple channels
  • Developing different types of media around your event, like video content
  • Providing opportunities for consumers to engage with your event through social media
  • Maintaining consistent branding across all channels
  • Generating video, photo, blog, or other forms of content to distribute across channels


Measuring the impact of brand activation

Measuring the impact of your brand activation is crucial for understanding the event and how successful your strategy was. Understanding the impact gives you insight into what went right and what could have been improved upon, only informing future activations for an even greater impact.

You should aim to understand the reach of the event as well as how well the event resonated with those who attended. Key metrics you can use to measure the impact of brand activation include:

  • Brand awareness metrics, like customer surveys and social media mentions
  • Engagement metrics, like event attendance and social media engagements
  • Return on investment (ROI) metrics, like cost per impression (CPI) and cost per acquisition (CPA)
  • Participant feedback metrics, like satisfaction surveys and net promoter score
  • Lead generation metrics, like email sign-ups and QR code scans
  • Brand perception metrics, like targeted surveys and social media
  • Sales impact metrics, like direct sales or consumer conversions
  • Brand loyalty metrics, like repeat customer data or long-term engagement


Drive brand activation through emotional & psychological connection

Developing a meaningful brand activation starts with an understanding of your customers and what drives them. Once you understand their wants and motivations, you’ll be able to maximize the impact of your brand activations.

At PETERMAYER, we’ve supported countless brands in cultivating meaningful and memorable brand activations. Our brand activations foster a strong sense of engagement, unleash joy, and establish connections between brands and their audiences. We’ll help your brand cover all the angles, from performing key research and analytics for understanding your target audience to supporting you in content creation that resonates.

Contact us today to learn more about how we can support your brand in developing a meaningful and memorable brand activation.

Subscribe to our newsletter
Thank you!
You are now subscribed.