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brand activations

Ultimate Guide to Brand Activations  

Whether you’re just starting out with your business or have been working on it for a while and want to break into a new target demographic, brand activations are an amazing way to introduce your brand to new audiences. Brand activations can help you grab the attention of passers-by, boost engagement, and create buzz about your brand to increase brand awareness. 

Before you can run your own brand activations, there are some key things you need to know to help your campaign run smoothly and be as successful as possible. Our guide will provide you with information and examples to inspire your own brand activation events. Here’s everything you’ll find in this ultimate guide to brand activations: 

  • What is a brand activation? 
  • Why is a brand activation important? 
  • Eight types of brand activations 
  • How to do brand activation: strategies & plans 
  • Five of the best brand activations: examples from successful companies 
  • Brand activation manager: how to break into the industry 
  • Brand activation management: how to have successful campaigns 

To start off, let’s discuss what brand activation is and why you should consider it as a useful tactic to add to your business’ marketing plan.

What is a brand activation?

Brand activations are a way to introduce potential customers to your brand through a marketing campaign including interactive exhibits, events, experiences, or online displays. A brand activation is designed to catch the attention of your target audience and introduce them to your brand in a memorable way. 

Brand activations can be run in-person or online, and will often include free samples, demonstrations, or giveaways to allow potential customers within your target audience to get a feel for your products or services and try them out. You might run a brand activation as a pop-up shop, a branded space at an event, a social media giveaway, or even a fun game or scavenger hunt. Brand activations take many forms and can be customized and tailored to your brand’s needs. 

Why are brand activations important?

Brand activations are important because it helps get the word out about your brand, products, and services. Brand activations are essential to your marketing strategy as they are a huge factor into overall success and growth. Some of the benefits of brand activation are building brand awareness, lead generation, increased engagement, and boosting sales, among several others! 

8 types of brand activations

Depending on what industry your brand falls under and how you operate your business, there are many different types of activations you may want to try out. Here are eight types of brand activations to consider: 

  1. B2B brand activations – B2B (business to business) brand activations are perfect for brands looking to connect with other brands as partners, clients, or for sponsorship opportunities. These could appear at established conferences, tech districts or even customer parking lots. 
  2. Virtual brand activations – This includes all types of brand activations done remotely, including social media campaigns, online events, limited edition app features or beta testing, and online giveaways. 
  3. Games and scavenger hunts – This is a great option for brands looking to showcase the fun side of their organization through running a scavenger hunt, a contest, or even a race! This is also a great way to gamify some educational content for your attendees to absorb in a fun and immersive experience that doesn’t come off as promotional or sales-driven.  
  4. Giveaways – Giveaways can be done in many different ways which make them a versatile option for brand activations; you can run a giveaway in-person at an event, or through social media and give the winner a prize package including your brand’s products or services. Giveaways are a great way to offer an exchange of value for you to collect contact information from your attendees.  
  5. Pop-up brand activation – Make your brand more accessible by running a pop-up shop in an area with heavy foot traffic, such as a busy street or even at a market or existing retail store and showcase your products to passers-by. If you have an established partnership with a physical retail store or are looking to build out a new partnership, shop-in-shops are a great way to tap into their foot traffic to promote your products, service, and brand while testing the market interest before investing in permanent solutions.  
  6. Hybrid brand activations – Hybrid activations are any that run both in-person and online simultaneously. You could combine any in-person activation with an online component to create your own personalized hybrid campaign! It is important to offer similar value or experiences through both formats so that all your attendees can get consistent experiences, no matter how they choose to interact.  
  7. In-store events – If your business already has a storefront, you can run brand activations in or in front of your brick-and-mortar location. Set up an eye-catching display or host an event to encourage your target audience to come in and check out what your brand has to offer. 
  8. Conferences & trade shows – Large events like conferences and trade shows can function as brand activations themselves, but they can also be opportunities for smaller companies to set up brand displays at those events. Become an exhibitor or a sponsor of a large event to take advantage of those activation opportunities that exist both on and off the expo hall floor – most large conferences offer or can facilitate several spaces in communal areas that can help to differentiate your brand from the sea of companies and competitors in an expo hall.  

How to pull off a successful brand activation: strategies & plans

To be successful with your experiential and brand marketing, you’ll need to have a solid brand activation strategy to lean on. There are several key things you’ll need to consider in creating your plan. How is this activation going to represent your brand? How are you going to capture the attention of your target audience? Where is the best location and setting for your activation(s) based on our target audience? What’s going to make the experience memorable and meaningful for your attendees? What budget do you have available for your brand activations and how is that impacting the scale of your plan? Do you need to work with an agency to design and execute your campaign? You will need to answer these questions in order to begin creating an outline for your brand activation. 

Once you have an idea what you want your brand activation to look like, you can dive into creating your plan. To begin building a brand activation plan, you’ll need to clearly define your brand and what it stands for, outline the goals you’re looking to achieve, and know the audience you want to target. You should also consider how you will measure your campaign’s success, and how you want to track those metrics throughout the course of your brand activation. To learn more about creating a successful plan for your brand activation, check out our article about brand activation strategies to find plans and templates to inspire your own. 

Five of the best brand activations: examples from successful companies

To help inspire your own brand activation campaigns, check out these five awesome examples of successful activations from other brands. 

1. The Bell: A Taco Bell Hotel & Resort | Taco Bell

Taco Bell ran a pop-up hotel experience at a resort hotel in Palm Springs featuring their branding, swag, delicious food and new menu items for guests to try. With only a portion of the V Palm Springs hotel rooms availble for this exclusive experience, the rooms sold out within two minutes, while the campaign went on to become a viral sensation on social media and was a massive success. 

2. Audible Beach at Comic-Con | Audible

Popular audiobook company, Audible, put together a fun outdoor activation on the beach at the Comic-Con conference in San Diego where guests could admire detailed sand sculptures while enjoying sample audiobooks. Needless to say, a good audiobook and a sandy beach are a recipe for relaxation success.

3. Virtual Concert | Fortnite

During the early lockdown period of the pandemic, uber-popular online video game, Fortnite, hosted a virtual concert within their virtual world featuring Travis Scott performing in CGI, as well as awesome animated visual effects and interactive capabilities for users. The concert had over 27 million attendees from across the world! 

4. Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) | Apple

Apple hosts an annual event to unveil their upcoming software and device releases and discuss new innovations. This event is always highly anticipated and creates a ton of buzz and excitement amongst Apple product lovers and app developers alike. 

5. Jump Store | Adidas

Popular clothing and shoe brand Adidas set up a store where customers could take 24 seconds to attempt to jump 10 meters to grab products for free, which attracted a ton of people excited for a chance to win free items. You can never go wrong with free swag to encourage participation and engagement.  

To find even more great ideas for brand activations, check out this article for 35 more awesome examples! 

Brand activation careers: how to break into the industry

If you’re looking to get into the industry in a role such related to design, strategy, management, or production, here are five tips and pieces of advice to help you get started and be successful in your journey. 

Tip 1: Get an education in a related field

Before you can get started in the field of brand activations, you will first need to get an education in a related field such as marketing, design, production, business, or business administration. Depending on where you want to fit into the industry, most employers will prefer you to have a bachelor’s degree, with some looking for a Master of Business Administration (MBA) as an asset. 

Tip 2: Gain experience through internships

After completing your education, you can try applying for internships to start getting experience in the field from the ground level. Internships can provide you with valuable experience that will help you when it comes time to apply for your first actual brand activation position. 

Tip 3: Begin by working in sales or marketing

If a company you’re interested in working for doesn’t offer internships, or if you want to learn more about the brand from an inside perspective, consider starting out your employment with the company in a sales position or as another part of the marketing department. This will help you learn more about the brand and form connections with people within the organization as well as in the industry as a whole. 

Tip 4: Join an agency

To get more varied experience working on activation campaigns with different types of brands and industris, you could work with an agency like Impact XM. Agencies will work on campaigns with lots of different companies in various fields, giving you more diverse experience running all different types of activations from in-person to digital, pop-ups to games and more. Agencies are also more likely to have several positions in-house that are closely involved in delivering brand activations, ranging from strategy and design through to operations and production.  

Tip 5: Become an independent consultant

If you’d prefer to work for yourself, you can become an independent consultant working on brand activations for brands. This requires a ton of experience as you’ll be running the show on your own, and having connections in the industry will also help you with this. Once you’ve had enough experience, you can branch out on your own and become an independent activation expert. 

Brand activation management: how to have successful campaigns

Now that you’ve read through our entire guide to brand activation, you’re armed with valuable knowledge you’ll need to run your own activation campaigns, or get started in the industry if you’re looking to become a brand activation manager. To help your brand run campaigns, connect you with sponsors and make your activations as successful as possible, get in touch with Impact XM to see how we can help with your activations and events. 

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