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How to Practice Brand Activation at Any Scale

Brand Activation isn’t a simple task. Because there are always new and dynamic ways to allow consumers to directly interact with a brand, many brands respond to possible brand activation efforts by going as large and broad in their campaigns as possible, without necessarily being certain that they can predictably tie the engagement they create to customer acquisition and revenue. 

In a narrower sense, brand activation can apply to campaigns and initiatives that help consumers feel connected with a brand. In this respect, activation is critical because generating personal, emotional responses form consumers is essential to building or maintaining any lasting brand

Doing this on a consistent, cost-effective and scalable basis is critical to having the most successful possible campaigns. Many brands are already finding ways to do this with new digital and omnichannel technologies. Instead of looking only to traditional, large scale, costly brand activation strategies, marketers now have the opportunity to focus on cost-effectiveness, accessibility and personalization with their brand activations to get better results on a consistent basis. 

 

Cost Effectiveness and Brand Activation

Big brand activations are usually fairly expensive – they require anything from huge TV ad buys to in-store displays and representatives to promotional buys to experiential props (sound equipment creeping into marketing spend much?). Basically, any real big brand activation is going to take over you and your agency’s time and be the focal point of your marketing calendar. 

 

This campaign actually generated plenty of PR, but giving consumers a product for 1 cent (if they taunt a rival, of course) isn’t most brand’s idea of a sustainable engagement. Getting more users to download a mobile app, however, probably is.

 

It’s important to make an impact with your leading campaigns, but practicing huge campaigns without smaller or iterative approaches can’t be the only way. In response to this issue, a lot of brands are starting to drop experiential activations because they’re just too expensive. On a broader level, marketers who still want the benefit of quality activations need to think about connecting experiences together in the ways consumers now expect

This is critical because consumers aren’t just spoiled for choice with content, but the amount of apps and brand sites they’ll give any reasonable attention to is limited. As consumers, we are actually running out of time in the day to absorb content. Even as brands begin to spend less on campaigns that rely on engagement, it’s becoming more important than ever to create a personal connection in order to acquire and retain customers. 

Instead of just spending more money to drive this engagement, cost effective, scalable activation means you should look for viral, user-generated or otherwise digital solutions to make up for the cost of things like 1 cent whoppers (even if it does drive users to an app). Generating mass appeal on command also has its own budgetary demands, which means where you can’t go all-in on a strategy, you need to focus on more one-to-one engagement with consumers year-round, allowing your brand to consistently and repeatedly stand out in a cost-effective way.

brand activation across channels

According to Les Binet and Peter Fields, even though certain channels report better activation effects, they’re usually used less frequently. There are always tradeoffs in brand activation – how much you choose to spend is secondary to how distinct and unique your activation is. Source: EffWorks.

 

Accessibility and Brand Activation

This is where accessibility comes into play. Everybody has FOMO, but the good thing about FOMO (for a marketer) is that it drives us to take actions that keep us from missing out. However, if too many consumers can’t engage with your brand activation strategy, you’re the one who’s going to be missing out on opportunities to engage. 

Even though many brand activation campaigns are ambitious in reach, they inevitably can only directly engage a limited number of consumers. Like in the Burger King example above, of all the people who might’ve seen content from that campaign, how many actually took action to download their app or follow through on the 1-cent Whopper offer? The percentage would be relatively low – valuable as it may be – but the entry-point to activation is still a detour from the way customers would normally interact with the brand. 

Focusing on accessible activation is a better way to maximize the benefits of a campaign. Apps and microsites have been a successful way to do this for many years, but those are usually one-offs that see diminished engagement over time. Gathering email at a storefront or on a website is one entry point to creating more experiences, but that channel is saturated all the same. Finding ways to integrate the experiences consumers are accustomed to engaging most intensely with is the best opportunity to have flexible, scalable and effective brand activation approaches. 

 

It may be hard to believe, but even Avocados need a firm squeeze. Avocado’s from Mexico created a Wal-Mart-exclusive chatbot to engage consumers with various recipes and help about picking avocados. This was high-level engagement, but shows they didn’t have to break the bank.

 

For instance, let’s say you’re launching a new product line in 50 stores across a handful of core regions. You’re going to target your approach to the stores that are closest to your most valuable consumers – they could be affluent or price-conscious, demographically specific, categorized by profession, or simply based on a map of where you find the highest density of existing loyal customers (identified by email or other means).

If your campaign creative is effective and your promotional positioning is truly attractive, how are you going to make the most of the engagement you can generate once people show up in-store? Automating interactions, without necessarily asking people to download another app or subscribe to another email list, is one of the best ways to do this. Whether it’s through web interfaces, social media, messaging channels, or other preferred modes of communication, you can make the most of your core activation and avoid missing out on interested customers. If you’re activation is cost effective and accessible, then you can finally focus on incorporating a creative approach that allows the campaign to reach its full potential. 

 

Getting an Emotional Response From the Individual Consumer

Sometimes, brand activation campaigns are by nature a group or mass experience. In these cases, being part of a group or movement means that a campaign isn’t necessarily personalized. 

This “feel” for things usually comes down to group events, observing unique public performances or generating in-store buzz with the launch of a new product. All of those are effective, however, these are also the kind of expensive and unpredictable activations that are causing the same drop in experiential marketing spend mentioned above. What’s more, if they don’t get PR, it’s hard to confirm if they really helped build or maintain your brand.

Ultimately, one-to-one activations that go through flexible channels like web interfaces, messaging and social media are the most customizable way to achieve cost-effective, accessible and highly customizable brand activations. This not only fits better with today’s content and marketing landscape (while also working within the bounds of “bowling alone“), but also allows consumers to form relationships with brands in new and novel ways.

If you develop an experience that reaches through these channels with flair, thoughtfulness, personality and a distinct voice or outlook, you can match what your consumer is truly looking for and turn that affinity into a longer-term relationship. Sally Hansen is one brand that has adopted an approach like this, and their use of messaging and Conversational AI (Learn more about what Conversational AI is) has helped create more opportunities for engagement and customer acquisition as a result.

messaging brand activation

Nailcare brand Sally Hansen deployed Conversational AI to drive engagement over the holidays, collecting 11,000 emails in five days, with an opt-in rate of 85%. This is one example of a brand activation strategy that didn’t require massive investment, but did maximize engagement out of the reach it generated.

 

Thinking More Broadly about Brand Activation

These channels offer more opportunities than ever before to create an emotional impact on your core customers. Instead of large scale, unpredictable campaigns, integrating these possibilities with campaigns executed at any scale – whether local, regional, national or global – can enable your brand to get the best possible results. 

Brand activation can’t serve a catchall for how you try to get a message to your customers – it’s always at heart been about building loyalty among a brand’s core group of ambassadors. Emotional connection is a core component because it feeds the passion of your most loyal customers, who in turn connect the people around them with brands they’ll also love.

If you’re thinking about a brand activation process that has manageable incremental costs, digital campaigns are the right place to start. Traditional approaches still have their place, but the reality is that they need to offer predictability, reliability and personalization the way digital marketing does. Conversational AI is one of the best tools to integrate these experiences for individual consumers, providing both the personalized marketing and activation possibilities you need to help consumers feel more connected with your brand. 

Contact Automat to learn more about what you can do to engage consumers in a scalable, cost-effective and emotionally impactful way with Conversational AI