How to Develop a Brand Activation Strategy (with Example)

Brand activations go beyond creating an idea and turning up on the day to execute it. The most successful brand activations are those that sit within a brand activation strategy, working to consider the role that it plays amongst the broader company goals. If planned well, a brand activation can be executed with such success that it seamlessly falls within the marketing calendar and sets up the company to maintain promotional material throughout the remaining 12 months. Ahead of planning and executing a brand activation strategy however, you must first understand what a brand activation is and the role it plays.

What is brand activation? 

A brand activation is the curation of enabling your brand to have a presence within a certain market, and most often for a finite period of time. 

Brand activations work to build awareness around a brand holistically or a certain element of the company. The awareness is often built by creating an element of engagement, to boost brand awareness and make a lasting impact on the audience.

The timing of a brand activation often lends itself to key moments within a company’s calendar. This may include the release or launch of a certain line, or a celebration of a significant moment within the brand. Aligning the timing of brand activation events works to keep the focus on specific messaging, ultimately driving the success of the campaign.  

Types of brand activations

There are a number of types of brand activations that are executed by companies in today’s markets and there is certainly no right or wrong way to plan them. There are however a number of effective brand activation ideas that companies lean into to help drive their brand awareness. 

Exhibition & Trade Events 

Exhibition and trade events are a successful way to represent a brand in front of their target audience. Whilst the initial outgoings are priced higher, for companies who continue to attend with a custom stand and reusing items it can be a more cost efficient brand activation event. Attendance at events like these generate brand awareness beyond the companies existing database, as often the event planners will dedicate budget to the marketing of the show.  

Pop-Up Stores

A pop-up store is a temporary business presence that companies can adapt to create tactility with their audience. Pop-up stores are quickly becoming popular for those businesses that cannot sustain a physical shop front, but like to connect with their audience and have a physical presence for a specific period of time. Pop-up stores increase brand awareness by having limited-edition experiences for consumers to enjoy. 

In store activation 

As suggested by its name an in store brand activation looks to host an event or campaign within the initial store of a company. This type of campaign can work for both established brands who have a signature store, and those that are just starting out to minimise costs. In store brand activations help support a personal connection with local existing and potential customers as it remains within their local area. The location of this type of activation also works due to minimised external limitations due to it being located in a space the company is familiar with. 

Digital Marketing Activation

Whilst a broad term there are a number of activations that can sit within digital marketing campaigns. Following the trends of audience consumption, digital marketing continues to play an increasingly large role in brand activation campaigns. Digital marketing is often activated through social media campaigns, whereby a brand will create an engagement on social media platforms to increase marketing efforts. These types of activations can be through social media contests to help incentivise social media engagements. Often in return for social media engagement an audience can win a voucher or product.

Beyond social media campaigns companies may look to extend their awareness through influencer marketing. Influencer marketing is becoming a successful alternative for companies who have a limited boosting or production budget. Influencers work to drive brand awareness as well as provide validity for the brand due to the influencer’s reputation.

Experiential Marketing

One of the most successful brand activations is experiential marketing, which based on the name revolves around the target audience experiencing the activation face to face. Whilst different experiential activities provide unique experiences many will involve sampling campaigns, whereby the audience can try new services or free samples. Marketing efforts like free samples allow the consumer to trial a product before needing to buy them which is often favoured with a new brand or product. Aligned with sampling campaigns, this gives the companies an opportunity to increase brand awareness through consumer word of mouth. The audience is likely to tell their network about a product or service that they like. 

Experiential marketing also plays on exclusivity, allowing consumers to believe that they cannot receive this experience outside of the business’s brand activity. This further increases brand awareness as the consumer is more likely to share their experience with the activation. 

Determining the brand activation strategy 

With brand activation examples aside, a company should consider brand activation strategies when looking to coordinate their experience. There are a number of elements that work cohesively to create a successful brand activation strategy. 

Determine the Brand’s Values

Ahead of the commencement of planning, a company must first understand its value propositions and how this correlates with the brand activation campaign goals. Company values are often overarching that look to be filtered through each element of the business. Goals however can be tweaked according to the task including the brand activation strategy. As part of the brand activation campaign, companies may look at goals that include: 

Determine the Budget

Whilst sometimes kept confidential, a brand activation will be driven by the existing budget for the company and by the budget placed aside for the campaign. Before any planning is commenced, all involved parties should be aware of the budgets, the limitations it presents and ensure there is a contingency plan around execution to ensure the planned budget is maintained.

Determine the timeline 

With the goals, values and budget attributed for a brand activation strategy must then look at the timeline. This will often be dictated by the scheduling of the event. Twelve months is often a sweet spot for a brand activation strategy timeline allowing enough time to not only plan the execution of the activation but to also ensure it sits within the effective brand activation strategy. With the timeline, consideration should be given to the digital marketing campaigns sitting alongside the activation, as well as the execution of any pre-event and post event planning.

Determine the Audience 

The audience of a brand activation often goes beyond the day to day audiences of a brand, as the activation presents the opportunity to lean into new audiences. Pending the activation selected, utilise the brand activation strategy to understand where the target audiences are sitting and how to reach audiences beyond these.

Determine the Marketing Campaign

A strong marketing campaign will sit within every successful brand activation strategy. The marketing world goes beyond ensuring an audience hears about the activation, rather, in today’s industry it can lean into digital marketing campaigns, influencer marketing, and determining the correct marketing messages to ensure all desired audiences are reached. Ensure marketing campaigns are a key consideration for any brand activation strategy as they will play an important role in the success of the activation.

Prepare for Analysis 

The success of a brand activation is only as successful as what can be measured. Throughout the strategy ensure that adequate analysis programs are implemented to ensure success (or loss) can be quantified. How analysis can be determined may be through programs such as Google Analytics which works to track digital impact, CRM platforms tracking growth in new customers or acquire relevant customer data, or surveys to measure customer experience. 

Brand Activation Execution 

The execution of the brand activation strategies will make or break the success of the campaign. Execution goes beyond when customers can engage with it, and rather includes the weeks leading into and out of the event or campaign. Companies should consider the support required around this execution including space, staffing, and stakeholder involvement to ensure there are pressure points and execution can be delivered seamlessly.

Point of difference

With brand activations becoming more common among many industries, companies should consider their point of difference for their strategy to ensure an element of uniqueness is delivered. Whilst they don’t need to be significant, all brand activations should work on delivering a point of difference to place them as an advantage against competing brands and activations.

Introducing Scandinavian sleek: Volvo airclad

Whilst Expo Centric knows the intricacies of a successful brand activation strategy, their knowledge goes beyond the theory. With fourteen years of experience, they have delivered a myriad of successful activations, including the Scandinavian sleek, Volvo Airclad.

With creative anticipation Expo Centric delivered on a brief that saw the creation of a wooden bespoke AirClad to compliment the Volvo brand for the UK launch of their new XC90.

The brief detailed a Scandinavian theme with covered space to display a car, along with an internal experiential space, with a back of house area and engaging entrance features.

The timeline was very quickly evolving with final sign-off to first being installed being less than 4 weeks including full design and manufacture of the bespoke wooden Airclad. The initial activation was in Edinburgh and after the client was so happy with the product they ordered a second identical structure along with 3 smaller 4x5m units. The larger units commenced a UK tour including Manchester, Birmingham and London. With the smaller units visiting forest locations across the UK.

Expo Centric has been bringing out the brand personality in companies for fourteen years. If you’re looking to forge lasting emotional connections with your audience, speak to one of our specialist team members and start your brand activation strategy today

Love what you’ve learnt, but still not sure where to start? Speak with one of our expert team members today.


Let's collaborate

Ready to get started?

Start the conversation with our team by completing this form.

Let's collaborate

Ready to get started?

Start the conversation with our team by completing this form.