What is a brand activation?


A brand activation is a marketing method which involves engaging consumers by creating an experience and allowing them to interact with the brand.  By engaging with consumers and involving them in an event or experience brands are able to foster positive associations and create long-term brand loyalty.

Brand activations have become an important part of every brand’s marketing strategy and it’s easy to see why. With consumer sentiment beginning to turn unfavourably against traditional advertising and an ever-increasing number of new brands in the market, it’s now essential to make your own brand heard in a way that is both positive and effective.

Brand activations are great for this purpose as they allow you to engage with customers and position your brand strategically in public perception. When done right, a brand activation is not only successful at increasing brand awareness and sales, it also has long term benefits like improving brand image, fostering brand loyalty and creating long-lasting and positive brand associations.

How do they manage that? The infographic below shares a few fascinating facts and figures about how brand activations work and why they’re so successful.


What you’ll need to pull off a brilliant brand activation:

While it’s no secret that brand activations are a powerful tool, executing your own is a complicated matter. Below are the top things we’ve learned are critical for a successful brand activation.

A strong concept

Everything hangs on your concept, so you need a strong one in order for the activation to succeed. Obviously a great idea is the crux, but it’s not all there is to it. The following three elements also need to be considered for a concept to really be strong:


As we see from the stats in the infographic above, coming up with something entirely unique will help position you as a thought leader and ensure that people remember your brand.

If you can’t make the whole thing entirely unique, make sure you have elements that are, or at least that will excite/engage/surprise your target market in a good way. A brand activation is an investment, so don’t move ahead unless you’re 100% confident that your idea will have an impact.


This should be obvious, but sadly it’s often overlooked. Basically, you need to be sure that your concept not only works, but also works for your brand. Coming up with a great idea is one thing, but if it’s not true to the nature of your brand you risk the results being lukewarm.


It’s easy to get swept away with great ideas, but you need to be sure that everyone else is on board and that you have the means to execute it. The problem arises when you have a great idea, but you have to water it down in order to get it done. Sometimes it’s better to scrap a complicated idea that you have to dilute in favour of a simpler one that you can execute well.  

Bonds Cylindricals
Bonds Cylindricals

Customer insight

This principle is as simple as look before you leap. Before you even start thinking of an idea you need to know your target market inside out and backwards.

  • Create a buyer persona and make sure you’ve done exhaustive research.  If you’re a new brand you’ll need to create an ideal buyer persona to think about the type of customers you want to attract.
  • Think through your activation from your customer’s perspective. This means you should consider everything from the social media you use to promote it to the time of day you launch it.  Get inside their head and decide what works best for them, not you.

Remember that your customers will relate the brand to the activation, so make sure it’s sending the right message to the right people. If your activation is high energy but your brand is Zen you’re sending mixed messages, or even worse: if your activation is sloppy people will assume your brand will be too. Thankfully, on the flip side, if you manage to pull off a great execution this will be the lasting image that stays with people for years to come.


Good promotional merchandise

No brand activation is complete without the right branding and promotional merchandise, particularly if you’re hosting an event.

  • The human brain remembers imagery well; so make sure you capitalise on the hype by having branding that’s good quality and easy to see.
  • Don’t just go for numbers. Having something custom or novel makes more of an impact than sheer number or size; allowing you to save budget and have a bigger impact.


A realistic budget

Budget plays a massive role in planning brand activations, and you want to be sure to strike the right balance between quality and affordability. Below are a few things to keep in mind to help you do that:

  • Get quotes before you begin to plan your budget – that way you can get a realistic idea of what you’ll need to include.
  • Plan your budget together with your concept so that you don’t commit to something you’ll struggle to execute
  • Allow sufficient time to shop around for prices and deals
  • Be upfront with your suppliers about your budget
  • Remember that a substandard activation can cause damage to the brand image, so be sure that you’re committed to investing in a good one.

An engagement tactic

Engagement helps to imprint a brand into a customer’s long term memory system. In addition, allowing someone to touch and hold something also triggers feelings of connection according to Psychologists, so letting people interact with your branding and products is a great way to foster brand loyalty.

Finding an engagement point generally involves supplying customers with something they need, want or can make use of. Branded shade tents and deckchairs for a beach event, for example, or branded change rooms and goalposts at a sporting event.


Sufficient planning

For an activation to run smoothly you’ll need to have planned for every eventuality.

  • Ensure you have enough products, samples and staff as customers can feel hard done by if they are left out.
  • Ensure you have enough space and enough signage if you’re hosting an activation event


An amplification strategy

You’ve done all the hard work, now it’s time to make sure you get a decent ROI on your brand activation. For that you need to make sure you’re promoting it through a variety of channels.

  • Encourage social media sharing and make it easy for people to do so – event hashtags and competitions are always good for this purpose.
  • Share as many photos of the event as possible and get participants talking about it by tagging them.
  • Allow those who missed the activation to participate through social media by engaging with their comments after the activation. Make sure you do this timeously, people tend to expect responses within the hour.
  • Make the most out of your investment by creating some sharable content (videos, slideshows, mixed-media etc.) from the event and sharing it on your social media and website.