March 13, 2023 0 Comments

What Are Brand Activations?

How Branded Events and Campaigns Can Generate Awareness for Your Brand

A group of people on an event sitting in a big bright room, talking about some brand

Brand activations are real-world stunts, events and campaigns that make a splash in the press and generate meaningful awareness for your brand. From sponsored contests and charity initiatives to industry events and creative stunts, the right creative activation can breathe life into your brand messaging.

So what can a brand activation look like? Some companies go to great heights to ensure their new product gets the attention it deserves.

Take, for example, HP’s anti-gravity printer promo. For this press stunt, HP gathered a select group of reporters at its headquarters to test out the company’s new HP ENVY Zero-Gravity Printer in a zero-gravity chamber. Why? The printer was slated for use on the International Space Station, where most printers wouldn’t be able to function. This brand activation brought together HP’s key stakeholders with a unique demonstration of their product’s unique design features. The reporters will likely remember the experience for the rest of their lives. By extension, they likely won’t forget the printer, either.

Another example is The Contours Stroller Test Drive. What better way is there to learn how comfortable a baby stroller is than to try it yourself? Contours did just that by placing parents in an adult-size replica of their popular baby stroller and cruising them around their cities. Not only did the parents’ trust in the stroller’s construction and comfort get a boost, but the stunt also garnered award nominations, widely-shared YouTube videos and gave the brand an awareness boat.

These are just two examples of real-world activations designed to inspire media (and social media) attention. The best brand activations build your brand’s visibility and engage directly with your key customers and stakeholders with highly memorable creative events. The key is to ensure your brand can back up those fantastical experiences with real-world data and product capabilities.

Do You Need Brand Activations & Events?

Brand activations take planning and investment, much like other marketing tactics. So, when you’re deciding where to spend your hard-earned, earmarked marketing budget — should you go with an experiential marketing strategy or a different type of campaign? The decision to invest in a high-impact stunt like a brand activation will depend on your customer base and your stakeholders’ demographics, but research indicates it can be worthwhile to “go for it” if you have the budget to invest.  

In one survey,  91% of consumers report they would be more inclined to purchase a brand’s product or service after participating in a brand experience. That’s a strong indicator of the power your brand can harness with a strategic brand activation. Customers tend to react favorably when they can interact with your brand in the real world, to build trust.

Additionally, 40%  of those same survey respondents felt they’d become more loyal to the brand after participating. Customer acquisition is important for business growth — and we always want to help you encourage new customers. Still, research shows that retention actually yields better ROI. Some businesses even achieve a profit of up to 95% for every 5% increase in retention rates.  

Brand activations can add grandiosity to your company’s public image and connect you directly with your target customers. It’s a larger-than-life way to showcase your strongest differentiators to key stakeholders, and demonstrate your values firsthand. 

It can be a headline-worthy undertaking, if executed correctly, and can earn your brand a place in top-tier media outlets and generate authentic social media buzz. In fact, it’s one of the few tactics that can help you appeal to the press and resonate with the public online. A newsworthy creative campaign is one way to leverage your budget to help you crack through the busy news cycle and stand out in a crowded consumer market

In terms of brand value, a high-quality activation can demonstrate to your target market that your business can “walk your talk.” When customers interact with or read coverage about a successful activation, it can help to position your brand as a leader in your industry — or, in special cases, create a household name.

What Should a Brand Activation or Event Include?

Experiential marketing has a reputation for being fun and glamorous — the types of campaigns movie scripts are written about. And that’s often true! But the process to develop a strong campaign is tedious, and requires deep market research and complex planning. It’s rarely something that can be managed in-house. 

These types of campaigns carry a high possibility for media attention, and a substantial monetary investment — meaning that, in a unique way, they also put your reputation on the line. A well-executed campaign can boast immense and lucrative benefits. But a poorly executed campaign can result in financial loss and, even worse, a hit to public trust in your brand reputation.

Before planning your brand activation, your creative agency should complete a brand analysis, to define your brand and ensure your brand messaging strategy will deliver the results you want to see. At Trust Relations, we use our proprietary Trust Analysis to ensure alignment on messaging to power your broader brand goals. Once this analysis is complete, work can commence to bring your dream activation to life.

STEP 1: Creative Brainstorming

Creative brainstorming involves an in-depth brainstorming session to produce unique concepts for your upcoming brand activation or event. Ideas should be tailored to attract the attention of key press targets in your industry, resonate with your customer base, and drive forth your business goals. 

STEP 2: Creative Pitch

A good public relations or marketing agency will give your team a detailed overview of the proposed event and desired outcomes — before executing on those tactics. At Trust Relations, our creative proposals include a comprehensive outline of potential activations, associated costs and creative work. We also outline next steps and impact goals associated with your branded event. 

At this phase, your marketing leadership can evaluate your options, refine concepts, and work with the agency to create a blueprint for an event that will resonate with your customer base.

STEP 3: Campaign and Event Coordination 

A brand activation is a massive undertaking, from event coordination and vendor liaisons to campaign execution and post-mortem reporting. With many marketing initiatives, it’s preferable to have a dedicated team of experts on deck. For brand activations, this is especially important. The best creative agencies will manage your brand activation end-to-end.  

You should expect a team of skilled experts to provide an event overview and a designated run-of-show, while simultaneously securing the necessary venues and running event promotions to land the ideal attendees. They should also coordinate or provide support staff. 

STEP 4: Event Marketing & Advertising

Your brand activation will not make an impact without a robust promotional framework to support it. Your creative agency should steer the process of promotional conceptualization, content creation and appropriate placement of ads. 

Your team should also be equipped with social media and content marketing experts to curate strategic social media, email, and search campaigns that reach your target audiences. To ensure your promotion is paying off, a reputable PR or marketing agency will provide comprehensive reporting to ensure your investment is hitting the mark.  

STEP 5: Media Outreach

To generate media interest in your event and secure placements in your target media publications, your creative agency should also provide PR support. PR practitioners are uniquely equipped to help generate media interviews and manage event announcements. Your PR team should also work closely with the event team to  coordinate media invitations for the event, secure on-site visits with reporters, and proactively monitor media opportunities to feature your event.

(At Trust Relations, our teams are integrated to ensure the best marketing experts can manage digital promotion, while a skilled PR team manages the media push behind your event.)

How Do Brand Activations Boost Brand Trust?

Brand activations and events are creative expressions of your brand purpose. They’re the kinds of Hollywood-worthy stunts that many PR practitioners dream of working on at the heights of their careers. And these types of campaigns can make a lasting impact on your existing audience and expand your brand awareness.

Most importantly, a custom brand activation puts your brand’s claims into action, showing your customers that you can back up your claims in real life; they are a poignant way to showcase that your storytelling and story doing are one and the same. In other words, brand activations, done right, can generate a substantial boost in trust for your brand. 

That trust is at the core of our approach. “Trust Relations” is a term coined by President and Founder April White to describe a new approach to strategic communications. We focus on conveying clients’ authentic actions, value and goodwill — and a creative event can be a strong way to do just that.

Brand activations are an opportunity to show what you do and inspire your core audiences to talk about it afterwards for months or years to come. 

Interested in creating a memorable brand activation that runs smoothly and maximizes exposure for your brand? Reach out to us here.


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Trust Relations Team