Brand Activation: Definition, Purpose, Types, & Examples

When dealing with today’s knowledgeable customers, brands can no longer hope to attract attention with a simple advertisement or billboard. They need something unique and out of the box to stand out from the crowd. This is where brand activation must be in your marketing strategy. Brand activation helps consumers relate to the brand in a better way and as a result, the brand becomes a part of their life.

It is a two-sided interaction between the brand and the customer where the brand develops an experience to stand out in the eyes of the customer.

Traditionally, brand activation is considered a marketing gimmick. However, it has become a necessity for companies who want to connect with their customers and enhance their brand in this day and age. In this attention-grabbing, brands go out of their way to engage and interact with their potential customers.

More recently, Oreo built an asteroid-resistant vault in Norway to protect cookies from a potential asteroid strike, while Carlsberg launched a billboard giving out free beer to consumers.

With companies going to great lengths to elevate their brand, people may be curious what brand activation is and why it is so important.

What is Brand Activation?

Brand activation is a type of active and emotive marketing carried out in the form of campaigns, events, interactions, or experiences with the aim of driving customer action and building a two-way relationship between the brand and the customer.

The term can be better understood by studying the following:

Types of active and emotive marketing

Active marketing requires conscious participation by the company to promote its brand. That’s when the company proactively reaches out to consumers to connect with them and shape their brand image.

Done in the form of a campaign, or event

Brand activation is carried out through certain events or campaigns to encourage customer action. The purpose of this strategy is basically to influence consumers to act. ‘Action’ here means the company’s interaction with consumers. Customer involvement and participation in brand activation events result in two-way communication.

Building a two-way relationship between brands and customers

The company aims to build strong personal relationships with the target audience by engaging with them. Brand activation helps consumers to understand the brand in a better way, and as a result, builds trust and loyalty between consumers and the brand.

In other words, brand activation is an event or campaign that allows companies to communicate directly with consumers and promote their brand.

This can be seen as an attempt to make the brand known among its target market or to drive consumer action by giving them a glimpse of the brand.

However, the term is often confused with brand marketing and other brand strategies. The difference between the two is that brand activation refers to a specific campaign or event. It can be seen as a specific activity to enhance or enhance the brand of a company. Whereas brand marketing refers to the continuous process of promoting or managing a company’s brand.

Objective Brand Activation

Whether a brand has just launched or already exists, a brand activation campaign can ensure that companies and brands remain relevant and in demand. It can effectively help a brand increase its user base, change its image for good, grab the attention of the audience and bring the brand to life.

Some of the goals of brand activation are:

To increase visibility

Even if a brand is already established or has a certain presence, companies can organize brand activation campaigns to increase visibility and attract more customers.

To increase brand awareness

Most consumers do not recognize the new brand and their products. Such companies can reach their target audience and increase awareness through brand activation.

For example, Laive, a local dairy brand from Peru, generated 63,800 shares, 22,100 comments and 800,000 likes on social media. The company employs Italian drivers and places them in some of the most famous restaurants.

The driver followed the introduction from the restaurant and gave their customers free parmesan cheese to enjoy with their meal. Through this activation, the brand generates awareness and garners a lot of attention.

To build trust and relationships with consumers

Another goal of brand activation is to build consumer confidence in the brand and its offerings. Trust in a brand often leads to consumer loyalty, which leads to repeat purchases.

Companies can even use this loyalty to increase sales by developing word of mouth and referral marketing campaigns.

To strengthen the proposition

Brand activation enhances and strengthens the brand value proposition. Through this strategy, the company reminds consumers of their mission and vision.

For example, Nike, an American multinational corporation, organizes a brand activation campaign in which the company designs and distributes ball dolls (dolls shaped like balls) to inspire their audience, especially girls, to become interested in sports. Through this campaign, the company interacts with its audience and strengthens its mission statement, namely ‘Just Do It’.

To drive consumer engagement

Brand activation helps to create a link or bridge between the customer and the brand, which results in consumer engagement. Customer engagement refers to the customer’s willingness to actively participate and communicate with the brand.

Consumer engagement and interaction is one of the most important goals of a brand activation campaign. This kind of involvement can be seen specifically when the company activates through experiential marketing.

Type Brand Activation

The brand activation process requires the design of certain events or campaigns to achieve the desired results based on predetermined goals. Campaigns typically involve multiple points of contact with consumers.

This means that, compared to other marketing strategies, companies may have to invest more time in research, planning, and execution.

However, like any other marketing strategy, there are many options available to companies.

Some of the most effective brand activation strategies are:

Experiential Marketing

Experiential Marketing or experience marketing, also known as engagement marketing, is an important part of a brand activation strategy. As the name suggests, this method requires the creation of an immersive environment where consumers can experience the brand’s product (or service) firsthand.

For example, to promote a cosmetic brand, the company in question can hold a campaign where consumers can get a makeover from a stylist hired by the company.

This campaign will help consumers physically interact and engage with the brand while providing an enjoyable experience to the target audience.

Experiential marketing builds trust when consumers connect personally with brands. It also helps bring the brand to life for the target audience.

This can be understood with the help of an example:


Several years ago, T-mobile, a telecommunications company, launched a marketing campaign based on a very creative and interactive experience. The company designed the set-up, which allowed the general public to play a real version of Angry Birds using their smartphone. You can view the video via this link.

Brand activation in the store

Another method of activating and elevating a brand is through in-store brand activation. This strategy is more widespread among retailers and B2C brands than B2B brands.

Companies host live events, serve drinks, or use experiential technology to enhance the customer experience rather than simply demonstrating a product.

In-store brand activation can help customers connect with the brand and sometimes experience a newfound appreciation for the brand. There are many popular examples where brands have come up with innovative strategies for interacting with customers in-store.

John Lewis

The British brand is implementing in-store brand activation in 42 stores across the country. The strategy includes designing a ‘Monty’s lair’ along with stuffed toys, clothes, and app versions of storybooks. The hands-on experience really brings the brand to life for in-store shoppers. Watch the video via this link.

Free sample campaign

Free sample campaigns are one of the most tried and tested brand activation strategies. Such campaigns are simple but effective and fun.

The idea here is to entice consumers by letting them try some products or services for free so that they can enjoy and connect with the brand.

For example, the company could run a contest where the winner will receive the company’s product or service for free or simply run a ‘giveaway’ campaign to give consumers the opportunity to try the product for free.

The challenging part of such a campaign is choosing the right environment and executing the event properly. Without proper implementation, customers may feel uncomfortable or unpleasant. Here are some great examples of free sample campaigns:

Ikea stay

After more than 100,000 people joined a Facebook group called ‘I want to stay at Ikea’, the company allowed 100 of them to spend the night in one of its warehouses. The winners were given drinks, manicures, massages, they were shown a movie, and there was even a story read to them by a celebrity. Watch the video via this link.

Digital Campaign

The importance of social media and digital campaigns cannot be overstated in the 20th century. With the advent of the internet, most people are active on social media platforms, which can be an opportunity for a company to engage with its target audience.

In general, the marketing team continues to run digital campaigns for the ongoing brand marketing process. However, with the brand activation process, the campaign becomes more specific, larger, and focused on the target audience.

Digital campaigns are more budget efficient and easy to run when compared to other brand activation campaigns. However, more creativity, innovation and research is needed to attract consumers’ attention and effectively elevate the brand.

Some examples are:


The tech giant launched a campaign called ‘One night on iPhone 7’. Under this campaign, the company invites photographers from around the world to click on images using their new iPhone 7 to highlight the device’s new low-light camera.

These photos are then shared on social media for the world to see and appreciate the iPhone and its features. While social media complements larger brand activation campaigns, it plays a huge role in spreading awareness about the brand and its products.

How Do Brands Develop Brand Activation Campaigns?

Organizing and executing a brand activation strategy can be tedious and tiring for a company. The research and creativity required here is far more than is required for any other marketing strategy.

And that’s why brands need to plan each point of contact with consumers carefully. Here are five steps that most companies take when setting up a brand activation campaign:

Research And Analysis

The first step requires analyzing and reviewing the company’s current position. Executives should be aware of the company’s strengths, weaknesses, what the company stands for, current level of engagement, etc.

This can be done through an extensive company SWOT analysis. Next, the company must develop a customer persona. This means that the company must identify key characteristics such as interests, demographics, and characteristics of its target audience. For example, the target audience for a whiskey brand are adults, but the consumers for a toy brand are children.

Detailed research and analysis assists the company in developing the ideal brand activation campaign to meet its goals and requirements.

Develop strategy

The second phase of organizing a brand activation campaign involves building a strategy to spread the organization’s message to its target audience.

This step includes selecting the type of campaign the company wants to run and also deciding where and how the campaign will be run. The campaign type depends on the company’s goals, target audience, and activation budget.

For example, a company with a low budget could run a digital campaign, while a company with a relatively higher budget could use experiential marketing or a sampling campaign.


The next step for the company is to execute and implement the strategy. The event should attract the target audience and engage them in the campaign in some way.

For example, to promote its gangster epic, Netflix turned New York’s Little Italy into a 1975 city. Consumers were provided with free food, free haircuts, beard trims, and newspapers with news from 1975. The campaign effectively engaged users and tried to create a two-way relationship between users and brands.

Marketing and Promotion

After strategizing and executing the event, the next step for brands is to promote and market the event in order to target consumers who are unable to attend or participate in the campaign.

Companies can implement various marketing strategies to enhance the brand image further and engage a larger audience. Marketing strategies can encourage consumers to create user-generated content or engage employees as a marketing channel.

An example of an American company called North Face can be studied to understand the importance of marketing. The company held a brand activation campaign to promote its new jacket by establishing a pop-up store in South Korea and allowing customers to play real-life arcade games.

But the company doesn’t stop there. Next create event videos to interact with customers who didn’t get a chance to participate in the campaign. The video got over 3 million views in a very short span of time.


The final step in implementing a campaign or brand activation is evaluating the effectiveness of each program you create.

The campaign produces both qualitative and quantitative results. Certain principles that brands consider when evaluating brand stimulation events are return on investment (long-term and short-term returns), uniqueness of the brand’s value proposition, customer reach, and customer engagement. Some of the other questions companies need to answer when evaluating are:

1. Is the strategy relevant to the brand’s overall mission?
2. Is it easy to change strategy if needed?
3. Is the strategy integrated with the company’s marketing channels?

Evaluation helps the company determine whether the brand is achieving the stated goals or not. It also helps the company scale up future activation events and better engage with its audience.

However, the challenge with evaluation is that there is no effective way to accurately measure the impact of brand activation events. That is why brands tend to measure impact with the help of number of units sold or a number of likes in the case of online events.

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