Many popular brands are using activations to build popularity and give the consumer an experience that will make them feel a real personal connection to the company.

What is brand activation?

Have you ever noticed when you go to buy a popular brand's product, do you ever stop to ask yourself, how did they become so trustworthy and admired?  

When a product is first manufactured it is virtually unknown to the general public.

Take Volvo as an example. when the company tried to enter into the US car market in 1962, Americans knew very little about this Swedish car maker.

Through the uses of consumer engagement marketing channels, such as memorable ad campaigns, experiential events, viral growth, and consumer participation strategies, Volvo managed to gain the acceptance of the American consumer as being a tough and reliable automobile.

Sales tripled within five years with the campaign “drive it like you hate it" being a huge success.  

The process of making a brand well known and loved by consumers is called brand activation.

Consumer brand activations are a very crucial part of building a positive perception of a brand 

This can be done through product samplings, in-store retail marketing, sponsorships, and experiential events.

This also encompasses the brand figuring out a few core features that will distinguish them amongst their competition in crowded marketplaces. They have to find brand positioning that will uncover assets that will highlight long term benefits to the company.  

Brands must find a way to reach potential customers that can shift perceptions and create a real emotional engagement. These marketing events must bring up positive feeling in the minds about them in order for them to become loyal customers and purchase their products.    

Key principles   

  • To inspire demand for a particular brand, they must tap into the consumers' passions using creative strategies and ideas.
  • Timing plays an important role in connecting consumers at the right time, and the right place so that the consumer becomes a motivated user and fan of the brand.
  • Using activation strategies, such as in person experience events, this can lead to the consumer starting to believe in the brand and what it stands for, which is a closer step in the path to purchase.    

Brand activation case study      

Here is an example of how brand activation can work. Pirelli Tires relies heavily on a strategy built on key partnerships with Formula One grand prix events, in order to promote its tires as being high performance.

There is a huge value with being a part of this world class racing event, as is the value of the premier performance and technology of the tires.

Having the name and logo as a part of the F1 racing circuit emotionally engages the consumer and all fans of racing, since the events are associated with high performance vehicles and expert driving.


Strategies for implementing a consumer brand activation campaign:   

Experiential events:

Live experiential marketing events are being used by global brands to help position the brand into the consumers' minds by attracting and emotionally engaging them in personal experience.  

These events give people a chance to try a product, ask questions about it and participate in some way that makes them feel apart of the brand.

This can be achieved by blending physical and digital experiences together, so that the participants are encouraged to play apps and games, have their photos taken or ride on virtual reality car and bike simulators.

The purpose is to reach people on multiple levels (emotional, rational, psychological) so that they walk away from event remembering what is was like to touch, taste, and feel the product rather than just reading about it.

Promotional marketing:  

Promotional marketing involves raising awareness of your brand and its products in order to generate more sales and gain a loyal customer base.

The targeting of promotional marketing can take many forms, it can be targeted at businesses, to retail and wholesale companies or it can targeted at the end consumer.  Consumer promotions can be executed by using reward loyalty programs, giveaways, special offers, product samplings as well as point of sale displays.   

Business promotions can used in workshops, event sponsorships, trade show booths and direct mail campaigns.  Wholesale trade promotions may consist of using incentives, or providing entertainment value or other methods like bonuses to reward resllers.

In store retail marketing  


In store retail marketing activations can help a customer choose one brand over another inside a department store. It helps to enhance the image of a product or brand and as well as feature the benefits it offers or introduce the lifestyle associated with purchasing the product.

There are different types of retail marketing, a brand can be activated using point of purchase displays, attractive design or hosting, retail product launch experiences that allow consumers to experience and try a particular product.  

For example, Ray-Ban launched a retail consumer activation tour called 'Never Hide' inside a number of high department stores, which engaged consumers by allowing them to try on the new polarized sunglasses and encouraged them have their photos taken inside a branded Ray-Ban photo booth.

Other engagement activities involved participants playing the Guitar hero simulator while wearing the shades.  

Metrics for brand activation campaigns   

When you want to create a brand activation campaign, the underlying objective should be to develop a face to face two way conversation with your customers.  

Consumer brand activations help to bring life into a company and can build a very loyal fan base. The caveat is you need to create engaging and memorable experiences that strike real emotions with your consumer.   

Here is a list of some of the measurement factors to keep in mind.

  • Consumer reach. How many targeted consumers would this campaign activation touch and reach?  Is it a national scale, worldwide tour, city wide or hyper local?
  • Brand relevance. Is this activation strategy and campaign relevant to the brand’s message and core values?
  • Return on investment. Can you measure the benefits vs the cost? Activation awareness campaigns should not always be measured in financial terms and sales. Were you able to capture consumer data, such as emails, social media followers and other future marketing leads and opportunities?
  • Long term potential. Do these activations campaigns give the brand any potential to gain sizeable long term benefits?
  • Integration capabilities. Will this brand activation campaign compliment and have the ability to integrate with other types of marketing channels within the company?
  • Uniqueness. Does your brand have a unique value or selling proposition that get consumers attention and make them want to talk about it?
  • Amplification. Is it possible if needed to be able to make changes in order to increase the amplification of the overall activation campaign?

Advantages of consumer brand activations  

Here are a few of the benefits of consumer activations:

  • Brand activation events, the consumer can give you feedback on what to change or improve as they are interacting with you.
  • It can bring life into an aging brand and even reach younger Millennials audiences.
  • It can help to reinforce the brand's positioning in the minds of the consumer.
  • Helps to cut through the traditional advertising clutter (TV Commercials, Print, Web Ads)
  • It makes your brand more prominent.


Do not underestimate the influence of experiential brand activations can play shaping the future and now relevance of a brand.  

Brand activations are not meant to be measured in terms of sales made. Instead, they should be viewed as a way to generate awareness and visibility for a company through cultivating real life engagement experiences with the target consumer.  

Andrew Broadbent

Published 27 January, 2015 by Andrew Broadbent

Andrew Broadbent is Director of Search Marketing at 17 Agency and a contributor to Econsultancy. You can find Andrew on LinkedIn or Google Plus.

4 more posts from this author

You might be interested in

Comments (13)

Save or Cancel

Bess Farrell, Marketing Executive at LexisNexis

Interesting stuff - how would you see this working (or changing) for B2B marketing?

over 3 years ago

Edwin Bos

Edwin Bos, VP Innovation at Reevoo

Thanks for surfacing the Volvo example from the 60s. A classic re-activate campaign for me is Apple's Think Different campaign from the 90s. How do you think they would done that in today's environment?

over 3 years ago

Andrew Broadbent

Andrew Broadbent, Director of Search Marketing at 4 EON Inc Experiential Marketing Agency

Hi Bess Farell,

Thank you very much for taking the time to read this article. 4 EON, Inc, the experiential marketing company, I work for has done a few B2B activations. They help Luxottica with a Vision Experts trade show exposition every year, that eyewear brands will educate and engage with glass company retail resellers, opticians etc. We help them set up trade booths, new product samplings, flip books, and other marketing materials. Another B2B type of activation is to motivate and reward sales people. Corporate incentive travel trips are an excellent way to keep sales people happy and hungry to produce more. One thing to remember is that with every B2B sales scenario, in many types of products, the B2B will eventually reach the B2C consumer. If you supply, distribute or sell product to a business in the retail world, they eventually will sell it to the end consumer. If you have other questions I would be happy to introduce you to my boss for a conversation.

over 3 years ago

Andrew Broadbent

Andrew Broadbent, Director of Search Marketing at 4 EON Inc Experiential Marketing Agency

Hi Edwin,
Thank you for reading this. In my opinion, the "Think different" campaign is still relevant today. This world is always changing, even though this was only a television commercial, the concept of coming up with creative marketing solutions for brands in todays environment is similar. You have to research and try to understand what sparks the interest of your target consumers'. And especially with guerilla marketing and experiential campaigns, you must think differently and keep coming up with new strategies, because what you do for a company like Oakley may not work for Ralph Lauren. Edwin if you are interested talking further or any specific questions, we would be happy to have a conversation. My email is

over 3 years ago


Linda Neuhaus, Group Account Manager at MEC MENA

Agree in all points. This article is helping especially clients to understand what consumer activations are really about. Especially in emerging markets (as e.g. the Middle East) even big international brands have not yet fully figured out the real importance of brand activation and the rational behind it. A lot of brands are more focused on actual sales figures and measurable ROI and GRPs rather then understanding that brand activation can help effectively to build brand consideration, reputation, recognition, loyalty and advocacy as 90% of the actual purchase decision is in fact emotional. If you are able to create an emotional connect with your consumer, you have won them over - longterm. As a result, a brand investing in well executed brand activations can differentiate itself clearly from the competition.
To add on above: Also branded content campaigns have become an integral part of brand activation - through relevant content consumed by on- and offline audiences connected with a call to action, the brand TA, may it be mass or niche, gets emotionally engaged. But to guarantee that a clever content campaign is successful, it needs to be ensured that the content also reaches the audience - hence a media investment and a smart planning is needed, Unfortunately, very often, this is the barrier for brands to invest in well executed content campaigns - a missed opportunity. If the budget only lasts to create the campaign but does not reach the audience (or not to a sufficient extend), it is not recommendable to invest in content creation the first place.
Nowadays, a brand activation in whatever form has to have always a digital component to reach full potential and to live longer - and for agencies, this is also an integral argument to sell in brand activations as the online components are fully measurable.

over 3 years ago

Andrew Broadbent

Andrew Broadbent, Director of Search Marketing at 4 EON Inc Experiential Marketing Agency

Wow, Linda firstly thank you for taking the time to read my article. Your input and response was so intellingent and spot on you probably could written this. It just shows the quality of the audience of this website. Thank you.

over 3 years ago

Eric Schwalbe

Eric Schwalbe, Account Manager at On Tour 24/7

Well rounded article! While integrated experiential marketing is a sector of the industry with rampant growth there are not many articles that cover it.

The general public still doesn't recognize the word 'brand ambassador' or 'promotional model' although they have most likely already interacted with them in store or at a large event.

We provide high volume staffing for experiential and face to face events...we have no fear from our competition as it seems everyone is growing and business is booming!

over 3 years ago


James Tamanika, Agency Director at oOh! Edge Activations

RIPPER Article Broadie! Going to follow your stuff for sure.

about 3 years ago


Ari Bancale, Founder at Cyburban

Brand activation is the future of marketing. It goes beyond awareness and begins the customer's relationship with the brand and its product/s. Thank you for this summary.

almost 3 years ago


Ratih Wulandari Del Valle, Reseacrh Analyst at L2Inc

This is very interesting article coming from a Marketer who based in U.S.A. My name is Wulan, I just added you on linkedin (your article impressed me). I moved to NYC almost 2 years ago. I struggled a lot to find a suitable job for me as my background was "too Asian" in the market. I spent most of my life in Jakarta (Indonesia) where Brand Activation is pretty much key of success for a brand to win it's top position in the market. Came to NYC, i thought i would see bigger things in brand activation considering the city is more diverse, which i thought the creativity of brand activation or marketing campaign could be more stan dout and out of the box. I was a little disappointed, plus, some conversation i've had with some people. Now im working in Digital Marketing Research and they most of the people here don't know Brand Activation is!! it breaks my heaaarrrttt! I thought U.S is more to digital marketing. Seeing your article raise my hope again to get people in the States aware of Brand Activation.

almost 3 years ago


Ratih Wulandari Del Valle, Reseacrh Analyst at L2Inc

Hi its me again! I forgot to mention. Based on my little own observation. I can pretty much understand the complication of Brand Activation in New York City, due to the strictness of rules and regulations on the street and other places, also the characteristics of the people. But then, it all depends on the Marketer to reach out these obstacles. That's why i expected NYC could be more creative and out of the box when it comes to branded events. Oh well... Even though its digital era, still, people would love to have more than just what they see on their mobile phone, laptop or tablets. Experience is just more than just how good your brand is!

almost 3 years ago


Brendan Zietsman, Strategist at FCB South Africa

Hi there,

Great article and thank you for this.
I am currently doing research on brand activations and cam across two articles on LinkedIn that look to be using your work as their own.
The links are below:

almost 2 years ago

David Moth

David Moth, Managing Editor at Barclaycard

@Brendan, thanks for the heads up. I've left comments on both of those posts, I doubt they'll bother to take them down though.

I suspect this type of plagiarism is rife on LinkedIn these days.

almost 2 years ago

Save or Cancel

Enjoying this article?

Get more just like this, delivered to your inbox.

Keep up to date with the latest analysis, inspiration and learning from the Econsultancy blog with our free Digital Pulse newsletter. You will receive a hand-picked digest of the latest and greatest articles, as well as snippets of new market data, best practice guides and trends research.