In the ever-evolving landscape of marketing, where the line between earned, owned, and paid media blurs, it has become increasingly difficult to grab consumer attention … and keep it. To break through the noise, we recommend that companies and organizations think beyond traditional tactics and focus instead on creating memorable experiences, in real-life and digital spaces, to earn attention and interest.

Wondering where to start? We’ve gathered three key insights from our most recent virtual roundtable of marketing executives to help you supercharge your next brand activation. Let’s dive in!


1. Be Bold & Embrace Risk

In the past, brand activations were often labeled as mere stunts. However, in the modern era, it’s all about understanding your brand’s essence and giving it life beyond the confines of traditional marketing campaigns. Take Flock Freight, for instance. As a trucking and logistics company in a B2B industry, marketing efforts can often feel dry and uninspiring. Determined to break the mold, Flock Freight released its “F***load” commercial featuring Steve Burns, the actor known for his time on Blue’s Clues. Steve plays the role of an “investigative reporter” in this documentary-style approach, interviewing a Flock Freight executive to uncover just how much a “f***load” is. The ad uses graphics and visuals to humorously illustrate both a “sh*tload” and a “f***load” of empty space.

While it employed absurdity and profanity, the video succinctly explained the Flock Freight business, leaving a lasting impression on viewers. This cheeky and unconventional approach led to an uptick in engagement and brand awareness within a short period. The lesson here? Prioritize entertainment and engagement, as these elements are the keys to leaving a memorable and impactful mark on your audience.


2. Align Activation with Brand Essence

Before embarking on a brand activation, engage in meaningful conversations internally about your brand’s identity and voice. This preparatory phase lays the foundation for a successful activation by ensuring that it aligns seamlessly with your brand’s core values and resonates authentically with your target audience. In short, it’s the compass that guides your brand activation strategy towards its intended destination.

A compelling example of this principle in action is the “The Most Honest City In America” activation by Honest Tea. Honest Tea, a beverage company committed to transparency (later acquired by the Coca-Cola Co.), embarked on a quest to find the most honest city in the United States. They set up unmanned pop-up tea stands in cities across the nation, asking customers to leave a dollar for each tea they take, based on the honor system.

This activation not only embodied the brand’s core values of honesty and trust but also generated significant buzz and media coverage. By daring to be different and taking a calculated risk, Honest Tea successfully engaged its audience while reinforcing its brand attributes.


3. Set a Budget & Clear KPIs

Setting a budget for your activation is a crucial component of any marketing plan. Allocating a set amount of money per project allows room for creativity while setting parameters to ensure the feasibility and approval of these ideas. Even if an innovative concept slightly exceeds the budget, the potential returns often justify the additional investment. 

To measure the efficacy of these activations, well-defined Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are necessary. It’s not just about securing press coverage; it’s about translating these efforts into tangible outcomes, such as increased sales or website traffic. If the activation garners significant press but doesn’t help your end goal, it may not be fulfilling its intended purpose.

Remember: not every activation will be a home run, but marketing is a long game. In the event that an activation doesn’t achieve the desired impact, view it as a valuable learning experience. Analyze what worked and what didn’t, gather insights from audience feedback, and use this knowledge to fine-tune your future activations. In this way, every attempt becomes a stepping stone toward a more effective strategy.