When we’re about to set something into motion at our house (and I feel a particular urge to make my kids roll their eyes at me) I’ll reach back for an old phrase that was running through the Saturday morning cartoon circuit when I was a kid: “Wonder Twins, Activate!”It’s a simple bit of comic relief (for me, at least) before we go do whatever it is we’re going to do.
So, what’s that got to do with brand activation? Well, funny costumes aside, just like the Wonder Twins, healthy brands don’t sit around doing nothing—they use their superpowers to consciously “Activate!” their brand equity at every turn.
We believe that brand activation is brand building. When starting with a solid brand equity as a foundation, brands can set into motion an ongoing series of activation initiatives that are designed to increase brand affinity and awareness as well as further strengthen brand equity over time.
And that’s where the ROI on these activities (and on the brand’s equity itself) can really take off. In a virtuous cycle, brand activation efforts can generate increased word of mouth, improved social media traffic and increased media coverage, making the activation efforts themselves all the more impactful.
But make no mistake, brand activation initiatives go far beyond just “marketing.” These activities span both external and internal efforts because every touchpoint—from advertising, packaging and social media, to retail experiences, call centers and even employee meetings—is an opportunity to activate your brand’s value in meaningful ways.
With that in mind, let’s explore eight ways to take brand activation to a whole new level.
1. Innovation Initiatives
Chances are that if you have a strong brand equity, you already have a good grasp of your target consumer. And when you have a good grasp of your consumer, you also know their category-related tensions and the ways your brand uniquely solves them. Armed with this knowledge, brands can generate growth via new solutions that meet both current—and anticipated future—consumer needs.
Example: Dyson, which produces everything from vacuum cleaners to haircare.
2. In-Market Initiatives
Think about where you’re brand “shows up” or could show up in the future. These are the in-market arenas where brand equity can really grow because your target is often in a captive moment where they are looking for a solution that you might have right here, right now. So, think about channel programs, collaborations with retailers or partnerships with other brands that could increase exposure to your points of difference. These initiatives can be a powerful way to activate your brand.
Example: Delta and Lyft, two kinds of U.S. rides to earn miles.
3. Communications Initiatives
It can seem simple and straightforward to build out communications initiatives when a strong equity is in place. But after the initial wave of communication hits the market, brands can sometimes forget to take a temperature on what’s working and what’s not—causing them to miss out on a critical opportunity to build and optimize their plan (or course correct, if needed). It’s essential to look at the many places where your brand is speaking for itself—advertising, content marketing, product/service claims, social media—and assess whether it’s building the equity as powerfully and consistently as it should be. If not, it’s time to develop new or better messaging and identify other places where the brand should tell its story.
Example: Nike’s “Play New” message, a modernization of the traditional Just Do It campaign.
4. Creative Assets Initiatives
Brand identity is critical to the vitality of any brand, so it’s important for leaders to revisit assets like logos, color schemes, sub-brand names and package designs to be sure they all cue a cohesive and powerful brand image that’s uniquely yours. Concentrated initiatives against these assets can help improve perceived quality, differentiation, brand awareness and even advertising efficiency.
Example: The recent name and logo changes for Dunkin’.
5. Price-Value/Profit Initiatives
Every brand wants to maximize profit, but pricing strategies can be difficult to get right. Brand leaders should consider how the brand’s pricing aligns with the brand positioning and the identity it wants to convey. Ask yourself if there are new ways to create extra value for both your target consumer and the brand through alternative pricing initiatives like promotional pricing, dynamic pricing, bundle pricing, etc.
Example: T-Mobile’s “Un-Carrier” pricing, no contracts, upgrades for all, etc.
6. Experience Initiatives
These initiatives are designed to create more meaningful and lasting relationships between consumers and brands through experiences that stay true to the brand promise while delivering excitement and delight. Brand experiences can take many shapes and forms—from resolving everyday issues through the call center or providing tech support via automated chat, to live events and experimental brand stunts. But regardless of how, when, and where consumers experience your brand, it’s important to have a clear sense of your brand equity, brand character and target audience when you set out to activate your brand in these ways.
Example: Jet Blue’s ultimate ice breaker to sunny destinations.
7. Brand Values Initiatives
Most studies today confirm that consumers are more likely to choose and stay loyal to brands that have a clear sense of their values and follow through on them with purpose. So, it’s no surprise that developing brand value initiatives that match brand equity is a great way to activate a brand. When embracing this particular tactic, it’s important to create initiatives that build credibility and authenticity and allow the target audience to see that there’s actual depth to the brand’s engagement
Example: Lush Cosmetics Naked eliminating plastic packaging.
8. Internal Initiatives
Activating a brand happens as much inside an organization as it does beyond the brand’s four walls. Consider things like brand training/onboarding sessions, on-site signage and employee SWAG and brand advocacy efforts. Your employees are your frontline when it comes to interacting with consumers, so never underestimate the power of bringing them into the brand activation fold.
Example: REI #OptOutside employee experience on Black Friday.
So, hopefully it’s now clear that there’s no shortage of things brands can do to activate their equity, create awareness, strengthen affinity, and ultimately realize the ROI upside of a solid brand foundation. So go ahead… find a colleague, give them a fist bump and yell “Wonder Twins, Activate!” Or, don’t. But, do give serious consideration to ways that you and your teams can use brand activation to increase the success of your brand. And, of course, feel free to reach out if you’d like to learn about how Seed can help.
Sean Smyth is EVP, Head of Strategy at Seed Strategy where he guides clients through the ambiguities of innovation by grounding the experience in solid principles that build certainty and confidence—often by defying established conventions.
Maggie Ledbetter is an Account Executive, Client Services at Burke, Inc. where she partners with brands to illuminate insights, crack tough data riddles and design and execute learning plans that drive strategy and propel business to new heights.
Edited by Adam Siegel. In addition to being the Editor of The Accelerator, Adam is VP, Creative at Seed Strategy where he draws upon his diverse experience in advertising, research and innovation to craft breakthrough creative and winning concept copy.