THE EVOLUTION OF BRAND ACTIVATIONS: 20 YEARS AND COUNTING

A huge amount has happened since 2000. The world has changed. Our technology has evolved, new discoveries have been made (um, black hole photo!?), presidents are on Twitter, climate change is a prevalent topic that the world’s waking up to, and there’s even been a shift toward a collective world consciousness. That, and our hairstyles and fashion have certainly come a long way.

But along with reflecting on all that, it’s hard to deny that there’s been enormous growth, especially when it comes to the evolution of brand activations. 20 years ago, it was a seldom mentioned topic that straddled a grey area of advertising, battling to prove its worth. Nowadays, the internet is laden with information about the event and brand activations space, and the rapidly evolving industry that we’re so glad to be a part of.

“ACTIVATIONS”: WHO’S ACTUALLY WHO IN THE ZOO?

So, with all of these different sources online, it’s hard to gauge exactly what we mean when we say “brand activations”, isn’t it? So, let’s try and simplify it. One way you could look at it is that it “started” as marketing activations (basically just an on-going marketing campaign that gets carried out to maintain a brand), evolved into event activations (more of a once-off effort, focused on a specific moment in time) and now, *drum roll please*….. taking centre stage is brand activations. In itself, a much more immersive version of the latter, allowing you to make your brand known to people and in doing so, doing an effective job of increasing awareness and engagement (two words we know any marketing manager loves to hear).

Brand activations have evolved into their own powerful entity because of where they end up in this definition pool. Something else worth mentioning about it (that we read in this very interesting essay on the history of brand activation marketing) is that brand activations can also exist partially as online content. With the advent and uptake of the internet for marketing it’s one of the reasons that it’s grown in popularity; because “it can take place for a longer period of time compared to a ‘one time’ all offline event.

BRAND ACTIVATIONS AT IT’S CORE?

In this article about brand activations, author Jack Simpson spells it out with a metaphor that we thought worth sharing here. It may help you bring the definition of brand activations to life if you were struggling to grasp it; “If your brand is a cold and lifeless lump of coal in the dark, brand activation is the firelighter that makes it burn hot and bright for all to see.”. He talks about it as getting your brand from one state to another (that’s the “activation” bit). Makes senses, doesn’t it? Thanks, Jack.

DIFFERENT TYPES OF BRAND ACTIVATIONS

We’ve definitely seen how many means of traditional marketing have become less successful over the years (sorry, print and magazine). Every year there’s something interesting that rears its head in the brand activation trends space (we’ve written a whole blog post about that) but at its core, here’s a quick look at the types of brand activations you can expect to see continually cropping up, but also being built on and evolved, and bolstered by an online component:
• Out of Home (like a billboard or guerrilla-style setup)
• Product sampling
Experiential (based on an actual experience)
• Pop up or in-store (physical spots or public places like in a mall)

HOW HAVE BRAND ACTIVATIONS CHANGED?

We think it’s the people that have evolved the brand activations, not the other way around. And this has happened hand in hand with the way we consume, share and “experience” information. We’re no longer satisfied with a one-way conversation and being spoken to by brands, we want to have our say and make our mark in the brand marketing space on a whole. That’s why this space has become so interesting and drawn such interest and intrigue. The main goal of event activations is longer-term involvement from people, building relationships with the right consumers who may in term then become advocates that “activate” others.

Sure, we’ve got the net to thank for that, but people are also leaning toward more immersive, and memorable brand interactions. At the end of the day, while our behaviour has changed, brand activations still serve to powerfully reinforce brand positioning, increase brand awareness (especially when coupled with an online component) and allow us to get in-depth consumer insights. And brands getting it right are raising the bar of these expectations through innovation. We recently touched on some of these in an article where we delved into some super-inspirational experiential marketing campaigns.

WHERE DOES THE EVOLUTION OF BRAND ACTIVATIONS GET US TODAY?

The difference is not only now do people understand about brand activations and how the industry has evolved, they also realise how important it is as a marketing tactic to drive ROI . It’s been said time and time again, but the main motivation has to be based on a solid and sound strategy. If you’re aiming for ongoing, return-on-investment success, it’s important to do it with passion and integrity. And that’s where Jawbone Experiences comes in. We’re a leading marketing, events and brand activations agency that’s ready to help you create on the ground experiences. Contact us to find out more.

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