Brand Activation for Markets that Don’t Stand Still

Most marketers are using digital content and social media. But they often approach these channels as new electronic versions of traditional mass media communications. That means they’re missing out on some of the biggest opportunities that the web and social media can create for their brands. Worse, their reputations are at risk of being overrun by the transparency, speed and reach available to customers for sharing their opinions and information. Brand Activation is our term for marketing programs that involve users (customers and enthusiasts) across a variety of owned media (company websites), earned media (PR and influencer blogs), paid media (web banners and pay-per-click advertising) and social media (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and others). In some ways, Brand Activation is a new combination of the things you already know. But it’s also a shift:

  • From linear to interactive
  • From mass to individual
  • From managed and controlled, to influencing and including user opinion & content
  • From the marketing department to the whole organization
  • From the speed of yesterday to the speed of now

These are the keys to planning and running a Brand Activation program

Clarify the brand story Any marketer worth his or her track shoes knows that the brand positioning must be crystal clear, valuable and well articulated. What makes this more important than ever is the speed of activation programs, as well as the many participants, both within the organization and the marketplace. All this puts a huge pressure on a strong, consistent brand story, to keep it from flying off in all directions. Marketing is bigger than the marketing department All departments and virtually everyone within an organization can effect the customer experience. Similarly with a Brand Activation program, those same groups and individuals can participate in the content creation and social interaction of a digital marketing program, to shape customer opinion and experience before they buy or as they continue to buy.

Games engage

Promotions, incentives, sweepstakes and countless other game formats have long been understood to stimulate desired behaviors. Games can be woven into Brand Activation campaigns, from mobile apps, to points and rewards, to traditional sweepstakes and redemptions. The urge for people to communicate, score and compare performance is fundamental social behavior. Social media is a conversation. The theme of having conversations with the marketplace is been around for years. However, social media is sometimes still confused with “push marketing” techniques. While content prepared in advance (like how-to videos and white papers) has an important place in social media, marketers must approach social channels with the intent to interact and respond to user input and content. That means running a “always on” live channels that are open for customers to use as they choose, and where they can expect responses to their questions from brands. Conversation is a way to make it all about customers Marketers have also been working for a long time to “put the customer at the center of the strategy.” Brand Activation programs using social media, mobile and other real-time interaction are just the ticket to make the brand all about the customer. And listening is key. Listening is the greater part of a conversation Sales trainers tell us that the best conversations are the ones in which we listen 70% of the time. Conversational listening is a powerful way to build relationships.

Find new measures: recommendations are gold

Early digital and social media measures have focused on traffic, “likes,” followers and similar activity. As business managers wake up to the power of digital marketing, they are asking tough questions about success metrics. Leads and transactions will always be king and your Brand Activation program should be tracking these. However, be sure to keep track of reviews and recommendations as leading indicators of brand health and sales velocity. Reviews posted to Yelp, ePinions, Amazon, LinkedIn discussion groups and other review or eCommerce sites should be attended to closely as a source of market feedback and opportunity to improve the brand experience. Markets don’t stand still. Planning and running successful Brand Activation campaigns calls for a learning, engaged and interactive marketing organization.

Photo credits: High Jumper via OTB David via Wikimedia Commons