As marketers, it's our business to stay current on the latest trends, and that includes keeping our lingo up to date. One term you might have heard is "brand activation." As companies fight to differentiate their brands against global competition, forging real and lasting relationships with your target audiences becomes increasingly important. "Activating your brand" can help your business to stake its claim in the minds and hearts of your audience.
I invited Bob to Marketing Smarts to discuss brand activation and brand engagement, and to explain how you can make your B2B or B2C brand tangible by creating experiences and touch points with your target audience.
Here are just a few highlights from my conversation with Bob:
You need an activation strategy to make your brand tangible (01:35): "We see brand activation...as the act of making your brand strategy tangible and putting it into action throughout your organization and into the marketplace.... In our experience—and you'll see this more frequently with business-to-business companies—they don't necessarily have a well-thought-out activation strategy. It's often...'what's my media spend, do I need to run ads or should I just go do a tradeshow series' and so forth. That's thinking about only a very, very small slice of the potential activation pie."
B2B brands need a brand activation strategy, too (02:34): "Most companies...are not really looking at their own organization as...a delivery vehicle for their brand. So whether through physical presence and innovating or rethinking how you get in the path of a consumer or in the world of B2B, how do I use all of the different touch points I have with my external customers and prospects and partners and so forth through my sales reps through customer service teams or field technicians and such? What we talk about is how you cascade that activation strategy all the way into the center of the organization."
Experiential marketing is part of brand activation, but it plays a bigger role for some brands than others (05:12): "If your activation strategy is like a hub and spoke model, the spokes on your activation strategy company to company may be different. Experiential may be a very critical, important spoke for you to have in your strategy. For another company, however, that might not be one of the most important or highest priorities. They may see a different way to activate their brand, reach customers, reach the marketplace, even reach their own employees through various means, but experiential is definitely a plausible spoke to consider in your activation strategy."
Think of your B2B company as a delivery vehicle for your brand (06:21): "In B2B there's a tremendous opportunity to think of the whole company, the whole system, as a tool to deliver your brand experience. And, therefore, when thinking of an activation strategy, those spokes on your wheel compared to a B2C company may be very different. One of the strongest potential areas of activation that is often one of the most neglected or overlooked is through the actual people of the organization, whether that be channel partners and distribution partners, whether that be direct salesforce or inside sales, account teams, field technicians, and so forth. Most B2B companies have a tremendous amount of contact with their customer through human-to-human interaction...and those are tremendous assets to be thinking about how to optimize and differentiate in order to activate your brand."
Don't get so carried away with your brand strategy that you forget to set goals and choose metrics (16:00): "Ultimately, brand engagement becomes different, organization to organization, and it is the desired goal and outcome of that brand activation plan. Increasingly, what you see in the digital channel dominating the definition of brand engagement and, very tactically, it becomes a measure of how many likes and retweets and so forth. And those may be valuable metrics for one organization and then conversely meaningless metrics for another organization.
"Brand engagement therefore is very unique and custom to each organization, but when one is defining a brand strategy and its corresponding activation plan, most often that is the moment where brand engagement metrics should be defined, and they are not. Brand strategy work is focused on messaging and positioning and things of that nature, and then it's 'how do we get the message out there' or 'how do we deliver the experience,' and it is very often absent of measurement and metrics."
Bob and I talked about much more, including the role of storytelling in brand engagement, how to get your salespeople on board with your brand activation strategy, and how to effectively communicate organizational change, so be sure to listen to the entire show, which you can do above, or download the mp3 and listen at your convenience. Of course, you can also subscribe to the Marketing Smarts podcast in iTunes or via RSS and never miss an episode!
Music credit: Noam Weinstein.