Think of a brand you admire and chances are you´ve engaged with this brand in some way other than seeing an ad in a print magazine. Perhaps you´ve participated in one of its social media campaigns, enjoyed a tasting at your local supermarket or even danced the night away at a recent music or cultural event in your hometown.
These tactics employed by branding or advertising agencies to promote their brands are commonly referred to as brand activation, experiential marketing or sometimes live marketing. Essentially experiential marketing allows brands to reinforce existing relationships with current customers and lure new customers to their community by allowing to interact in a dynamic and unique way.
Brand activations can be as simple as a vacation give-away contest offered at the counter at your local fast food franchise, an invitation to vote for your favorite Instagram photo from a selection of competing entries on the hugely popular network or to register and run in your annual city marathon.
How do activations work? Activations focus activities, channels and messages around an activity or event intended to bring a brand to life by creating unique and memorable experiences that encourage positive participation – either physically or digitally – between the brand and its supporters, in order to turn passive consumers into loyal, if not die-hard, brand enthusiasts or better yet, brand advocates. But be aware, we´re not talking about selling, but rather about sharing an experience and creating a memory.
Over the years Mijo! Brands has worked with brands across Mexico to develop engaging brand activation strategies for a wide roster of clients including the city of Puerto Vallarta, where we conceived and managed the Vallarta Pride event (now in its successful fourth year) in order to reposition Mexico´s second destination as a premier LGBT tourism brand.
Despite the benefits a considered and well-executed experiential marketing campaign can generate, the sheer number of activation fails is staggering. There is often a disconnect between what a brand wants to communicate and what a consumer wants to experience. Sometimes the gap is miniscule or rendered irrelevant by methodical planning and sheer creativity, other times the gap between the two is so vast that brands fall down the crevice never to emerge again.
I have recently been training for the annual Telcel-Mexico City Marathon to be held this year on August 31st, which started me thinking about destination branding, experiential marketing and activations. The upcoming global sporting event is an excellent example of two power brands (Telcel and CDMX) joining forces to combine their brand positioning to co-brand an event that will draw hundreds of thousands of people while injecting a healthy amount into the local economy and create instantaneous goodwill for both brands.
Both Telcel and Mexico City have adhered to the guiding principles of successful brand execution:
Mijo! Brands' Principles of Brand Activation
Understand your audience – Both Telcel and Mexico City know that their audience is diverse (local and global) and demanding. The marathon provides an excellent opportunity for community building, sporting competition, promoting healthy lifestyles, economic stimulus and entertainment. While running and shin splits have little to do with the premise of either brand, the goodwill generated by the event will strongly enhance both brands´ positioning.
Share and share alike – For increased brand exposure and co-branding opportunities, successful activations include other non-competing brands. Obviously Telcel could not achieve the marathon without the city´s endorsement, while Telcel takes the logistical nightmare of organizing a massive sporting event off the city´s hands.
Measure participation and interactions – The marathon´s success will not only be measured by the number of attendees or social followers but by the chatter the event creates and the interactions (engagement) it manages to generate, not only with existing consumers, but also with new prospects. A good sign of the success of the marathon, will be the number of editorial pages the mainstream media, both nationally and internationally, dedicate to the event, as well as the number of athletes who proudly wear the branded merchandise for years to come.
Ensure the main prize or event is attractive – It seems simple, but it´s harder to get right than you´d imagine. We recently had a prospect approach us with an idea to develop an anti-Trump event for Mexico City´s main plaza – El Zocalo. The event would offer 100 Trump piñatas inviting the public to literally bash Trump to pieces with wood bats in protest of his anti-Mexican/immigrant policies.
While the event was conceived as a fun and harmless way of demonstrating public opposition to Trump´s xenophobic policies, the mass bashing could have been interpreted as an incitement to violence and intolerance, escalating the tension between Trump supporters and Latinos everywhere. After careful analysis of the pros and cons of the event, it was quietly shelved.
You see, the key to brand activation success is not only a well-executed creative idea. Success for brand activations or experiential marketing relies heavily on inspiring the consumer with a wonderful, unique and positive experience that he or she will hold onto, hopefully forever. And while many of us may toy with the idea of a little Trump-bashing, the underlying theme of the experience this offers is anything but positive.
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Daniel is Director General at Mijo! Brands, a leading digital agency with offices in CDMX and Puerto Vallarta. For more information on how to successful create a brand activation or experiential marketing ideas, please contact us