Brand activation is where your brand comes to life for internal and external stakeholders alike.

Think of it as the ignition switch, the lit fuse, or the shot of espresso a new or recently rebranded company needs to hit the ground running in the marketplace.

Even the most thoughtful brand positioning and inspired brand identity are essentially futile until they are brought to life by brand activation.

In this article we’ll explore the following areas of brand activation:

CONTENTS

You’ll come away with a better understanding of and appreciation for why brand activation is so critical to getting the most out of your investment into your brand.

What is Brand Activation?

what is brand activation

Brand activation is the process of engaging internal and external stakeholders with a newly defined brand to increase brand awareness and build brand equity.

Imagine trading in a middle-market sedan with 300,000 miles for a brand-new Tesla Model X, investing in all the interior and exterior upgrades available, parking your shiny new car in the garage—and then leaving it there.

Sounds ludicrous (pun intended), but that’s what many companies do when they invest in branding or rebranding only to fall short of activating their brand.

Branding, rebranding, and positioning work only set the stage for the growth that is the ultimate payoff from these sound business investments.

Your brand, after all, is how your company is perceived by those who experience it.

If your visual identity, positioning language, photography, etc. are never perceived—or if they’re only perceived by people who happen to stumble upon your website—they never get the chance to be a powerful, cohesive brand.

Internally, brand activation includes the all-important process of aligning your company with your new brand. It’s critical that all internal stakeholders, from leadership to employees to board members, thoroughly understand the new brand and how to communicate it before it’s introduced to the world at large.

Externally, brand activation includes launching your new brand, implementing it across your various touchpoints, devising a strategy for brand communication, and putting into practice ongoing brand management to ensure your brand is consistently executed in every possible scenario.

In an increasingly crowded and dynamic marketplace, it’s imperative your new brand is seen by your target audiences. That the messaging written expressly for their eyes and ears finds its way home. That your brand experience is cohesive and compelling from day one and every day thereafter.

This is why brand activation is so essential.

Brand Activation vs. Marketing Activation

Brand activation vs marketing activation

Google the term “brand activation” and you’ll get all sorts of results describing one-off, in-person events designed to engage audiences with surprising and memorable product experiences.

They all sound like a lot of fun, but they’re not what we, as a branding agency, would define as brand activation. Rather, they are marketing activations.

Including everything from experiential marketing to promotional events to product launches, marketing activations are isolated instances designed to generate excitement and ephemeral awareness around a brand, product, or service.

Brand activation, rather, refers to an ongoing process including multiple elements designed to introduce a newly developed or recently rebranded company to the world, laying the groundwork for further brand-building initiatives that will increase brand awareness and build brand equity over time.

Elements of Brand Activation

So, what are the elements encompassed by brand activation? Each of the following components are essential to any brand activation plan.

They work together to transform data-driven brand strategy and creatively inspired brand identity into an unforgettable brand experience.

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Brand Launch

brand launch

The brand launch is where your new brand is introduced to the world. But a successful brand launch is no easy feat.

From email announcements to social media channels to marketing collateral, the number of assets that must be executed for multiple audiences on a precisely choreographed timeline is enough to make your head spin.

It’s critical to begin planning early in the branding or rebranding process, and pay close attention to details like key audiences, communication, timing, and follow-through.

There are challenges and risks to consider with any brand launch. The larger and more visible the brand, the greater the risks. And when a brand rename is involved, there’s even more at stake.

To account for these risks, it’s important to have processes, checklists, and QA procedures in place to make sure the transition unfolds with minimal disruption to the brand’s existing presence.

Your brand should always be launched internally first, followed immediately by the internal brand training outlined in the next section. Only then can you launch your brand externally, introducing it to the world with a deliberately planned rollout.

Internal Brand Training

internal brand training

Building and maintaining a strong brand starts from within. From executives to frontline staff, your company’s internal stakeholders are the most important and immediate expression of your brand.

Brand training ensures stakeholders have a deep understanding of what your brand stands for and how it should be executed before you introduce it to the world.

Brand training is an opportunity for the leadership team to rally the troops around the organization’s new direction, inspiring confidence with core messaging like your brand compass.

Just as important as the direction your organization is headed are the shared values that will get you there. Brand training is also an opportunity to ensure internal alignment around the core values that will come to define your company culture.

Brand training also includes familiarizing employees with your new brand guidelines. The guardrails outlined in your brand guidelines are designed to ensure your brand’s visual and verbal identities are consistently executed in every possible scenario.

Brand Implementation

brand implementation

Implementation is the process of executing your brand across the various touchpoints where internal and external stakeholders will experience your brand from launch day on.

Brand implementation involves all the hands-on, detail-oriented work it takes to ensure your brand’s visual and verbal identities are meticulously incorporated into real-world print and digital assets like marketing and sales collateral.

From websites and apps to billboards and signage to packaging and environments, brand implementation is where you create the touchpoints that will comprise your new brand experience.

Implementation is where the critical importance of well-articulated brand guidelines comes into play. In branding, consistency is everything, and implementation is the first opportunity to ensure your brand will be consistently executed across its many touchpoints.

Brand Communications

brand communications

Just as important as implementing your brand is communicating that brand to the world. A brand communications strategy outlines all the various channels where your brand will be communicated.

From your website and social media accounts to your email marketing and paid search campaigns to your traditional advertising and public relations campaigns, your brand exists across a wide spectrum of interconnected touchpoints.

It’s essential to ensure your brand is consistently and cohesively communicated at each and every one of these touchpoints. Your communications strategy also outlines the various target audiences at which your brand is aimed. This includes both internal and external stakeholders.

Informed by your verbal identity guidelines, your communications strategy should include a messaging matrix with examples of how your brand should be communicated in each of its channels and to each of its audiences.

By defining where and how your brand engages with its audiences, an effective communications strategy gives you the tools to ensure your brand framework is consistently and compellingly communicated.

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Brand Management

brand management

Brand management is the ongoing process of maintaining and improving a brand’s many interrelated components, as the brand evolves in response to business growth and marketplace changes.

Brands are complex entities that exist in an ever-changing marketplace. With every passing moment, there are a million ways your brand can be misrepresented, misperceived, or just plain poorly executed.

That’s why brand management is so important. Brand management ensures your brand remains relevant and impactful as the market changes and your business grows.

Effective brand management bolsters positive brand associations, fosters brand loyalty, and builds brand equity, resulting in a measurably positive impact on a business’s bottom line.

In order for your brand to remain relevant and impactful in the eyes of your customers, it must be continuously monitored for consistency and optimized for effectiveness.

Employer Branding

employer branding

Finally, employer branding is the process of shaping how a company is perceived by existing employees and potential employees.

Not unlike its outwardly facing counterpart, a strong employer brand is inspired by purpose. Unlike its external brand, however, a company’s employer brand is largely defined by its internal culture.

A strong employer brand is the most effective way to attract the most motivated and talented folks from a competitive job pool.

Employer branding can help ensure you are interviewing candidates that are aligned with your values and ready to deliver on your brand promise—employees that help foster customer trust and loyalty as spirited brand ambassadors.

The Benefits of Brand Activation

As you can see, brand activation includes a number of important elements, each of which contributes to the overall success of your new brand and, ultimately, the growth of your business.

Many of the benefits of brand activation are evident in its elements, but let’s take a closer look at some of the most valuable ways brand activation can help your business.

Maximize Your Branding ROI

As we mentioned earlier, there’s nothing worse than investing in a full-fledged new brand or comprehensive rebrand only to falter at the starting gate.

Brand activation ensures you get the most out of your branding investment by introducing your brand to the world with purpose and intent.

Properly activating your brand is the only way to ensure that the strategy and identity you’ve developed reach the audiences they were designed for with the impact you intended.

Create Brand Alignment

Internal and external brand alignment are the ultimate goal of any brand. And brand activation is the only way to ensure you’re on track to achieve them.

Internally, activation ensures your leadership and employees are aligned around key positioning tenets like your purpose, vision, mission, and values. Internal brand alignment is the mark of a healthy organization with strong company culture.

Externally, activation ensures your brand is aligned with the needs and perceptions of customers. Meeting the specific needs of customers and cultivating positive brand associations are the first steps toward building customer loyalty and amassing brand equity.

Build Brand Equity

Brand equity isn’t going to build itself, after all. It takes an impactful brand launch, skilled implementation, and persuasive communications for your target audiences to sit up and take notice of your brand.

This first step, brand awareness, is the all-important foundation upon which brand loyalty is built, over repeat engagements where customers come to recognize and be familiar with your brand.

Familiarity leads to trust, trust leads to loyalty, and loyalty leads, ultimately, to brand equity. But it all starts with effective brand activation.

The Takeaway

Brand activation is a critical but oft-overlooked component for the success of your brand.

Whether you’re a startup with a newly developed brand or a legacy organization undergoing a rebrand, the process of activation ensures you get the most out of your branding investment.

From brand launch and brand training to brand communications and brand management, activation includes all the elements your brand needs to make an impactful and lasting first impression that will boost brand awareness and build the brand equity that is essential to business growth.

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A prolific blogger, speaker, and columnist, Brian has more than a decade of experience in design and branding. He’s written for publications including Forbes, Huffington Post, and Brand Quarterly.