What's New in Brand Activation

Thought leaders share secrets for effective brand activation strategies

This year at the 2021 ANA Brand Activation & Creativity Conference, we continued to hear three themes that we have been championing for quite some time now: purpose, simplicity, and creating brand value through every touchpoint.

1. Lean into Brand Purpose

A strong brand purpose has always been crucial to gaining market share, but it has become even more important for marketers during the pandemic. Brands have wisely pivoted to shift their brand purpose into the spotlight with authenticity at its core.

3M Canada leveraged its purpose to drastically improve brand sentiment on both a local and global level. They pivoted their resources to provide Canadians with not only respirators and PPE for the COVID-19 crisis, but also inspirational and uplifting support when their community needed it most. Next, they developed a holistic, omnichannel marketing strategy to deliver ongoing encouragement. Then, they provided their employees with shareable content that made each of them true brand advocates. As a result, their brand reputation score increased a dramatic 3.5% in only six months.

Image Credit: Association of National Advertisers / 3M

2. Make the Complex Simple

Another theme shared throughout the conference was simplicity – brands with complex products and services, like Verizon, Aflac, and others, discussed how they utilize brand activations to educate their consumers. When introducing new technologies, these brands are prioritizing clear, concise, intentional, and customer-first messaging.

Andrew McKechnie, Verizon’s Chief Creative Officer, shared the importance of leaning into tentpole brand moments to educate consumers on complex offerings, like 5G, through interactive, informative brand activations that let consumers experience the technology. One example of this is Verizon’s NFL stadium takeover––where the telecommunications company equipped a variety of stadiums with 5G networks, so that consumers could experience the service firsthand.

Image Credit: Association of National Advertisers / Verizon

It’s crucial to get consumer buy-in by educating audiences on complex offerings like 5G, which enables consumers to feel empowered to make the decision to purchase. As we wrote about recently, this insight extends far beyond B2C. In fact, it’s even more important for B2B marketers––who can build trust with their clients by demystifying their complex products and technologies.

3. Activate Brands to Increase Value

It can be challenging to get buy-in from key stakeholders to take a brand marketing risk and do something different, particularly when a substantial investment is involved. However, Bob Liodice, CEO of the ANA, shared that marketers are seeing more success by driving brand value through brand activation––something we’ve always championed at Sullivan. Liodice reported that in 2020, 90% of a brand’s value was made up of intangible assets––the largest part of this being the brand itself. Additionally, when investment in brand and brand activation increases, operating income directly increases as well. Ultimately, this proves that when marketers build brands through targeted, strategically-sound campaigns––we directly impact the bottom line of the business.

Image Credit: Association of National Advertisers

Beyond ANA

By leaning into brand purpose, making the complex simple, and boldly activating––brands can ensure their marketing ecosystem is firing on all cylinders to directly impact revenue.