Let’s face it: engaging audiences with interactive experiences and content is hard. Even the most seasoned event marketers need inspiration from time to time. And with all the new virtual event trends and changing audience needs, marketers need to stay nimble and creative to provide best-in-class branded experiences.
We’ve gathered ten of our favorite influential brand activations to help you get up to speed on what other brands are building for their campaign and audience experiences! Keep reading to discover the answer to what is brand activation. Afterwards, explore real brand activation examples from great brands and a few tips and ideas you’ll want to bookmark.
What is a brand activation?
A brand activation is any marketing event, campaign, or planned audience interaction that helps a company achieve their goals. Goals can include extending audience reach and building relationships with new and existing customers. Brand activations can include everything from art installations to interactive videos to orientation guides
10 bookmark-worthy ideas for your next brand activation
Check out these brand activations examples of both virtual and in-person events that marketers have used to successfully build relationships, improve engagement, and increase their reach. Each idea contains important insights into the event or campaign along with one main takeaway marketers are welcome to steal or use as a jumping off point for their own creative process.
1. Miller Lite’s Cantroller Debut at E3
A blue tooth video game controller filled with Miller Lite? Yes, you heard that right. The “Cantroller” is a limited edition piece of tech in the shape of a Miller Lite can that holds real beer straight from the brewing company in Wisconsin.
This Miller Lite brand activation was part of their appearance at video game trade show giant E3. As one reviewer from PCMag hilariously put it: “No, this isn’t a good controller. Of course it isn’t a good controller. Look at it! […] But it’s still an amazing controller, because it’s so strange and unique.”
Takeaway: Marrying your product with the main theme of the event your are participating in (in this case it was video games) is a genius strategy.
2. Google Home’s Virtual Product Showcase
Ever wanted to reach out and touch one of those shiny new products being advertised on TV? Well, Google Home Electronics may not have reached Jetson-level shopping experiences yet but they’ve come pretty close with this virtual brand activation. Viewers can watch as hosts discuss each of their new products in detail. Then, they can click on the ones that interest them the most right within the video to learn more and make a purchase.
Takeaway: Interactive video makes it possible for brands to engage online shoppers like never before.
3. Burger King’s Partnership with Stevenage FC
When Burger King saw their competitors sponsoring top football club teams in a popular video game for an absurd amount of money, they realized they had an amazing opportunity on their hands.
Instead of competing with other advertisers for the chance to have their logo displayed on the teams with the most championships, they instead chose the team with the least wins overall: Stevenage. Doing so allowed them to still have their logo in a popular video game for a fraction of the price.
They also made it into a social media challenge. When players shared their Burger King logoed Stevenage team on social media, the brand rewarded the football fans with free food items such as Chicken Fries and Whoppers. Even if you didn’t score top marks like the league-winning rival teams that Burger King decided against sponsoring, the brand still awarded each participant simply for loving the game.
Takeaway: Zig when everyone else zags by finding missed opportunities for brand or product engagement where others have overlooked.
4. Lancaster University’s Welcome Video
Lancaster University knows a thing or two about engaging newly accepted high school graduates as they prepare to start school in the Fall. In this interactive video, the institution lays out all the information students need to know based on their unique situation. Viewers can click on bubble prompts that say “I am a distance learner”, “I will live on campus,” and “I will travel to campus” to be sent directly to the most relevant information in the video.
Takeaway: The customer journey doesn’t end after they make their purchase. That is why it’s important for event marketers to consider how they’ll continue to engage with their audience through informative, problem-solving content like this.
5. Tinder’s Choose Your Own Adventure Matchmaking Film
In October of 2019, the dating app Tinder partnered with a moviemaking studio to create Swipe Night, a quirky choose-your-own-adventure web series that aimed to bring interactive entertainment to the platform.
The series, which is described as a first-of-its-kind drama, follows the characters as they go through the motions of Earth’s final night through a string of five-minute-long videos. Along the way, participants encountered various questions that tested their values and guided them toward unique plot moments based on their choices. For example, when disaster first strikes, users were asked if they’d rather save the annoying human they briefly spoke to earlier at a house party or the party host’s adorable pet.
The decisions that the viewers made at those crucial moments had a significant impact on the story’s trajectory. Their choices were also tied to their dating profiles, so those who chose Fluffy over another person could bond over their decision.
Takeaway: Besides the fact that this brand activation example has made Tinder stand out amongst a sea of otherwise similar dating apps, it just goes to show that people love stories they get to engage with.
National Geographic set out to prove, in magnificent detail, why Maine should be on everyone’s travel bucket list with this engaging brand activation. In their video, the brand showcased jaw-dropping footage of the state’s beauty. Overlays gave viewers the opportunity to interact with the campaign without ever having to click away. Maps, bonus photography, and personal stories from National Geographic’s own Pete Muller rounded out this impressive campaign.
Takeaway: More than just a video, this digital brand activation provided a treasure trove of fun extras that defied audience expectations for both the subject matter and the format.
7. Ikea’s #BuybackFriday Event
Black Friday is associated with spending money and buying things, not making money and selling them. And that is exactly why Ikea’s brand activation was such a hit. While others were camping out for televisions, Ikea customers were selling back thousands of their old furniture pieces to the brand in exchange for a portion of their original sale price.
All types of non-upholstered furniture, such as desks, chairs, and bookcases, were eligible to be returned to Ikea after registering a return request. The company has also created a buy-back tool that allowed people to estimate the value of their secondhand goods before bringing them in. This made the experience easier for their audience but it also ensured that there were fewer carbon emissions from those who were making the trip solely for the event.
According to Ikea, the used furniture they purchased has been sold at a discount. The company also said that the items that cannot be reused have been recycled. In a culture dealing with overconsumption, Ikea proved that there are plenty of ways brands can be sustainable and profitable at the same time.
Takeaway: Plan your brand activation that ties your product or service back to it’s core values. Tying it to a unofficial holiday that fits the theme of your activation won’t hurt either.
8. Adobe’s Stock Film Festival
Filmmaking is an art form that requires close contact with other people. So when the industry ground to a halt in 2020, Adobe found a way for creatives to safely make movies without having to go out and get the footage themselves during their Stock Film Festival.
In their own words, “While we continue to adapt to a world facing a number of challenges, one thing that remains the same is the power of creativity. Seeing our global creative community adapt and evolve their craft is a testament to how their passion adds kindling to the inspiration of others and provokes discussion.”
That is why Adobe invited select filmmakers worldwide to produce a film in less than five days using their products for free. The award-winning brand activation showed creatives what all is possible with Adobe’s impressive library of footage, sound, and editing tools.
Takeaway: Use your brand activation as a way to show your audience a use for your products that they haven’t thought of before.
9. Apartment Therapy’s Dorm Therapy Launch for Target
Brand activations in collaboration with other successful brands are some of our favorite examples. That’s why we had to include the Apartment Therapy and Target cross-promotional campaign. Using interactive video, the lifestyle and interior design blog soldified themseles as a player in the college market through their new Dorm Therapy line.
Click your way through their charming product demonstration video with options such as “chill with bae” or “spontaneous soiree” to get you excited about all the possibilities. Once you’ve answered all of the This-or-That style prompts, you can shop your way through a fully styled room complete with product detail callouts, links to shop, and more.
Takeaway: Emphasize your audience’s point of view in your brand activations to make the interaction more interesting and relevant.
Zara has produced a number of innovative films in collaboration with celebrated filmmakers in the past. But they’ve taken it to a whole new level with this film campaign.
One of the many short films in the Zara Scenes catalog, “How to Get the Key”, takes viewers on a journey of a young model’s attempts to find the key to the secret rooftop of LA’s famous Roosevelt Hotel.
What makes this film unlike any other branded moviemaking we’ve seen before? Our heroine changes outfits as the story progresses. It seems simple but it’s actually quite genius.
Going from chic black dress to a stylish winter coat to the big reveal of her glimmering cocktail dress, this brand activation does a great job of both showing off Zara’s new line and engaging guests through in-video shopping.
Audiences expect to see costume changes throughout a movie. But pairing this expectation with a genuinely fun story and some unobtrusive product placement is what makes for a winning combination in our eyes.
Takeaway: Consider which aspects of your chosen brand activation format naturally fit what you’re advertising in the first place.