The world of brand activations is ever-evolving as direct consumer engagement and mass personalisation become an absolute necessity for how brands touch consumers in this critical part of the shopper marketing and branding journey. Modern consumers will no longer be talked at or down to. They have become active participants in this journey with brands. Being passive receivers ended with the onset of social media, and consumers are looking to brands to find meaningful ways to involve them.
The activations and promotions industry has had to keep up with the step-change in consumer demands. Because this is such a high-touch part of the path to purchase, choosing to not evolve or identify the changing needs of consumers could have negative effects on brands.
Here are the five trends transforming the market:
The lines have completely blurred and activations are above-the-line, below-the-line, through-the-line and in the cloud creating a complete 360° revolution. In the past, activations relied on being in a specific space, at a specific time, using a specific set of mediums. But things have drastically changed – liberating the idea generation of activations.
The ideas are not limited to any medium, and aren’t defined by traditional spaces or even times and a growing trend is that most consumers don’t have to be present at the physical point of the activation to experience the product or service. “Brand amplification” is the buzzword, and if the idea engages consumers in a meaningful way – they will amplify for you. The personalised Coca-Cola name campaign lived on all platforms, and consumers drove it.
Brands have to introspect and interrogate how they are relevant to consumers and seek out real human truths. Studies have shown how emotional attachment plays a pivotal role in the customer purchase decision. Human truths are more about pushing loyalty than a once-off purchase. Brands have to demonstrate real value for consumers, show that they understand them, and care beyond the sale of products and services.
Human truths are powerful behavioural fundamentals that transcend many of the common marketing and communication models. For example, all mothers are driven to see their children succeed regardless of what LSM they happen to be classified in. It may sound cliché, but in a world that changes as fast as ours does, you need to build on something that generally stays constant.
“You will be surprised how creative and expressive consumers can be when they are given the opportunity”
Story making versus storytelling
Story-making is innovation as defined by the consumers. They want to create their own stories and share them within their communities. The consumer will tell the story of how the brands impact their lives, and influence others on your behalf.
When VW announced it would be rolling the last Citi Golf off the production line, the farewell journey transitioned into a consumer story. The last Citi Golf went on a national tour, coast to coast, allowing consumers to write their goodbye messages on the last, much-loved vehicle. The Citi Golf became the goodbye card that allowed consumers to create and share their memorable stories of an iconic South African vehicle.
This trend has gained much momentum since then and is now becoming the hallmark of engaging consumers in today’s market. You make the canvas and then let consumers go wild, you will be surprised how creative and expressive consumers can be when they are given the opportunity.
Activations creating content
This trend is a natural extension of brands finding meaningful, heartfelt and relevant human truths. Through activations, consumers can create content by documenting their experiences with brands. The go-pro camera is a great example of how consumers view the world – from their point of view, not the brands. In a world where consumers are journalists, opinion leaders, influencers, activists, photographers, creative and everything in between – not giving them a voice is a flawed strategy.
Dela, a funeral insurance company in the Netherlands used activation-led content to drive their campaign of ‘Why wait until it’s too late? Say something wonderful today. The campaign captured real and heart-warming activation content, populated traditional mediums such as print, billboards, street poles and bus shelters, as well as alternative mediums like digital and social, allowing consumers to experience the 360º campaigns that they created.
Co-creations form a true partnership between brand and consumer. When given the right tools, consumers come up with the most creative ideas. YouTube’s overwhelming success is partly because consumers want to play an active role in creating content. Many brands have chosen to invite customers to send in ideas for adverts, name products, define flavours and brands ensure the winning ideas are brought to life. Active versus passive is the new benchmark, and active always wins in a world where the only guaranteed consumer norm is selective attention.
The trends above are all interlinked, much like the life of the brand is now more married than ever to the life of the consumer. The world is more dynamic and fluid than it has ever been, with minute-by-minute changes – use activation to be the real face of the brand. Speak with the consumer, touch their lives and let them tell their stories. The brands which shout loudest may find themselves more hoarse than profitable in the future but the brands that share, collaborate and empower consumers have a bright future ahead.