Brand activations can go down a storm – or be a damp squib.
They can generate massive ROI – or miss the mark completely.
They can mean more budget and serious kudos – or budget cuts and stern words.
So how can you tell the difference?
Unpicking – and then reverse engineering – ‘big hit’ brand activations is a fantastic place to start.
So here’s our take on the three best from 2018 – and how to apply those lessons in your own campaigns.
1. Burger King’s Whopper Detour
The burger giants drove massive app downloads by trading on their biggest rivalry.
The ‘burger wars’ rivalry between Burger King and McDonalds surfaced again late last year, with the Whopper Detour.
Wanting to promote their app and increase footfall, Burger King introduced a 1-cent Whopper coupon that users could unlock using the app. The catch?
Using GPS geofencing, Burger King created a virtual perimeter around 14,000 McDonalds outlets US-wide. This meant they could deliver targeted content when users entered those areas.
In this case, the coupon. Which meant users could only unlock the Whopper offer within 600-feet of McDonalds. They could then order and the app guided users to the nearest Burger King for pick-up.
Using GPS geofencing, Burger King created a virtual perimeter around 14,000 McDonalds outlets US-wide.
The app was downloaded 2 million times in 48-hours, reaching number one in the Apple Food and Drink category.
Plus, the campaign drove one of the highest footfalls in Burger King history, and more than 150,000 one-cent Whoppers were sold. That’s four times more than regular Whopper discount offers.
What can you learn?
Playing it safe isn’t always your best option.
Burger King have developed a reputation for their cheeky, light-hearted approach and in a world where most brands fit in rather than stand out, consumers love them for it.
But underneath the light-hearted tone is a serious goal – to overcome the biggest barrier to app uptake by getting users to practice ordering and to upload their credit card details for next time.
The moral is, be different – but be different in a way that serves your key marketing goals. That stops you falling into the ‘PR for PR’s sake’ trap, which will earn attention for the wrong reasons.
2. Diesel: Go With The Fake
The irreverent fashion brand played on high-end’s counterfeiting challenge, generating a PR storm that blew them back onto the map.
Known for what Publicis’ New York COO calls their “irreverent streak”, Diesel’s February 2018 activation was a playful take on the knock-off scene. One that generated massive PR buzz.
It started with Diesel’s 2017 Go With The Flaw campaign – a video featuring young, carefree and beautiful models revelling in so-called imperfections like a monobrow, crossed eye and braces. The moral was, be brave enough to embrace your flaws because they’re what make you special.
A year later, the brand used the same principle as a springboard for their Go With The Fake activation, aiming to put Diesel firmly back in the hearts and minds of their target consumers.
So they launched a pop-up store in an area of Manhattan known for selling knock-offs – and filled it with thousands of one-off Diesel pieces.
The catch? They changed their logo to “Deisel” – and filmed the whole thing, including a pushy sales assistant insisting this was ‘real Diesel’.
When consumers realised they could buy real-but-flawed Diesel for a fraction of Diesel prices, the PR was huge. So much so, the store sold out early and was forced to close its doors.
When consumers realised they could buy real-but-flawed Diesel for a fraction of Diesel prices, the PR was huge.
As with Burger King, irreverence can be a fantastic thing as long as it’s tethered to your brand DNA.
This campaign wasn’t about pop-up sales. It was about capturing the imagination of Diesel’s consumers, earning respect by showing an authentic, human side.
So for your next brand activation, look beyond winning customers’ business. Win their hearts instead by conveying your brand truth in a likeable, honest and light-hearted way.
3. Google Pixel 2 goes to Coachella
The tech titans showed how brands can enter customers’ lives in an authentic way that drives positive brand awareness.
Music and celebrity gossip might be Coachella’s mainstay, but it’s also a playground for big brands to showcase their most engaging marketing.
Like Google. The brand wanted to promote the new Google Pixel 2 smartphone, in particular its incredible camera.
Instead of simply telling consumers how good the camera was, they decided to show them.
So they created a dynamic installation with dichroic film on plexi panels, which creates an ever-changing coloured shadow as the panels refract sunlight at different angles through the day.
Armed with this beautiful – and Pixel 2 branded – background, festival goers were encouraged to take selfies of themselves – and post to social media, of course.
The organisers also embedded these panels into the iconic Coachella Ferris wheel, where riders were given a Pixel 2 phone to play with for themselves.
The most successful activations are built around a single, clear, distilled insight into the psychology of the target audience. In this case, that festival goers don’t want to ‘engage with brands’ but they do want to take selfies.
Make sure you know what your insight is before you plan your next activation, or you might miss the mark.
And, like the other two campaigns we’ve mentioned, tether any activation firmly back to your brand, or product, strategy. This activation was built around a deep understanding of their best product feature – an amazing camera.
It’s also a good lesson in balancing priorities. By having a two-part activation, they could reach a larger audience than the Ferris Wheel alone – but they also gave a segment of users an even more powerful experience where they could experience Pixels 2 themselves. A one-two punch.
Activation success can feel like more luck than judgement but there are some common principles. These examples bring those principles to life, so you can apply them in your own brand activations.
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