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There are many millions of businesses in the world today, but only a tiny amount can also claim to be established brands. It is through a well established marketing process known as brand activation that an organisation can make this often long journey, from relative unknown to trusted household name.

In today’s media savvy online environment, activation isn’t achieved by bombarding people with advertising, but requires the carefully planned deployment of a variety of content across multiple channels to foster an image of trustworthiness, competence, approachability and ultimately audience association.

In this article I want to look at what brand activation is and how it can help your business make the journey to becoming a brand.

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Getting your Digital Strategy Right

There is a lot of confusion around the execution of marketing activation. For many would-be household brands, good ideas can often get lost in untargeted and poorly executed marketing strategies. As Russell Perry of MWorks, McCann London states, value is often lost through ‘a series of disconnected, tactical executions’ instead of a ‘seamless joined up approach.’

“As advocates of multi-channel marketing, we must get back to the basic values of understanding data (which is critical in the ideation process), insight, timeliness, relevance and creativity to ensure any activation activity is effective and memorable.”

This multi channel environment presents a number of challenges to content and video marketers alike. Amazing content is not enough without a large audience to get behind it and finding and creating an activation strategy that achieves this can and should take a lot of planning.

Effective activation starts with a carefully thought through digital strategy, that seeks to unify all content across all platforms under a single brand narrative. This can be achieved through the use of the help hub hero content marketing model, which I’ve talked about in a previous post. This strategy allows marketers to tier content according to its purpose and create consistent activation strategies around each, ensuring each is appropriately funded, targeted and appears on the right channels to achieve its stated objectives.

Creating a unified brand marketing strategy is the bedrock of any marketing activation but the activation itself only begins in the next phase, which is the placement and distribution of the content itself.

Placement and Distribution

Content placement and distribution, also known as ‘content seeding’, can be seen as the crux of the activation process itself. It’s, therefore, crucial to execute and plan this stage well if you are to achieve maximum exposure for your content.

When it comes to the placement of video content, YouTube is an absolute must as it is by far the most popular online video platform in the world and means your videos have far more chance of appearing in Google’s search engine results pages. In fact, a study from market research company Forrester in 2009 states that it is fifty times easier to achieve a page 1 ranking on Google with a video than it is with a traditional web page. Yes, the research is old but it gives you some idea of the prevalence of videos in the search results.

You can also choose to embed YouTube content on your website if you’d prefer not to host video content on your own server. This can actually be a lot more reliable and means you can host a lot more video content (just remember to turn off the ‘show suggested videos when the video finishes’ option as this will prevent YouTube showing similar video suggestions, something that could easily draw the viewer away from your site).

As a distribution channel, YouTube comes under ‘owned media’, in that you have direct control over it and the content you put on it. As well as owned media, there are two other distribution channels available; earned and bought media. Let’s take a look at all three:

  • Owned Media: This is any media you have direct control over, such as your website, YouTube channel, Facebook and Twitter pages, microsites and blogs. In the offline world, physical spaces like the reception to your office or a stand at an exhibition would technically count as owned media as you can use them to host your own video content. Owned media should always be your first choice as a distribution channel but, unless you have an established audience, its reach is limited without proper promotion.
  • Earned Media: This covers things that people are saying about your content and your brand and is, therefore, essential to the marketing activation process. Earned media is usually achieved through a combination of traditional and online PR tactics, such as social media marketing, blogger outreach, email marketing and targeting local, national and industry media outlets.
  • Bought Media: This is essentially a traditional media buy in and includes any content that you pay for. This can include television, radio and print advertising, as well as any search engine or social media pay per click based advertising models. Bought media has traditionally been the main promotional tool of advertisers, but with the growth of content marketing and social media, it’s now equally important to earn the trust of your audience by creating content that is free, value adding and not obviously self-promotional.

Only by taking advantage of earned and bought media can you really begin to maximise the potential of the media platforms you already control. This technique lies at the heart of many activation strategies.

Let’s take a brief look at the last crucial stage in the ongoing process of brand activation; measurement.

Measurement

Measurement and analytics is a huge area and is worthy of a blog post of its own. This stage is crucial in that it lets you ascertain the relative success or failure of your individual campaign activations, allowing you to calibrate accordingly. Proper measurement requires proper planning and it’s essential that you define your key performance indicators and the data you want to measure from the outset.

Let’s look at some key measurement considerations you need to make pre-activation:

  • Return on investment. How do you plan to measure what you get out compared to what you’ve put in? If it’s conversions and sales that you’re after then this will be more straightforward, but with brand building campaigns you will have to measure success in non-financial terms too, whether it’s email addresses gained, social media followers, contacts or just increased consumer awareness.
  • Scale: How many consumers is this campaign potentially going to reach?  Are you looking for global or national coverage or something targeted at a more local or niche level? Does the budget assigned reflect this?
  • Brand message. Does your activation strategy achieve your stated aims and objectives and does it correspond to your brand’s overall message and values?
  • Potential Integration. Can your brand activation campaign complement other brand marketing and if so how can they be integrated?
  • Unique Selling Point (USP): How unique is your brand’s core services or products? If there are genuine distinctions between you and the competition, then how can your brand activation take advantage of this and get people talking about you?
  • Recalibration: How easy will it be to recalibrate and amplify successful campaign activations and scale down those that are failing to gain traction? How will this be assessed and to how easily can budget be diverted from one campaign to another?

This article has only really touched the surface of brand activation and in future posts, I hope to return to some of the areas we’ve touched upon here and look at some well-known brands that have got brand activation down to a fine art.

At Aspect, we offer all our clients a complete and comprehensive marketing activation service. Not only will this help them map out and achieve their objectives, but it allows us to create video content that is perfectly suited to the agreed activation strategy. For more details on brand activation, get in touch.