19 brand activation ideas and examples to spark engagement

Brand Activation Ideas

Are you searching for brand activation ideas that will inspire, engage, and ultimately convert your target audience? Then you’re in luck. A brand activation campaign is more than just a way to spread awareness for your brand and generate hype among consumers. 

The right strategy can give you a competitive edge, strengthen the emotional connection you have with your target audience, and increase sales. 91% of consumers in one study said they would feel more optimistic about a company’s product or service, after participating in a brand activation.

Creative brand activations are a phenomenal way to demonstrate your company’s values and ethos, get people talking about your brand, and leave a lasting impression on your industry. 

Today, we’re going to cover some of the best brand activation event ideas, with examples from leading brands, to help you plan a unique experience for your target audience. 

Brand Activation Ideas

What is brand activation? The basics

On a broad level, brand activation is the process of building brand awareness and engagement, through some kind of event, campaign, or experience. They’re essentially marketing campaigns, focused on forging lasting emotional connections with your audience. 

Unlike an ongoing brand strategy, a brand activation is a singular event. For instance, Coca-Cola created a 360-degree AR performance experience for a virtual star, that users could watch with their phone. It included references to the Coke brand, while highlighting a commitment to innovation.

Brand activations can come in many forms, from yearly events, like the CES technology event, to one-off pop-up shops, trade show presentations, and product demonstrations. They can include competitions and giveaways, influencer campaigns, and even interactive videos.

No matter which brand activation ideas you use, the goal is to enhance the equity and reputation of your brand, demonstrate your personality and identity, and both inform, and entertain customers.

Common types of brand activation strategy

Before we dive into our list of brand activation ideas (and brand activation examples), let’s take a look at some of the common types of activation strategies used by major brands. Innovative brand activations can include various types of media and activities. 

Options include:

  • Experiential marketing: An experiential marketing event immerses customers in a specific experience. This might include simple product demonstrations at tradeshows, or pop-up events where companies share free samples with customers.
  • Digital marketing campaigns: Digital brand activation strategies take advantage of technology. Think social media marketing competitions, live stream events on Twitch, virtual reality experiences or limited time mobile apps.
  • Guerilla campaigns: Guerilla marketing leverages unconventional strategies to take customers by surprise. Examples include Volkswagen building a slide in a subway to highlight the speed and fun of its new car. 
  • Word of mouth: Brand activation strategies that include word of mouth rely heavily on user generated content and influencer promotion. Consider how Red Bull hosts huge events like the Red Bull soapbox race, to encourage word of mouth.  
Brand Activation Ideas

Why are creative brand activations important?

Brand activation strategies require more work and creativity than your standard marketing campaign. Memorable activations make an impact because companies think outside of the box, and invest in an immersive marketing strategy that drives stronger connections.

However, the extra work does pay off. In today’s saturated marketing world, it’s difficult to stand out among thousands of brands with the same old campaigns. If you want to increase awareness of your brand, and get people talking, you need to experiment.

Brand activation campaigns:

  • Create and improve interactions with your audience.
  • Provide new ways to communicate your brand’s values to consumers.
  • Leave a lasting impact on your audience, and your industry.
  • Help you introduce new products and services in a memorable way.
  • Reduce marketing costs by generating word of mouth.
  • Offer access to user-generated content for future campaigns.

19 brand activation ideas (with examples)

Brand activation campaigns can deliver excellent benefits for businesses from all industries. The biggest challenge is in coming up with brand activation ideas that make the right impact. Fortunately, we’ve tracked down some of the best ideas and brand activation examples from leading brands.

Here are just some of the experiments you can try to boost awareness and recognition for your brand.

Brand Activation Ideas

1. Immerse customers in your USPs (Slack)

A successful brand activation isn’t just about raising awareness of your company. The best strategies help customers understand what you stand for, and the solution you’re trying to deliver. Think about the unique selling points of your product or service, and help customers experience them.

Slack did this at SXSW in 2022, creating a larger-than-life “Work from Anywhere” lounge. Visitors could snap a profile pic using Slack immersive 3D scenes, enjoy comfortable settings with free treats, swag, and ultra-fast Wi-Fi, and network with peers.

The brand activation showed what Slack was all about in a creative way. It highlighted the company’s focus on community, comfort, and simplicity. 

Brand Activation Ideas

2. Explore gamification (Nike)

Studies show that gamifying marketing experiences leads to a 60% increase engagement. Consumers are constantly looking for ways to have more fun with the brands they love. If you can create a game that excites potential customers, you’re on to a winner.

Nike did this by creating an app for customers, known as the “Nike Run Club”. The app doesn’t just promote Nike products. It encourages customers to work out alone, and with friends, track their performance, and share their accomplishments with peers.

The app includes access to tracking tools, suggestions, cardio activity monitoring, social components, and articles. This all demonstrates Nike’s commitment to supporting its customers and helping them reach their goals. 

Brand Activation Ideas
Credit: Coca-Cola

3. Solve a customer problem (Vitaminwater)

Perhaps the most common reason customers buy anything, is because they want to solve a problem. We buy food because we’re hungry, televisions because we’re bored, and so on. If you’re struggling for brand activation ideas, think about the common problems you can solve for your customers.

For example, Coca-Cola’s Vitaminwater brand wanted to make a splash at the WayHome musical event, by addressing a major issue for most festival goers – heat. They created a human car wash, where people could refresh and relax in between sets. 

The experience wasn’t just fun and interesting for attendees, it also highlighted the key selling points of Vitaminwater – it’s refreshing and nourishing.

Brand Activation Ideas

4. Go beyond basic product demonstrations (Google)

Many of the top brand activation examples involve showing customers the unique features and capabilities of a product or solution. They’re designed to attract the attention of new customers, and show them how a solution can improve their life in an immersive way. 

However, a standard product demo won’t always capture customer attention. Sometimes you need to get creative. At 2019 CES, Google debuted the Google Assistant roller coaster ride, where attendees could experience a day in the life of a fictional character, with their Google assistant.

The ride gave Google a creative way to show customers how their assistant worked to guide people through their day, and address common problems.

Brand Activation Ideas

5. Take a stand on important topics (Vans)

One effective way to increase brand engagement, and customer loyalty, is to show customers that you share their core values. This has become increasingly important in recent years, as new generations of consumers look for companies that demonstrate an ethical side.

The House of Vans experiential marketing campaign is an excellent example of how you can show your stance on important topics in different ways. On International Woman’s Day, Vans used the House of Vans to promote gender equality.

They offered a range of interactive experiences, from skate lessons tailored to women, documentary screenings, and live music, all to celebrate women in skateboarding. 

Brand Activation Ideas

6. Tell your brand’s story (Bloomingdales) 

There’s a reason storytelling is so effective in marketing. Customers want to learn about the history of your brand, where it comes from, and what it wants to achieve. If you’re looking for brand activation ideas, a good strategy could be to find a unique way to tell your story.

Rather than just using social media campaigns or virtual events to share insights into your history, engage customers in an interactive way. Bloomingdale’s created an in-store interactive scavenger hunt, where attendees learned about the history of the store. 

The highly shareable experience also encouraged customers to take photos and videos they could share on social media, giving Bloomingdales lots of authentic content to share.

Brand Activation Ideas

7. Host themed parties (Desperados) 

Everyone loves a great party, particularly when it ties in with an important theme. In 2019, Desperados created the world’s largest video light show at a house party using mobile phones. The premise stemmed from a growing trend for “unplugged parties” where users ignore their phones.

Attendees at the event exchanged their smartphone (temporarily) for a beer. Those phones were then linked up and used to display synchronized animations. The experience wasn’t just fun for attendees, it highlighted an important concept. 

It showed Desperados wanted to remind its customers to enjoy the experiences in life, by unplugging from their phones and being fully present in the moment.

Brand Activation Ideas

8. Create an exclusive event (Radius)

Brand activation ideas don’t have to focus just on attracting new customers. They can also be an excellent way for big brands to strengthen their connections with existing customers. An exclusive event, specifically tailored to your most important customers, can lead to great results.

For instance, Radius regularly holds invite-only events with industry leaders and educational sessions, specific to their target audience. This elevates the customer experience to new heights for Radius’ clients, showing the company’s commitment to customer satisfaction. 

As an added bonus, these exclusive events give Radius an excellent chance to find and activate brand ambassadors willing to support their brand through word of mouth marketing.

Brand Activation Ideas

9. Partner with another brand (Google and Zappos)

Many of the best brand activation examples naturally come from bigger companies with larger marketing budgets. It can be difficult for new brands to connect with a wider audience when they can’t afford to host huge events, or music festival experiences. 

A good way to counteract this, is to partner with another market leader. For example, Google and Zappos worked together on a successful brand activation, with multiple layers. First, Google encouraged customers to exchange a photo for a cupcake. 

Zappos then offered free goodies to consumers who could “pay with their cupcake”. The crossover led to a unique experience that got customers talking about both brands. 

10. Tap into technology (Gucci)

Technology opens the door to a huge variety of brand activation ideas. Alongside common options like social media campaigns and contests, businesses can tap into the latest tech to create truly immersive and unique experiences. 

Gucci, for instance, leveraged the emerging excitement around the metaverse and extended reality to create an amazing brand activation. They created a virtual “Vault” in the Sandbox metaverse environment, where customers could learn about the brand’s history.

The Vault also gave customers an opportunity to purchase NFTs and try clothes on their avatar. This strategy didn’t just build excitement around Gucci, it also gave the company another way to create revenue, with virtual content.

Brand Activation Ideas

11. Collect customer insights (BrewDog)

One of the best ways to boost the quality of your brand activation ideas is to think of new ways to get customers involved. Rather than just giving your customers an experience, ask them to play a role in improving and enhancing your brand, by sharing their insights.

BrewDog did this when they launched their #Mashtag campaign. The campaign started by asking customers to vote on their favorite beer ingredients on social media. The winning ingredients were then used to create a limited-edition beer.

To further activate their customers, BrewDog even asked them to design the label for the product, by submitting their designs through social channels. The result was a memorable experience for customers, and increased insights into customer preference for BrewDog. 

Brand Activation Ideas

12. Host a pop-up event (KitKat)

Many brand activation examples over the years have included limited-time pop-up shops and events. Pop-ups are a great way to grab customer attention with exclusive in-person experiences, without spending a fortune on a permanent asset. 

You can run pop-up shops that sell specific products (such as a new line of items). Or you could use your pop-up to capture customer insights and highlight the versatility of your existing products, like KitKat. 

KitKat’s “Chocolatory” pop-up allowed customers to create and purchase limited-edition versions of their favorite snacks. The pop-up served two purposes. It was a fun way to get customers to talk about KitKat and share user-generated content. 

Plus, it helped KitKat come up with ideas for a new line of products with unique flavors. 

Brand Activation Ideas

13. Hold an annual event (Refinery29) 

While brand activation campaigns usually only last for a short time, that doesn’t mean you can’t replicate your best ideas on a regular basis. Refinery29 hosts an annual event dedicated to creativity, collaboration, and discovery. 

It advertises the event as an “interactive funhouse of style, culture, and technology”. As the name, “29Rooms” suggests, each events includes 29 individually curated and branded rooms, with their own unique features. They’re created with brand partners, like Dunkin’ Donuts.

Each year has its own theme, and customers are encouraged to enter each room and create something while they’re there. It’s an excellent way for Refinery29 to show its unique values to customers, and build meaningful connections with its audience. 

14. Give away freebies (GoGoSqueeze)

Everyone loves a freebie. Although you might not be able to afford to give your products away for free all the time, sharing some samples can be a great idea. It’s a good chance to allow customers to test your items for themselves, and fall in love with whatever you offer. 

If you can make the freebie experience more creative, then you also boost your chances of customers promoting your business. For instance, GoGoSqueeze created a travelling “Goodness Machine” that shot products into the air on parachutes for visitors to catch. 

It travelled around various popular landmarks, including New York’s Madison Square park. The brand activation was a huge success, earning 300,000 social media impressions, and more than 200,000 walk-by impressions. 

15. Partner with influencers (Starbucks) 

Collaborating with other brands isn’t the only way to use partnerships for your brand activation ideas. Working with influencers is another excellent strategy. Influencers can boost the visibility of your brand and products in a range of ways, giving you more reach and engagement. 

Starbucks promoted their new line of Teavana teas by opening the pop-up “Sparkle Shop” in Toronto. They partnered with a glitter-obsessed influencer, LaurDIY to promote the event, and attract potential consumers to the part-time store. 

The event was a massive success, encouraging countless consumers to visit the pop-up, test out the new products, and share their experiences on social media. 

16. Do something surprising (Lipton Iced Tea) 

As mentioned above, many brand activation examples include “guerrilla marketing” techniques, designed to shock and surprise customers. Surprising your customers is a fantastic way to build a strong connection with your target audience, and increase your memorability.

Lipton Iced Tea showed us just how effective this method could be, when they installed a massive yellow “slip and slide” in London. Visitors to the event had an opportunity to enjoy the slide, as well as a free sample of Lipton’s iced tea products. 

The event even gave Lipton an opportunity to promote its other brand activation strategies, such as the “#BeaDaybreaker” campaign, where customers could get free products on Fridays.

17. Run an educational workshop (IKEA) 

If you’re searching for brand activation ideas that stand out, why not combine entertainment with education? Sharing useful insights and information with your audience is a great way to boost brand loyalty, and form meaningful connections with customers. 

IKEA accomplished this when they launched their Dining Club pop-up restaurant. Visitors could engage in training workshops where they would prepare their own Swedish meatballs under the supervision of professional chefs. 

The event experience taught customers something new, highlighted the unique experiences IKEA could offer, and got consumers talking on social media. 

18. Leverage social media (Sonic) 

There are plenty of ways to use social media for your brand activation ideas. You can run social media contests and giveaways, polls to collect consumer information and more. One alternative option is to combine social media with an in-person event. 

Sonic did this when they launched an experiential marketing campaign at Coachella. Capitalizing on the growing popularity of platforms like Instagram, the company sold square-shaped shakes to concert attendees, perfectly designed for a social media snap. 

Notably, the products were also available for purchase through the social media platform, helping to elevate the company’s levels of social media engagement. 

Brand Activation Ideas

19. Embrace the trends (Bumble)

An effective brand activation strategy can be a great opportunity for companies to show they’re up to date with the latest trends, and understand their target audience. Bumble, the dating app, showed their customers how on-trend they were with their “We’ve got Hot Noods” campaign.

Building on the meme-based trends surrounding dating apps, the event encouraged customers to look at the challenges of using these apps from a new perspective. The team gave away free hot noodles to university students as a reward for downloading their app. 

The slightly cheeky experiential activation was a huge hit with the company’s younger demographic. Plus, it offered a great insight into the brand’s unique personality. 

Launching your brand activation campaign

Today, large and small businesses alike are coming up with countless unique and creative brand activation ideas, to help generate both awareness and engagement. As you can see from the ideas and brand activation examples above, there’s no limit to what you can do. 

From launching interactive video campaigns, to creating digital photo booths, sharing free gifts, and hosting events, the options are endless. The key to success is understanding your audience, their preferences, and what they’re looking for from your brand. 

Strive for excellence through differentiation, thinking outside of the box, and making your experiences as shareable as possible. Whether you invest in in-person events, or digital marketing campaigns, your activation strategy should get people talking about your brand.

If you need help coming up with amazing brand activation ideas, contact the Fabrik team today, for step-by-step guidance and creative support. 

Fabrik: A branding agency for our times.

Stewart Hodgson
Co-founder
Stewart Hodgson
Co-founder
Our co-founder, Stewart, is responsible for content strategy and managing Fabrik’s publishing team. It’s up to Stewart to bring Fabrik to busy marketers’ attention. As a regular contributor to Brand Fabrik, Stewart creates articles relevant to anyone in branding, marketing and creative communication.

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