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Recently in a discussion with some ex-colleagues of mine that I used to work with in the FMCG/Retail industry, I again came to the stark realisation exactly just how fuzzy the definition, and for that matter concept, of Brand Activation really is. At thirtyfour it is our business and we deal with all different aspects of Brand Activation on a daily basis, but out there in the market place, this integral component of marketing is still very much misconceived. So here are my attempts at clearing up the mystery surrounding my favourite marketing topic.

Brand Activation is that sweet spot where advertising and sales meet – the advertising makes the promise and Brand Activation delivers on that promise in a way that brings the spirit of the brand to life, calls the consumer to action and moves the stock out the door.

Brand Activation is not just some feeble disjointed sampling campaign done by a poorly dressed and lifeless promoter whose image couldn’t be further away from the brand’s target market; and it also isn’t a very much out of context Treasure Hunt SMS promotion where you need at least a masters degree and 2 hours of shopping time to figure out the mechanic alone. To qualify as true Brand Activation it is imperative that a sale is made – no matter if the offer was “buy me” or “try me” the consumer or shopper (and yes it could be either and in the context of Brand Activation these are two very different people) has to either buy into the idea of the product or actually buy the physical product – an interactive process with the end result a “sale” either way!

Customers actively choose certain brands above others and the real battle of brands happens in any space anywhere (from the supermarket aisle to the gym and the tea garden and everywhere in-between) where a specific choice is activated and a brand selection is made. Brand Activation effects and affects this selection process by making the brand live in a way that the “buyer” needs it to. The correct combination of buttons are pushed in a way that traditional communication channels like TV, Press, Radio and Outdoor can not.

To me it goes without saying that Brand Activation, or in other words, knowing how consumers and shoppers “buy” your product and how their selection of your brand should/could be activated, must be the starting point for any marketer for every marketing campaign. Getting this is the difference between success and failure, between a mediocre and a super brand, but it is scary how few marketers understand this space, let alone make it the centre of their focus. I mean why would they focus on the important and difficult part if there are fun and creative TV ads to be made wherein we can tell the consumer what to think and do – the alarm bells for these marketers and their brands are ringing, because, at an exponential rate, consumers are coming to grips with the power that they hold and they are taking ownership of “your” brands and if marketers don’t bother to meet them well over halfway in their “buying space”, they will soon not bother to meet you at all.

For those true marketers with a mindset of activating the brands under their curatorship, the spoils of war will be great as Brand Activation and subsequent sales and brand growth, results when all elements of the marketing mix are focused, integrated, creatively conceived, strategically and accurately targeted, fully aligned and perfectly executed – hard work, but definitely worth it!

One of the latest buzz-phrases in the business world is “unlocking the value of your brands” to the benefit of the company as a whole. I have found very few business leaders that know what this means, and even less that have any idea how to do it, but we are all talking the game. My answer is simple – Activate your brand! Unlocking value is actually part of the core of Brand Activation and particularly relevant in the retail and service industries. Once a company has all the necessary brand strategies in place, all that has to be done is to execute them across the entire span of the organisation and in the total offer towards the customer. Sounds like the simple and logical next step . . . In this regard “Great thinking, but pity about the execution” rings true for the majority of companies in South Africa. By focussing on the principals of Brand Activation, business leaders are empowered to systematically look deeper into the opportunities and possibilities inside a brand while your brand advocates (the people formerly known as your employees) start to live your brand by delivering to your customers exactly what they need (and dream of).

The 4 guiding principles in Brand Activation are:

1. Really good Brand Activation is built on smart insights, a sound strategic platform and creative focus that wins the attention of your customers. This way your customers are engaged by your brand and great levels of customer involvement in the experience that you create is achieved. The pull from your customers could even become stronger than the push from your side – what a great result!
2. Brand Activation brings the spirit of the brand to life in a differentiated and distinctive way. (Achievable only through the perfect marriage of brand and trade marketing initiatives.)
3. Brand Activation delivers ideas that genuinely motivate consumers to act now (and if cleverly thought through and executed it offers the opportunity to build a one-on-one relationship with your brand).
4. Brand Activation is measurable and delivers. (It is very easy to determine in which 50% of advertising Brand Activation falls – it is most definitely part of the 50% that works). As
Brand Activation is not channel specific it is imperative to keep an open mind and consider every option and then select the most appropriate channels and media formats to achieve your objectives.

So, Brand Activation enables the synergy of genuine 360 degree/through the line communication by making brands active in their own markets and categories whilst building their reputation along with their results. The balance created in the business between the daily ringing of the tills (positive effect on the bottom line) and the strategic and systematic building of the brand in the medium to long term (adding value on the balance sheet) is in my mind the truest form of marketing that there is.

By Morne Fourie


So Gentle Reader, on Monday we (Myself, Nick Morrison our AM, and Morné Fourie our head of retail) flew up to JHB for a wee shoot of the Springboks. What an amazing bunch of guys, so easy going and relaxed (some models could take some hints – not a prima donna amongst them). They did whatever we asked, signed t-shirts, took a hundred and one pics with staff, friends, agency, kids etc.

Anywho, you’ll soon be seeing their stern mugs and mind-bogglingly huge arms on a campaign we’re working on for a little brand you may have heard of before: Castle Lager. We’re doing a great little promotion for them with the boys in Green and Gold. Watch this space for more details as they unfold. We’re all pretty excited about it, and I wish I could tell you more… But below are some lovely behind the scenes piccies…

In other news we have a new creative starting 1 july… more details on that later too…


thirtyfour is a brand activation agency where creativity counts - not just for creativity’s sake, but strategic, channel-neutral solutions that creates demand in the minds of consumers and ultimately deliver genuine results. It promises liberated thinking in retail, experiential, direct, digital and sports marketing to get out of the rut of traditional advertising campaigns.
June 2007
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