It is a well known fact among marketers that consumers who get to touch and feel a product are more likely to experience a sense of ownership and are thus more inclined to buy the product. Brand activation is a relatively recent concept and is aimed at triggering this sense of ownership by building a long term emotional connection between the brand and the consumer. And this does not have to necessarily come from physical touch and may also be executed by providing an experience to the target consumer.

An example of brand activation is the recent ‘Shot on iPhone 6’ series of commercials. For the campaign, Apple invited actual iPhone 6 users to send photos and videos captured on their device and a select few of these submissions were advertised over TV and billboards. The idea is to let target consumers ‘experience’ the beauty of the product and thus feel more connected to the product than they were earlier.

While brand activation may be a new jargon in the marketers’ handbook, the concept itself has been around for quite a while. Free product samples that are routinely given away in supermarkets were originally aimed at guilt-tripping consumers enjoying these samples to reciprocate and buy something in return. However, an added benefit of free samples is that it provides these consumers an opportunity to experience the product and thus increase the likelihood of purchase. Some studies have found the conversion rate from free samples to be as high as 25 – 30 percent.

A successful execution of a brand activation campaign depends on three factors – firstly, understanding the trigger factors for your consumer, the competition landscape and identifying the right KPIs.

Trigger factors are essentially elements that will get the consumer ‘wake up’ and notice your campaign. When Tribord, a company that makes watersports equipments, wanted to promote their floatation jacket, they went around offering unsuspecting folks on the harbor with sea water rebranded as a drink. Tribord’s campaign involved reminding customers about drowning and tasting sea water was a vital “trigger” that helped Tribord market their product.

While devising a trigger for your campaign is important, it is also equally important to make sure that the trigger is unique enough to be noticed among all the marketing clutter that a consumer is exposed to. Analyze the competition landscape to figure out the various marketing campaigns carried out by your competition. At the same time, make a note of all the brands (even if they are not a competitor) who are likely to be using the same experience or trigger. Charting out this landscape is vital in narrowing down a trigger that works.

Once the trigger has been identified and the campaign mapped out, it is important to finalize the KPIs that you will be measuring to benchmark the success of the campaign. A free sample campaign, for instance, should not only measure the sale conversions on the day of the campaign, but also track the long-term loyalty that such campaigns bring to your store.

Brand activation campaigns are a great way to connect with your audience and build loyalty. While executing a successful campaign might mean a lot of trial and error, it is also highly rewarding from an ROI perspective.