What is brand activation? Some put it as data captivation and tracking down of consumer behaviour. Some say it is mere sampling. Others think it is all of that or may be neither of these. Putting an end to all speculation, the experts at the first panel discussion at the Brand Activation Summit 2010, organised by afaqs! Events in association with Jagran Solutions, spelled out what the term brand activation stands for, its emergence as an integral part of the marketing plans, its implications and its pitfalls.
Ishan Raina, chief executive officer, OOH Media; Amita Karwal, executivevice-president, Lintas Media Group; Ambika Sharma, national head, Jagran Solutions; and Suvodeep Das, marketing head, Kaya were a part of the discussion which not just busted myths surrounding activation but also looked at the way ahead.
The experts agreed that it is the industry which has made categorisations such as above the line, below-the-line and sometimes, through the line. For a consumer, however, such fancy words are irrelevant. She either gets a piece of communication or doesn't get it. This is where the struggle starts for marketers and this is also where brand activation, as a tool, comes into play.
"Brand activation is a way to activate your brand so as to connect better with the consumers. Activation is all about active engagement," defined Raina, who was the moderator for the discussion.
On his part, Das defined it as a part of experiential marketing, which plays a big role in a segment such as skin care, where a company has to sell a service that cannot be seen or touched. No amount of TVC works here, he mentioned, adding that brands in this space mostly work through interaction with consumers, understanding their points of view and thereby engaging them with the brand.
For Sharma, the medium doesn't really matter while taking a brand to the consumers. "Communication should be consumer and idea central but channel neutral," she said.
Karwal, on the other hand, believes that 'activation' as a tool has always been in practice. "Big FMCG companies have carried out sampling and in-store promotions even 20 years back, although the scale may not have been very big. Today, things are changing for good," she said. She identified radio as a powerful medium to carry out activation programmes, where RJs (radio jockeys) get down to the roads to connect directly with the audience.
To infuse realism and vibrancy to the discussion, the experts also shared individual experiences in this arena. Das put forward his experience of promoting brand Kaya in the restrictive environment of Saudi Arabia. "We set up stalls in the woman's floor of the malls, where our consultant spoke to the ladies about life in general, highlighting the need to take care of self and look good. The response was overwhelming. Ladies would talk for hours with our consultants," he said. He also cited one example from India, where Kaya took a non-mass media approach while promoting its bridal range of services. "Our revenue grew 25 fold without any advertising," he added.
Sharma mentioned an initiative by Red FM in this regard. "It was during the time when news about Blueline buses mowing down people was making headlines every other day. The radio station picked up the occasion of Rakhi to carry out an on ground activation programme. The RJs of the station got people on the roads to tie rakhis on the hands of the Blueline drivers, who in turn promised to take care of their lives. The concept proved so popular that many regular Blueline commuters started doing the exercise," she added.
Karwal referred to an online summer camp organised by a computer brand. "The brand not only took kids for a camp but also made them learn the basics of computers. The two week programme became really popular among kids and parents and the word of mouth spread really fast. Also, the conversion rate was fabulous. About 60 per cent of the people there wanted to buy the brand's products."
At the end, the experts agreed that from time to time, the industry does come up with interesting activation ideas which turn out to be successful at the local level but don't get scaled up from there. Not a single brand, the panellists pointed out, has made the effort to institutionalise activation. The most common reasons, they said, are unequal allocation of budget by clients, where the maximum amounts go into traditional media; the lack of initiatives from agencies; the costs involved in carrying out such activations; and the fact that the backend support is not always ready.
The session concluded with the hope that sooner or later, the industry will come up with activation ideas as big and grand as the IPL.
The Brand Activation Summit 2010 was presented by Jagran Solutions and Star News was Session Sponsor.