Activation Is More Than Loud Music, Beautiful Dancers

I have watched with keen interest the way many individuals in the industry go about executing brand activations.  For some, I have been impressed. In fact, I wished I came up with the innovative ideas in the first place. Others, I can only term as a sham.
Aptly put, activation is about engaging consumers at an emotional level and driving them to take a positive action. This activity exceeds hitting the streets with loud music and deployment of hyper-active dancers. Activations are about creativity and “effectivity”.
In this article, my emphasis will be on the key elements of field activations. It gives an overview of the activity, key functions and possible pitfalls. Once the activation methodology has been revised and agreed with the client, the agency could employ these elements in any order of priority.
Checklist: A checklist itemises the necessary elements of the activation, most times, in the order of priority. When working with a team, a checklist is a “to-do” list labelled with names for accountability. The checklist compensates for the limits of human memory while ensuring consistency and completeness are guaranteed. There are no checklist templates that fit all activations, managers can adopt and reform any to suit their purpose.
Timelines: This is a schedule of activities or events arranged in chronological order. Since activations are projects meant to be managed with time-based expectations, timelines can be used to break every aspect of the activation, from start to finish, into smaller steps to the ultimate goal. Timelines help for a smooth transition of activations.
Recce: This is derived from a military word “reconnaissance”, but for our purpose, a recce is an inspection of the area where the activation would hold. It is a risk assessment meant to confirm the suitability of the location in achieving the objectives of the brand activation. Without a proper recce, you have no idea of your expectations. You may just be shadow boxing.

Route map:
 In the case of the activation being repeated in numerous locations, e.g. pan-country, pan-continent or state-wide, a route map helps you to have a bird’s view of your activation movement. This helps in making strategic plans with regards to location, priority and proximity. Having a detailed route map could save cost and human resources.
Budget: Yes! You cannot run an activation without a budget, but that is besides my point. My point here is the precision given to identifying every item of the activation and its corresponding cost. An over-bloated budget will raise brows while an underestimated budget will put your agency in trouble. Learn how to balance both sides.
Licenses, Permits and Ground fees: It is necessary to be abreast of all regulations and liaise with all the necessary authorities in order not to run afoul of the law. Ignorance here is never bliss. In fact, it is peril. “Ground fees” refer to miscellaneous funds set aside for unorthodox authorities which vary depending on the location. They are mainly opportunists who want to cash in on your activation in exchange for security. Most times, they are the “local champions” (influencers) of a location. Handling them requires a lot of tact and local intelligence. Conventionally, wisdom would say “give to Caesar what is Caesar’s”
Training of personnel: Your activation personnel are the brand ambassadors. Your training should focus on the appearance, mode of communication and service delivery. All trainings should be in sync with the brand’s objectives. Your team of brand ambassadors should be sound executors not agency executioners. Information and training make the difference.         
Vendors and Equipment:  Some aspects of activation at times have to be handled by specialists. Such vendors, most times, are the “big Idea” of your activation. One key to getting the best of vendors is building a solid mutual relationship with them. When they understand you have their interest at heart, they “bend over backwards”. That apart, never lose sight of ensuring they have the right equipment and that they function properly. Never accept half measures. Notwithstanding, always have a back-up plan. Anything can happen!   

  • Ajileye Andrew is the Activation Manager at TouchPoint XM, an experiential marketing subsidiary of Mediacraft Associates