By Dana Baasiri
In a world where consumers are bombarded with endless ads and marketing messages, brand activations are a powerful tool to raise awareness and create a memorable experience for customers. Not only have they become an innovative and effective way of bringing your company’s personality to life, but they also give your customers tangible, meaningful experiences that help encourage them to interact with you. When done right, this type of experiential marketing is more impactful than traditional advertising, as it creates an immersive connection and invites customers to directly experience a brand’s product or message. In this article, we take a look at the key elements of identifying the right strategy, along with 3 effective brand activations that hotels can leverage.
Strategizing For Success: What Does A Brand Activation Strategy Look Like?
Before jumping headfirst into any kind of activation strategy, it’s important to take the time to strategize and come up with an effective plan of action. Start by asking some important questions:
#1: Who is the target audience? To create an effective brand activation strategy, you first need to understand your target audience. Look at the demographics of your desired customer and study their behavior, values, and preferences. Knowing your audience means that you can create messaging and experiences that resonate with them.
#2: What’s the desired outcome of this activation? Whether the objective is to drive awareness surrounding a new hotel opening, drive more bookings for shoulder season, or create opportunities for social media engagement, understanding the ultimate goal will allow you to craft an activation that is tailored to your needs as a company.
#3: What message do you want your customers to remember? Shaping the narrative goes hand in hand with designing meaningful brand interactions, and is just as important as utilizing the appropriate marketing channels. The key is to ensure consistency and accuracy across all platforms. Use social media, email marketing, influencer marketing, product placement, and retail or online offerings, to ensure that no matter where they encounter your brand, consumers will receive a cohesive message.
#4: What is your budget and how much can you allocate to the activation? When it comes to planning an in-market activation, there are numerous variables to consider, budget should be at the forefront of your planning efforts. Ask yourself, how much can you realistically spend on this activation? Take into account production costs, talent expenses, event space costs, and all other associated expenses.
#5: What does your overall timeline look like for bringing this to life? Next, timing becomes a critical factor. When is the best time of year to execute the activation? Will it align with key marketing initiatives or holidays? Some brand activations end up being a big stunt that takes place on one key date, while others can be a multi-day activation or an extended pop-up that is up and running for a month even. Timing will of course be impacted by the location of your brand activation and whether you are concentrating your efforts on our major city or multiple drive markets.
#6: How are you measuring success? Finally, it’s important to track the success of your brand activations. Measure your sales growth and engagement metrics, like customer reviews and social media activity. Your insights will help inform what works and what doesn’t, allowing you to evolve and optimize future activations.
Taking the time to answer these questions will help tailor the activation specifically for your target audience. All in all, a solid-proof brand activation strategy can help you generate:
- Increased PR coverage
- Emotion-driven storytelling
- Partnerships with other brands, celebrities, and even influencers
- Booking revenue
- Organic social media impressions and content
What Types of Brand Activations Are Best?
Many brands hesitate to explore this avenue, assuming it requires a costly overhaul of their physical space or the hiring of high-profile artists. However, there are actually a variety of brand activations available that can make a big impact without breaking the bank. Here are three types of activations that you should consider to bring your brand to life and attract new bookings:
Seasonal Music Artist Residency
As hotels strive to offer more immersive experiences on-property, artist residency shows, and entertainment can be powerful tools. Not only are these high-energy events a great way to entertain guests looking for dynamic experiences, but they also allow for an increased level of consumer engagement. In fact, 91% of consumers have more positive feelings about brands after joining events and experiences. Additionally, integrating lively programming that can’t be found elsewhere goes a long way in inspiring positive conversations about the hotel online as 98% of consumers create digital or social content at experiences and events.
Whether hosting an artist residency takeover in the summer to elevate offerings for families or leaning on a show series to drive bookings during a slower season, these types of brand activations can be molded to fit any hotel’s goals and budget. From hotel lobby takeovers or poolside acoustic sessions open to all guests to exclusive loyalty member-only events, these experiences create powerful connections with audiences and can set hospitality brands apart from their competitors.
Pop-Up Experiences in Key Markets
Experiential marketing is now one of the top five marketing strategies companies currently leverage, and as a result, pop-up experiences have become increasingly popular. They allow brands to create a unique environment for customers by offering opportunities for full brand immersion, and can greatly improve customer loyalty. Not to mention, utilizing pop-up experiences is one of the most effective ways to draw in potential clients who may otherwise not be exposed to your brand’s products or services. By also providing education and entertainment elements, a brand will be able to build a connection with its clientele that is unforgettable.
Activities like pop-up shops, cooking classes, art exhibitions, and more serve as great marketing tools that can increase upside potential when integrated in the right way within your activation plan. For instance, a wellness-centric resort brand may choose to organize a pop-up yoga session in the park in key drive markets. By doing so, they’re not only targeting health-conscious consumers but also providing a free and engaging experience that invites them to learn more about their brand in an interactive way.
The stark difference between traditional programming over custom-produced is that personalized programming that has been designed with the spirit of the brand in mind will go much further in resonating with audiences and keeping them both entertained and engaged. For hotels with a vacation club arm of the business, this level of personalization is key to winning over loyalty and selling more memberships. In a recent Skift interview with John Staten, president and CEO of Holiday Inn Club Vacations, he emphasized the expectation of travel brands to deliver unique and personalized experiences to their members. From curated and exclusive experiences such as concerts with meet and greets, behind the scenes tours, using valuable data insights on your members to craft custom programming will help build brand credibility and grow loyalty.
Memberships aside, custom-produced resort programming proves effective for travel brands for a number of reasons — to differentiate themselves from their competitors, to increase foot traffic to a specific venue, or even to disperse guests to even out congested areas. Whether it’s a variety show in an intimate bar setting or a kid-centric show that caters to little ones, these unique and unforgettable experiences focus on delivering fun for guests in a way that also works for the hotel’s operations. It also allows them to elevate their existing offerings to stretch beyond the typical resort activities and shows.
The best brand activations for hotels go beyond traditional forms of advertising and create memorable experiences for guests. The right experiential marketing strategy can help demonstrate that you care about your customer’s experience and want to provide something they won’t forget. By successfully activating a brand and creating immersive experiences, hotels can build loyalty, boost awareness and ultimately increase sales volume. Whether it is through out-of-the-box activations or a tiered strategy of seasonally chosen programs, the possibilities are limitless when it comes tomaking an impression on your audience.
P.S. Did you know that Alliance Connection has produced over 150 award-winning custom entertainment, live events, and brand experiences for the travel and tourism industry? From strategy and design to planning, management, and execution we ensure each and every event leaves a lasting brand impression. Ask us how we can support you with your experiential marketing.