Brand activation is more effective than normal advertising

Graffiti artist works
Graffiti artist works on a mural during the launch of Smirnoff: Battle of the Beats at Jikonis on Kiambu Road, Nairobi, on October 10, 2018. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Alcohol brand, Smirnoff last month unveiled a Kenyan campaign called, #SmirnoffMixExperience, that would see its brand ambassadors, musicians Fena Gitu and Octopizzo, engage consumers in different counties through activations, a move that evidence shows can increase return on investment and push up sales.

The brand is counting on its well-known brand ambassadors to attract revellers and influence their purchase decision. During the activations, which are carried out in different nightclubs mostly on Fridays, consumers get the chance to sample the products including its vodka variants and cocktail offerings, which builds awareness leading to repeat purchases.

“The Smirnoff mix experience is an exciting taste campaign that will see the brand ambassadors educate consumers on the new perfect cocktail-serve and jug-serve as well as be part of our brand journey,” said Wanjiku Njonjo, Smirnoff Brand Manager.

“The campaign involves the brand interacting with consumers and so far we have visited Nairobi, Kisumu and Mombasa nightclubs where we have got an overwhelming response but we are seeking to visit more around the country.”

Brand activations differ from the traditional advertising in that they ignite the consumers’ buying process when they try the product at the point of sale. This is unlike television or newspaper advertisements that just notifies that a product exists.


A research paper on brand activation which reviewed the conceptual and practical perspectives conducted by the University of Kelaniya, Sri Lanka, found that the strategy had an immediate and interactive influence.

The researchers noted that brand activation uses six avenues which connect and interact with the consumers to bring life to a brand. These are promotion marketing, experiential marketing, retailer marketing, relationship marketing, content marketing and influencer marketing.

“It is about going to the consumers and building awareness from the ground. This will keep the product top of mind, and especially in a competitive environment where they are interacting with other brands. In the case of Smirnoff, visiting nightclubs helps in reaching out to its consumers at the point of sale,” said Stella Kimani, a brand strategist.

An example of a company that successfully used the strategy to encourage consumers to try its new product is soft drink brand, Mountain Dew. In 2012, it engaged in a 43-day brand activation campaign in the UK in which it toured different cities in a bid to introduce its new drink Mountain Dew Energy to consumers.

Its team included 15 brand ambassadors who drove around the city in a branded truck and would make stopovers in adrenaline-filled events, where consumers are likely to buy the products. It also hosted competitions and giveaways for consumers, in addition to out free samples.

“The purpose of brand activations is to create a closer bond between the consumer and the brand by immersing them in a fun and memorable experience. If a brand activation evokes genuine positive emotions within people then they are more likely to associate those emotions with that brand, which is more effective than just showing them a Facebook advertisement,” reported digital marketing platform, E-consultancy.

The campaign achieved a return on investment of £1.85 for every £1 spent, and 55 per cent of people targeted by the event went on to purchase a Mountain Dew, more than 30 per cent of whom were new purchasers.

However, there is the risk that once the brand activation period is over products sales will normalise or even decline as it is no longer top of mind and as they switch back to their usual product.

“The activations built the Mountain Dew brand in the UK and elevated its sales but after a few months, when the activation effect was over, it was hard to spot a consumer drinking the soft drink,” reported E-consultancy.

- African Laughter