Five agency characteristics that all good activations partners need
For activations to be a success, brands must appoint a strategic partner to conceptualise a cohesive brand story that resonates with their audience, says activations expert Andreas Smit. Smit adds that despite more budget currently being put behind virtual events, online and mobile engagement tactics, South Africa remains a nation that craves connection and appreciates physical rewards.
This bodes well for the promotional and activation space. The building blocks of any great activation or promotional strategy includes the right channel, mechanic, resources, activation equipment and consumer incentive, as well as the right client service and operations team.
Here are five non-negotiables that every brand manager must check before committing to an agency:
1. It's strategic approach
All too often, agencies try to solve a brand's problem with their preferred solution. Digital agencies punt an online solution, OOH agencies will push billboards and building wraps.
An assessment should be done to confirm if the agency has taken a true, unbiased view of the pain points in question and recommended an approach that's most suited to solving specific brand challenges. Look at strategy before tactics; start with the 'why' before the 'how'.
2. It focuses on budget
Is your activation agency cost-obsessed? Their focus should not only be on investment strategies that generate the best returns but on ways to maximise your budget, no matter how big or small.
An agency must do everything in its power to make sure the budget works hard and that the bulk of it is spent on activities that directly influence the consumer (rather than agency time), all the while making sure the deliverables are tangible and useful.
If your agency is white labeling services, are the suppliers offering competitive costings that are in step with their results?
3. It's quality
It's one thing to be cost-obsessed but quite another to know when an obsession with quality is what will make all the difference. Activations agencies may at times be guilty of incidental wastage, but clients are often guilty of doing things on the cheap.
A company's swag speaks volumes about its culture and selecting the cheapest promotional item, venue, or incentive to save a buck, ultimately damages the brand. A good agency is able to discern what elements require big investment versus those that are nice to have, or even gimmicky.
Agree on items that are considered kites and those that are considered Boeings. Don't be stingy on collateral that lifts and drives brand equity; after all, a branded Boeing is like painting your brand's name across the sky.
4. It's creativity, distribution and connection
If your activations are not creating deep emotional connections with consumers, you're wasting your time. It's key that your engagement creates or strengthens a positive neural connection in the mind of your audience; otherwise, you'll be lost in an already overcrowded market.
This doesn't mean the client brief always has to start with 'create a disruptive and innovative campaign'. It needs to start with 'drive results by creating an emotional reaction within the hearts and minds of the target audience' by using basic drivers and good old-fashioned thinking outside the box.
A well-trained, well-placed promoter, who has a passion for the brand and a conviction for the product, will win over a consumer far more readily than the latest greatest technology can.
This, ultimately, is how you win on the ground, one consumer at a time. Don't get fancy with bells and whistles if you're not getting this right. This may require a review (and overhaul) of your agency's recruitment, training and brand ambassador process.
5. Its analytics
Modern agencies are a unique blend of science and creative talent and when your brand is ready to push boundaries — demand innovation and disruptive ideas backed by strategic thinking.
Take on ideas never rolled out before and back the ideas and bring the vision to life. Use a little budget, trial the idea and measure the impact based on pre-determined KPIs that will matter to the C-Suite and impact the bottom line.
Every campaign that a brand gives an agency should be run from an outcomes-based agreement with actual data to prove results. So evaluate reporting software and how data is used to improve future campaigns; actionable insights should always be fed into the next brand plan.
Now more than ever, companies should be reviewing every touchpoint a consumer has with their brand and delivering an experienced-based emotional connection. Actively building purpose-led brands matters. Experience over product.
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