“Loss is nothing else but change, and change is nature's delight”

Marcus Aurelius

Adapting To A New Norm

Things are going to be different Post COVID-19, so let’s embrace the fact that change is inevitable. Eventually, we’re going to have to adapt to what will become the “new normal.” We need to be socially responsible. Recognizing the change required in the way we do things, we will experience extensive pressure from the need to conform with updated health and safety protocols (which will be required post-pandemic). There will also be the need to safeguard ourselves against exposure to potential litigious action(s).

Rest assured that even though we wonder how this ‘new normal’ will impact brand activations moving forward, and we understand that things will be different, it doesn’t necessarily mean that brand activations, as a tactic, are dead. On the contrary, we need to upgrade our approach by rethinking what we do and how we do it.

Clever, well thought, and purposeful activations will not only survive, but they’ll also thrive. By embracing what’s next, we’ll show that we are listening and are in line with consumer sentiment and mood.

We’ve explored some of the main components that we consider are key contributors to any successful brand activation campaign post-COVID-19 and listed them below:

1. Prior Proper Planning

Things will not be the same. They are going to be different. Plan for it.

It will be wise to go back to the drawing board, to examine and reconsider all aspects of a campaign/activation from the ground up.

Understanding what you want to achieve and more importantly, what you can achieve are two vital concepts. You’ll need to know what tools are available and easily accessible in order to reach your desired goals. Possessing the knowledge of the tactics and strategies that are available and how to best utilize them will make the difference between failure and success.

Knowledge and experience become equally important at this juncture. Knowing what tactics are available comes from knowledge while the understanding of when and how to use them, comes from experience.

We have considered the following areas as the keys to any successful brand activation campaign, post-COVID-19.

2. Sanitation & Hygiene

While hygiene and sanitation have always been a consideration, their importance and consistency will be emphasized even more. Sanitization products like hand wipes, bleach, sanitizer, and cleaning cycles will be baked into every activation campaign. Sanitation would be the front and center of all design and interaction flow. Minimizing the physical contact of the consumer and potential cross-contamination will be a key consideration in space layouts for the consumer flow. Removing exposure risks from activation through intentional design will result in a unique experience, but never a less impactful one.

Safety is paramount.

- Sharing is out.
- Single-serve portions are in.
- Mass crowding is out.
- Cleaning time-outs are in.

The use of touch-free interactivity will become a key consideration in many designs. Consider RFID, Beacons, and QR Codes - all of which can be utilized to create interactions onsite without the need for physical exposure.

3. Rethink Locations

Where can you engage?

Due to the suspension of large gatherings including concerts, festivals, sporting events, and conferences, there will be a dearth of opportunity to visit large scale single locations that provide access to thousands of potential consumers at the same time.

The absence of large-scale events presents a genuine opportunity to be nimble, agile, and to segment more purposefully. While the overall impressions will be reduced, there will be an opportunity to create smaller, in-depth engagements that will ultimately be more meaningful.

Fewer impressions, but, more meaningful engagements will have a long-lasting, deeper impact on consumers and create brand loyalists.

4. Considered Design

The design of any interactive activation space (mobile or otherwise) will require a new thought process. While some of these considerations may not be new, they’ll certainly carry a different significance, moving forward.

As mentioned previously, the overall consumer flow will need to be aligned with health, safety, and sanitation protocols. It will be a crucial requirement to reduce any unnecessary contact points and any potential for cross-contamination.

Safety products such as disposable gloves, individually wrapped products, masks, sneeze-guards, hand-washing stations will all be customary to use, especially in consumable product samplings/activations.

The physical presentation of products will need to induce safe distancing, as will the need to avoid crowding through practices such as crowd control.

In addition to the functional requirements of any activation, there are some other factors that need to be considered as well.

On its own, the physical setup should convey the brand or campaign positioning. The overall aesthetic is required to be compelling enough to be captured and shared socially; it also needs to be meaningful enough to create an impact. This in turn will help with measurable ROI.

Embracing technology in the overall experience and allowing interactive technology to augment what we have physically, will play an important role in successful activations. Tools such as RFID, QR Codes, and Beacons will facilitate self-guided interactions and drive discovery without the need to physically connect.

While these are not necessarily new tactical considerations, circumstances will require us to consider the relative importance of each tool to accomplish our goals, particularly in how it assists the activation ROI. The appropriate use of these tools in any activation campaign will define the extent of success for that campaign.

5. Recalibrate Your ROI

ROI has always been the key driver for brand activations and that isn’t going to change.Its importance in activations remains as vigilant as ever.

What will change is how we measure ROI and the overall impact. Another area we need to change is-What and where we place our emphasis on, going forward.

Historically, (pre- COVID) activations were created based on potential impressions and budgeted accordingly but we will be required to do things differently now. Without the large tentpole events for brand activations it’s difficult to imagine (at least in the near future) that we’ll be able to find locations with a large crowd. We will need to place our emphasis on more purposeful measures of success.

For example, recognizing that customer acquisition is more important than pure brand awareness, we’ll focus on integrating customer conversion strategies or consumer on-ramps into activations that can drive more measurable, direct value for the brand. Therefore, rather than simply bringing awareness to your product and trying to drive consumers to retail through coupons/bounce backs, we’ll focus on creating long lead “on-ramps” that will result in brand loyalists. We will attach a value to the activation, consistent with acquiring a brand loyalist as opposed to just garnering impressions.

Thanks to technology, while complying with sanitation requirements, we can build on the situational opportunity that presents itself right now. Consumers are more comfortable “not touching” and making online purchases. Moreover, they are also savvier on their digital devices.

None of this needs to contradict the idea of being experiential. We will lean into technologies that will allow us to adapt appropriately whilst remaining in-line with the current consumer sentiments and moods.

The QR code is a good example of how we’ll be able to easily equip the consumers to connect with a brand, individually and safely. By driving the consumer to a landing page or product offer we will extend the engagement well beyond the moment.

By scanning a QR code you’ll be able to have any or all of the following things to happen:

- Product delivered to your house
- Product added to your Amazon cart
- Product-related offers delivered directly to your inbox
- Access customized content around any given product or opportunity

Other technologies can also be employed to deliver specific services including proximity marketing, airdrop gifting, RFID interactions, etc.

Essentially, all of these tools deliver everything we’ve ever wanted from any field marketing opportunity. We can enhance customer engagement and to make it last far beyond the moment – we just need to be clever about it.

In Summary:
Think & Plan Beyond The Moment

The goal is to continue building the relationship with your customer well into the future. This way, what happens onsite will be just one piece of a longer lead opportunity which, if designed properly, will exceed your expectations (and your customers) and take you to a greater horizon of success.

Anything else you’ll do to create a customer acquisition will be well worth it. Field brand advocates will connect the core crew to a community and everything else will follow.

It all starts with proper planning. From the very beginning, plan what will happen next, because if you are successful with your customer acquisition tactics, brand advocates will then connect the core to the crew and the crew will connect to the community. Eventually and undoubtedly, success will follow.

Now let’s get out there and play!