Sangeeta Tanwar

Brand Activation Summit 2010: All brands need activation at different stages of evolution

The imagery associated with premium products calls for a cautious approach and controlled environment during an activation programme

The final session of the Brand Activation Summit 2010, organised by afaqs! Events in association with Jagran Solutions, saw speakers talking at length about the categories that lend themselves best to activation and the means to maximise their return on investment.

The discussion, moderated by Sreekant Khandekar, co-founder and director, afaqs!, had a panel comprising Ambika Sharma, national head, Jagran Solutions; N Divakar, head, retail branding, HPCL; and Hiroshi Omata, director and vice-president, Dentsu Marcom. Khandekar kicked off the discussion by inviting Divakar to share his experiences with brand activation, given that his company, HPCL, doesn't splurge huge sums on advertising.

Brand Activation Summit 2010: All brands need activation at different stages of evolution
Brand Activation Summit 2010: All brands need activation at different stages of evolution
Brand Activation Summit 2010: All brands need activation at different stages of evolution
Brand Activation Summit 2010: All brands need activation at different stages of evolution
Divakar began by accepting that when it comes to choosing a petrol pump, consumers are not expected to show any preferences, given that it is a low involvement category. Since consumers fill petrol on the go, what matters to them is convenience.

The nature of the category, coupled with the fact that HPCL hardly advertises, makes it a brand that lends itself well to brand activation. Divakar shared with the audience the encouraging results of its latest activation programme, the HP Happy Wheels Offer. The brief to the agency was to keep the mass media out of the campaign. The activity, aimed at pushing volume sales at HPCL outlets, was carried out at 9,000 retail outlets and reached 45,000 customers. It received 75 lakh plus SMS responses.

According to Divakar, irrespective of the category, every brand requires some degree of activation, depending on its stage of evolution.

Omata of Dentsu Marcom suggested that broadly, automobiles, electronics, real estate and retail lend themselves best to activation. Having said that, activation is strategy-led rather than category-led. Activation is all about integrating the interests of all the stakeholders to the media being used for the campaign.

Taking the debate a step further, Sharma of Jagran Solutions said that the nature of activation differs from product to product. For example, utilisation of brand activation would be different for products that are not available off the shelf compared to those available off the shelf. In fact, a product displayed in a multi-brand showroom will require more jazz, glamour and substantial content to differentiate and establish its imagery over other brands in the category available in the showroom.

In any given situation, irrespective of the media, one has to ensure that the message inherent in the campaign should drive the consumer to the point of purchase, thus influencing the consumer to buy that product.

Khandekar sought the panellists' opinion on the fact that after dedicating high spends on mass media, only a small portion of the advertising budgets are directed to other media. In such a scenario, what are the factors that influence brands in taking to activations?

To this, Omata observed, "With the evolution of technology and popularity of new media, the consumer is not just the receiver of content. He is also part of the content producing community. This implies that consumer feedback is essential and activation helps in achieving this."

According to Divakar, consumers are increasingly expressing the need for greater engagement and involvement on different levels and brand activation turns out to be the right way to accomplish this function.

The moderator raised another interesting query related to risks involved in delivering a communication message in the case of premium brands via activation. Sharma admitted that for premium categories, one has to control the quality of the message as well as monitor the kind of audience one is attracting. This is crucial because the cost of acquiring a consumer for a premium brand is much higher compared to getting a consumer for the FMCG category.

She substantiated her comments by giving an example of placing a high-end luxury car in a mall, which is frequented by not only the people who can afford the product but also by individuals who frequent the place to enjoy the comfort of an air-conditioned surrounding. In other words, wrong placement of a product or faulty mapping of the target group could result in exposing one's product to the wrong audience.

Another interesting idea that emerged from the panel discussion related to the relevance and usage of data collected from activation.

Divakar, for one, felt that the data collected is important, but one had to be sure that six months down the line or a year later, a brand could still rely on the collected data. Quality of the data in mapping out a brand's future is crucial as long as one is convinced about the authenticity and relevance of the available data.

Summing up the discussion, Sharma said that in accordance with industry practice, the data collected by her agency during the course of an activation programme belongs solely to the client. The clients have their own processes in place to clean up the data and then, as per the requirement, share it with various product categories or departments within the organisation or pass it on to various dealerships or consumers of their products.

The Brand Activation Summit 2010 was presented by Jagran Solutions and Star News was Session Sponsor.

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