Is There a Difference Between Brand Activations and Experiential Activations….and Does it Even Matter?

16th Jan

We’re pretty confident at our ability to amplify a brand activation or experiential activation for a client, however we are still unable to completely agree on their definitions. We may even be guilty of using them interchangeably when feeling lazy. Shock horror.

We’ve asked around and it seems we’re not alone, so let’s delve deeper into what exactly an activation is and figure this shizzle out together.


Brand experiences can range from corporate events, experiential stunts, in-store interactions and press days. The KPIs can vary from staff motivation, reach/impressions, sales, content, consumer trust and much more. There is certainly no one size fits all when it comes to designing these events.

So is there a difference between branded activations and experiential activations, and does it even matter?

Brand activations have the goal of starting or building upon a brand-client relationship. It’s an opportunity to prove that your brand really is who it says it is. It should nurture trust, creative memories and generally manifest the brand’s ethos loudly and proudly. It’s this process of making a brand an actual brand (recognised from others) that is called brand activation. This activation activity can occur through a variety of methods; from digital, experiential, PR and traditional advertising.

Aha, a light bulb moment perhaps. That was more simple that we’d feared. Experiential activations are a sub-set of brand activations. A project can have a focus of brand activation, and not use experiential marketing at all, but if it’s an experiential activation, it’s a type of brand activation. Now we feel silly for not being so sure in the first place.

We adore this example of an experiential activation campaign from Nivea from a couple of years ago, where they handed out UV sensitive dolls on a beach in Rio de Janeiro, to demonstrate their brand promise in such a fantastically obvious way. 

Nivea cares for you and your family's skin, and they’re willing to let you test it in front of them. It’s simple - they know suncare, and they know how important it is. They’re also hitting the secondary angle of understanding that the challenge isn’t getting parents to purchase suncare for their children, it’s often the children refusing to have the cream applied.

Flash Pack and Vauxhall

We’re more than happy to pimp our own great work too; we’re not shy. We recently worked with Weber Shandwick and Vauxhall on their brand activation at Goodwood Festival of Speed. We designed and custom built a wind machine pod, that gave users the experience of being out on the track, while capturing some pretty kick arse imagery ripe for sharing on social. It seems that Vauxhall have been re-evaluating their brand identity over the past few years, so their activation at Goodwood was an easy win for the ‘We’re really British” notion that remains one their core brand positions. It was also perhaps a nudge at challenging their staid reputation.

Brand experiences, no matter what you end up calling them, should fill your consumers with excitement, and be something worth talking about. Otherwise it doesn’t matter what you’ve called them, no one will care anyway.

Before you go, check out some more of the brand experiences we have worked on.