How to Build a Killer Brand Activation at Industry Events

We live in an era marked by overwhelm – of information, of choice, of competition. In a saturated market such as cannabis, the art of standing out has become a complex dance of creativity and strategy. 

Digital cannabis marketing tactics aside, brands are increasingly turning to unconventional approaches to captivate potential customers. Enter, brand activation.

Dynamic experiences that immediately create a lasting impression sit at the crossroads of memorable experiences and strategic brand building, making them a key element of success in the cannabis industry. 

As a non-traditional cannabis networking event, we’re no strangers to unconventional. To help you stand out in the industry, we’re diving into exactly how a killer brand activation can help you make a splash at industry events and remain top of mind for your customers.

What is brand activation?

Brand activation is a form of experiential marketing that aims to evoke specific emotions, build brand awareness, and encourage customer loyalty beyond traditional marketing methods. It is ultimately a tactic for companies to engage customers through a hands-on experience that creates a tangible memory of the brand. 

This could be in the form of interactive pop-ups, exclusive events, out-of-home experiences, and more. For instance, every time a brand has a pop-up event at a dispensary, that’s a brand activation. Any time you attend a cannabis trade show and set up a booth, that’s a brand activation. If you think back to your college mascot prancing around stadium aisles…well, that’s a form of brand activation too. 

Successful brand activation campaigns align with your brand’s values and personality so you can establish a meaningful connection with your target audience. 

While many brand activations occur as a campaign effort on the brand’s part, activations at industry events are particularly successful because they connect with a larger crowd and allow your brand to shine in a relevant niche.

Industry events play a crucial role in enhancing a company’s presence, whether you’re there as an attendee or a sponsor. You get to build relationships and create lasting impressions within a specific professional or consumer audience.

Specifically, when it comes to the saturated cannabis industry, a brand activation at an industry event provides you with: 

  • Visibility and exposure
  • Targeted engagement of your consumer base or B2B audience
  • Differentiation from your competitors 
  • Opportunity to showcase and demonstrate your product 
  • Networking opportunities 

How to Plan Your Brand Activation

Although a brand activation can be as simple as setting up a booth, it often comes with a significant investment, so it’s best to treat it like one by planning in advance. Whether you’re going to MJBiz Con or sponsoring a golf tournament, there are ways to plan your brand activation to make the most of your time. 

Setting Objectives

As always, defining clear goals for your activation is the first step to ensure success. 

In the end, the main goal of brand activation is increasing your brand awareness. However, there are many ways to get there. For instance, you could aim for customer acquisition, user sign-ups, social media engagement, and so on. 

With a goal in mind, you can design a brand activation strategy that easily achieves your goals. 

Let’s say your goal is customer acquisition and brand awareness. You could sponsor a mocktail session at an industry event, using your cannabis beverage to create infused mocktail recipes. 

This allows potential customers to engage with your brand by using it in a drink and trying it out themselves. If they’re interested, you win over new potential customers who now know how to use your product in many different ways. 

Researching the Event

You don’t have to be new to the industry to know that there are dozens of different cannabis industry events all year long. From massive trade shows with endless booths and exhibition floors to golf tournaments and networking events, you truly have the industry at your fingertips.

However, when choosing to build a brand activation at an industry event, it’s important to choose that event wisely. 

For instance, if you’re a B2B cannabis business that just needs lead acquisition, it may be a numbers game. Traditional industry events such as trade shows and conferences are a great way to get in front of a lot of different types of cannabis businesses at once.

However, if you’re looking for more general brand awareness and engagement, you could have more fun. At the 2023 TeeHC Open, Treez, a dispensary software provider, sponsored the golf carts at our tournament. 

Just as robust software helps a dispensary streamline its operations, Treez helped streamline the game of golf through, well, the golf carts everyone was riding around in. 

When evaluating the events you’re attending and activating as a cannabis brand, be sure to analyze past event success, themes, audience types, and the existing opportunities for an out-of-the-box brand activation. 

Designing a Memorable Experience

To design a memorable brand activation, you have to pay attention to every detail that comes into contact with your audience. From the aesthetics of your booth or activation space to the hands-on elements you incorporate into your experience, everything should be on-brand and help you reach the goals you defined before. 

Begin by working with professional trade show marketers or using your team to design  a captivating physical environment.

This should not only reflect your brand’s identity but also include a welcoming and immersive activity of some kind. Whether that’s live demonstrations or samples of your products, digital experiences using AR (augmented reality) or VR (virtual reality), gamified activities, or more. 

The most important thing is to maintain a seamless connection between the activation and the overall brand aesthetic. Consistency in visual elements, messaging, and tone reinforces your brand identity, ensuring that the brand activation is cohesive and therefore creates a lasting impression on your audience. 

By making an engaging physical space with interactive features and a consistent aesthetic, you can forge a relationship with your customers that resonates beyond the activation, solidifying a positive and enduring connection in the long-run.

Executing Your Brand Activation

Finally – you’ve planned your activation and its design, now what? 

When you’re executing a brand activation at an industry event, it’s crucial that you network, network, network! Bring your most knowledgeable, enthusiastic team members and prioritize making each and every attendee feel the connection with your brand.

Encouraging participation is pivotal; attendee engagement elevates your brand activation beyond a mere display, transforming it into a memorable experience for everyone. Additionally, be sure to collect and prompt user-generated content (UGC) throughout the day. 

UGC serves as a valuable post-event resource, allowing you to capture and share the authentic experiences of attendees to further amplify your brand’s reach and influence. 

By focusing on a well-prepared team, active attendee engagement, and the curation of user-generated content, you can ensure that your brand activation not only resonates within the event but continues to make a splash across digital platforms, extending the impact long after the event concludes.

Examples of Successful Brand Activation

Coca-Cola’s #TakeATasteNow

In collaboration with Tesco Group, Coca-Cola launched an out-of-home brand activation campaign using augmented reality (AR) to promote its Coke Zero product line. 

This innovative campaign allows consumers to manipulate the 3D projections displayed on any screen in real-time through their mobile devices. By scanning the QR codes on screens, participants can change the projections from their phones while also receiving a digital voucher for a free Coke Zero at Tesco stores. 

The campaign was launched for a limited time from September to October 2023 across the UK, notably including London’s prominent Piccadilly Lights, making it the first time consumers could engage directly with the square’s screens via their mobile devices.

Through #TakeATasteNow, consumers get to experience something new for the first time and they get a free Coke just for participating! This brand activation is the perfect example of how to put the consumer first and create an experience that feels like a win-win to them. 

Glossier’s Pop-Up Stores

Another brand that has mastered brand activation is Glossier. Although the company started as a beauty blog, it quickly expanded into a natural cosmetics brand, attracting Gen Z women from all around the world. With innovative campaigns and products designed almost exclusively through customer feedback, Glossier’s marketing tactics align with their high-touch approach.

In June 2023, the brand partnered with Food Truck Promotions to promote its Cloud Paint blush summer capsule collection through branded vehicles. The experience featured three matching blush trucks in front of Glossier stores in SoHo, Williamsburg, and West Hollywood, California. 

With this unique out-of-home experience, Glossier is able to attract the attention of potential customers and create an additional touchpoint for existing customers to interact with the brand outside of their stores.

Garcia Handpicked’s Bertha Bus

Bertha is an interactive cannabis tour bus, part of the Garcia Handpicked cannabis brand. The trailer bus is described as “spreading the love of Garcia Handpicked cannabis” while on tour around legal states in the U.S., allowing consumers to shop merch and other products while interacting with staff and taking dope photos.

The bus runs year-round and even has its own social media account! We were lucky enough to have Bertha grace us with her presence at the 2023 TeeHC Open, where attendees connected with Garcia Handpicked staff and got to pick up free swag and purchase exclusive merchandise from the bus. 

This pop-up campaign on wheels is the kind of brand activation that has a great lifespan. Consumers get to interact intimately with the Garcia Handpicked team, shop merchandise that you may not find anywhere else, and they get a fun photo-op out of it! Talk about being memorable.

Take your brand to the next level at the annual TeeHC Open

At the annual TeeHC Open event, our sponsors and brand ambassadors create tons of interactive brand activations for attendees to enjoy. From samples and tastings of innovative cannabis products to activities, contests, and more, there’s plenty to experience.

We host a variety of types of businesses and let networking flourish in these activations. If that’s enough to convince you to join us next year, go ahead and put yourself on our RSVP list by contacting our team

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