How to Make Your B2B Brand Activation Stand Out
How to Make Your B2B Brand Activation Stand Out
The world’s foremost brands are reinvesting in their exhibitions, activations, and third-party experiences. Industry giants converge at flagship events, and the pressure to participate and make a memorable impact is palpable.
Events like CES, SXSW, and Mobile World Congress transcend the boundaries of convention centers, transforming entire cities into immersive environments in which brands engage with their audiences through captivating, entertaining, and informative touchpoints.
Inside the expo booth or outside the convention center, successful companies take their brand identities and shape them into tangible environments, stimulating all five senses to evoke powerful emotions from the audience.
The ultimate mark of success extends beyond presence; it involves reimagining the essence of a brand in creative and unexpected ways, bringing it to life in the third dimension to welcome attendee engagement, media impressions, and viral social media moments to generate an elevated return on investment.
We’ve curated a list of trends and tactics to help your brand stand out among a sea of activations. Let’s dig in.
AI and Tech
AI is captivating the event industry, and it's leading to sophisticated activations that combine cutting-edge technology and surprise-and-delight moments. AI experiences should be authentic, tangible, and intuitive. Most importantly, they should complement the brand's essence through storytelling, value proposition integration, and emotional connectivity.
Some engaging examples:
- Brain-scanning technology turns thoughts into words
- The Dreamkeeper and other AI dream imagery turn written dream descriptions into images
- Snapbar, OutSnapped, and other AI-enhanced photo booths give attendees a captivating, themed visual that echoes the spirit of your event
- Movie-scene activations to make your attendees the star of the show (like Ford did here)
- XR (extended reality) simulations like climbing walls, racing simulators, and product demos
- Holographic technology for speakers and entertainment
Art and Environment
Attendees crave immersive experiences where they can lose themselves in another world. While this isn’t a novel aspiration for event leaders, new creative trends provide a vibrant backdrop for brand activations. In 2024, psychedelic and Y2K aesthetics, maximalism, and whimsy will drive the creative landscape. Take it from leading brands like Jell-O, Pepsi, and Slurpee, who recently opted for bold rebranding.
Some environmental trends that are top of mind for us include:
- Color trends that evoke emotions, like Color Marketing Group’s 2024 Key Colors Connection, Follow Me!, Busco!, and Azoic
- Immersive art installations, like Artechouse and Wisdome
- Psychedelic designs
- Tree houses and exploratory spaces like Meow Wolf, Hopscotch, and teamLab
- Double-decker busses and multi-use areas (like Shein and Klarna did here)
- Vertical expansion with two-story builds, floating rigged decor, slides, and dynamic lighting
- Grand entrances to lure attendees in, like TikTok’s SXSW party
- Unexpected shapes and settings like in-the-round spaces, tents, inflatable spaces
Sustainability and CSR
In an increasingly value-driven society, consumers invest in brands that reflect their values through messaging and action. With consumers feeling it is more difficult to live according to their values, the brands that look forward, anticipate, identify, and help close the values-behavior gap will flourish and create more meaningful relationships with their customers.
A few value-led sustainability and CSR activation approaches include:
- Builds using sustainable materials (mushrooms are all the rage)
- Give-back activities like tree-planting games with Green Girls Organisation or clean water-giving projects with Fill it Forward
- Climate-positive activities where attendees generate energy to offset the event’s footprint, like Feel the Peel, a circular juice bar that uses oranges to make bioplastic, turns it into filament, and 3D prints disposable cups to drink the freshly-squeezed juice
- Programs that reward attendees for their sustainability efforts, like Corona’s global Plastic Fishing Tournament, a global-scale initiative where anglers were rewarded for fishing plastic waste from the sea
- Dupe Swap, like Lululemon’s two-day event to swap lookalikes for the real deal
Anti-Anxiety, Wellness, and Sensory Activities
People are grappling with higher stress levels than ever before, and, as a result, wellness has emerged as a paramount value for many companies. Acknowledging this shift, brands should foster meaningful and memorable connections with their audiences by integrating anti-anxiety and wellness activities into their activations.
Some of our recent favorites include:
People respond to adventure with a visceral enthusiasm that taps into feelings of exploration and curiosity. Brands should harness this innate human response by infusing elements of adventure into their activations and crafting experiences that offer attendees a taste of the extraordinary. This approach will leave lasting impressions for attendees and increase the likelihood of press exposure and social media shares.
Some items on our adventure list include:
- Unbranded, enter-at-your-own-risk mystery environments, like Oreo’s Wonder Vault activation to tease a new cookie flavor
- Mobile zip lines
- Human claw machines, like Riot Games did at AWS re:Play
- “Skinvertising” aka tattoos (temporary and permanent!), like North Italia’s Pi Day Celebration at SXSW
- Suspended networking chairs like at C2 Montreal
With the revival of retro and the ushering in of the “joyconomy”, characterized by ageless play and happy hacking, consumers find comfort and inspiration through things that remind them of their youth. People pursue things that spark the childlike wonder and excitement they crave, from products and environmental design to content and branding.
Some ways to incorporate nostalgia into a brand activation include:
- Vintage product releases and tech displays, like LEGO’s “Brickbuster” activation at Comic-Con
- Iconic brand mascots, like Grimace’s 90s-themed birthday campaign
- Adult etiquette classes
- Embracing old trends, fashion, tech
- Barbie-core experiences, like the Boston Red Sox Barbie Night at “Kenway” Park
Nostalgic collectibles like Neopets, Tamagatchis, and custom-branded Squishmallows
- Nostalgia arcades
Networking, Learning, and Enablement
Recent research shows that attendees have shifting expectations for networking and learning; they expect their events to facilitate first-hand exploration and demonstration. For third-party events, event professionals should harness this trend by crafting activations that cater to these expectations and place attendees squarely in the middle of the action.
Some highly active networking, learning, and enablement trends we are watching include:
- Environmental demos wherein attendees immerse themselves in real-world scenarios to test products (like Amazon’s Alexa-enabled model homes)
- Investor presentations for activating brands to grow their businesses, Shark Tank-style
- TikTok takeovers, like Salesforces’ behind-the-scenes look at Dreamforce
By strategically capitalizing on transient spaces' fluidity, brands capture passersby's attention and create unforgettable experiences in the “in-between” spaces.
Top of mind for our team:
- Branded or themed pedicab rides
- Taking over a vacant retail space or venue near the conference campus, like Dolby House at SXSW
- Branded or themed busses that offer an experience like entertainment or F&B, like Tea Around Town did here
- Guerrilla stunts like Peacock’s SXSW activation for Mrs. Davis
There is a rise in ultra-exclusive experiences offered by brands that reinforce their value while deepening their audience’s investment. From ultra-exclusive rewards like Starbucks Odyssey to increased exclusive, paid content on Patreon or Instagram Creator Subscriptions, the desire for ultra-exclusivity in a world of never-ending access makes audiences willing to pay a premium. When applied to brand activations, this trend fuels some serious FOMO.
Some of our favorite VIP trends include:
- VIP-only experience within the activation, i.e., an event within the event, like Postmates’ ReTreat VIP activation at Coachella
- Culinary experiences
- Private entertainment experiences, like iHeartMedia and MediaLink’s VIP Executive Dinner with John Legend at CES
- Exclusive pre-order options
In the ever-evolving landscape of brand activations, the key to success lies in the ability to distinguish your brand from the rest. By embracing these trends, your brand will leave an indelible mark and position the brand as the most memorable and engaging activation at the event. Contact us for more insights into the trends that will drive success for your brand activation.
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