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Activating a Consumer Brand in the Digital Space

Published on Tuesday, November 9, 2021

Why Brand Activation?

There is often a lot of hesitancy in launching, expanding, or optimizing the ecommerce arm of a traditionally retail-dependent brand. Admittedly, it can be a daunting project. Often, the key decision makers don’t understand the value the brand holds in the market. In our experience, jumping in head first reaps rewards few brands expect when activating their brand in the ecomm space. In this article, you’ll learn common pain points or hesitancies brands face, and how they can be solved when launching, expanding, optimizing, or refining an ecommerce experience. 


What is Brand Activation?

“For marketers, brand activations [are meant] to focus on the activation of the consumer themselves. For example, if a consumer is physically engaging with a brand in any way, they are engaging in brand activation.” Source

Here are some of the most common push-backs we receive when suggesting an expansion of a brand’s ecommerce arm of the business:

  • Our brand doesn’t matter to our end customers. They trust the retailer the product is being sold through and their voice is more impactful than ours.
  • Our customers only buy in a certain way. They’re just not going to buy in the ecomm space. They go to the stores they always have, and our products are there. 
  • Our brand has a loyal customer base
  • Selling direct is more profitable than selling through our retailer partnerships on an individual product level

While valid points, each of these hesitations have a common theme: missed brand fan relationship opportunities. By activating your brand in a direct-to-consumer fashion, you’ll be able to:

  • Own the relationship and engage with the end-consumer
  • Stop relying on all impressions of the brand lying with a middleman 
  • Build your own following and earn the direct (higher value!) sale
  • Take charge of expanding your audience footprint


Transitioning historical success to the digital space 

So, you have a brand that has historically been sold through retail partnerships? You [likely] admittedly don’t know the full value or brand loyalty the brand has because the relationship with the end consumer has always been owned by a retailer partnership. Have you been considering how much volume you could do through a direct ecomm application? A brand activation strategy could be the opportunity for your business to experience an explosion of growth virtually overnight through your loyal customer base who wants to buy straight from the source. They believe if they have a great experience with your products, they’ll have a wonderful experience buying through your owned real estate vs. depending on a third party.


Understanding historical brand value to drive future success

Not sure how much value your brand currently has in the marketplace? There are some great ways to check your brand’s current, organic footprint to know how many people are primed to purchase direct. 

1. Check social activity. Social media is an engagement platform. It allows users to express their feelings on a variety of topics — including your brand! There are a few things to gut check on social media to gain insight into how popular your brand is.

Check hashtags: in Instagram and Facebook, do some quick searches on a variety of your brand’s name. We did this with KEY® Apparel upon entering a partnership with them to activate their brand. The volume of organic tagging was insane! We searched hashtags like:

  • #keyapparel
  • #keybibs
  • #keybiboveralls

Not only does hashtag research give visibility into how popular your brand is organically, it also supports user generated content curation. We’ll discuss that in a separate blog. 

Another way to leverage social platforms is by checking your tagged content. On Instagram, this is easy to do. If you have a branded profile, check your ‘tagged’ section to see how many times people are tagging your brand in their photos. 

2. Check branded search volume: when people search for branded content, they’re considered ‘ready to purchase’. They know exactly what they’re looking for — they just need to know where to get it. Likely, all this traffic is going to your wholesale partners. As the owner of the brand, your authority (as Google sees it) is much more important than your wholesalers. You’re the expert and owner of the brand. AHRefs is a great tool if you have an account or want to start a free trial for in-depth insights, Search Volume is also a great free tool. 

3. Get a pulse on your customer list: do you have a database of B2C customers already? This is a GREAT opportunity to jump start direct sales. 

4. Gain an understanding of your brand and product sentiment: doing a Google search, check out what people are saying about your products (sold through retailers). Is it positive? Are there common themes? Use these insights to guide messaging on your ecomm platform. 


Mapping a plan for brand activation

Once you’ve done the initial research, you’re ready to begin mapping out a plan for activation. 

Start with a business evaluation. Answer the following questions as a business or brand insider. Ask some target customer profiles to give their opinion on these elements, too. It’s likely your perception is different from your users’ perceptions. Consider a formal Marketing Roadmap to document existing business practices and identify opportunities, paired with an action plan. 

Branding consistency: 

  • Purpose and persona
    • Is every element in your customer-facing collateral consistent? Does it exude a common brand theme? Do you have brand guidelines? These are all baselines to a solid ecomm program. 
  • Company offers
    • What are your brand promises? 
  • Competitive audit
    • USP — what sets you apart? 
    • What is your competition doing well?
  • User Persona development
    • Who are you talking to?


Check out your customer list:

  • Set up email marketing
  • Set up retargeting


Let your branded key terms do the work. Get the direct sale vs. the third party/wholesale sale. 

  • Paid search 
    • It might seem like wasted dollars, but you should bid on your branded key terms — especially in a crowded space. If you’re not, your competitors will — and they’ll get the sale intended for you!
  • Get active on social media
    • Remember that research you already performed? Use it to populate your organic social content!


Maximize the value of your existing customers to drive repeat business. Create brand fans of your loyal customers. Their contacts are likely the perfect look-alike audiences for your brand. Use their voice for advocacy to grow your audience pool. Offer them:

  • Post-purchase workflows
  • Loyalty program
  • Exclusive offers


By now, you should have a good idea for what to expect from, and how to plan for your ecommerce brand activation. Our brand activation agency team is happy to have a more in-depth conversation with you should you feel your brand is ready for a lucrative business expansion.


rachel dicke
Rachel Dicke
Director of Client Success