Orange ‘Go Europe’ and marketing’s new arsenal: activation

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In India, when we say ‘activation’ what comes to mind is a brand-related activity in a shopping mall. Nothing wrong with that. It usually helps in product sampling, creating awareness about a new launch, its product’s features etc. Executed well, it can evoke enthusiastic participation. Such activities may fall short on a few things: target audience relevance and action-orientation for example. I have noticed several premium, lifestyle brands mounting activation in a mall and left wondering if those interacting with the brand are really the brand’s potential target audience. Most of the times it is just hangers-on out to have some fun. Also, I have wondered if such activations are really action oriented or are they simply meant to impart information.

Globally, the phenomenon of activation, mostly in the form of stunts is here to stay. Just look at the list of viral videos or award winning campaigns and you will find many such initiatives. And its done on a completely different scale. A few aspects of such activation campaigns that come to mind:

Geography is irrelevant, all brands are global: TNT’s launch in Belgium became famous worldwide, thanks to ‘A dramatic surprise in a quiet square‘.  The Lynx augmented reality stunt in London went viral. A single poster designed and executed in Shanghai for Coke went on to win at Cannes and talked about globally. A digital campaign for E-store in Korea was celebrated across the world. The Coke ‘Small World Machines’ was executed in Delhi & Lahore but talked about all over the world. By that yardstick, a local brand from Kanpur or Nagoya has an equal chance as a global brand to become famous.

A simple idea, hardwired to the brand promise: just as in advertising, the activation idea must have an idea rooted to the brand. Bring the experience of Virgin Atlantic in an unexpected environment is an idea that is rooted to the brand.

Critical factor – relevance more than jaw-dropping idea: not every brand needs to or can pull off a fall from space, like Red Bull did. A simple Twitter based idea: an English school in Brazil got students to correct grammar in celeb tweets.

Audacious twist: while most such activation ideas do deliver on the surprise factor, the memorable ones simply do it an audacious manner. To promote their fast internet service, Fastweb dramatised ‘speed’ by transforming Milan subway into what looked like  Tokyo station, complete with actors, signage…the works. Sometimes an idea that may work in one part of the world, may actually be dangerous and backfire in some other part of the world. This Nivea stunt for example: it may have worked in Europe, but try pulling it off in the US or Asia – it may have caused a riot.

Execution is key: needless to say, no matte how big the idea, it all boils down to execution. A lot of preparation goes into the actual event and coordinating the various actors, stuntmen and so on.

The case video will make or break the idea: as with formal presentations, packaging is everything. Some say that far too much emphasis is placed on the case video rather than the idea…a case of the tail wagging the dog. A powerful idea should sell itself but still there’s no harm in putting together a slick video that gets across the power of the idea. Dove Real Beauty Sketches was very well put together.

Befriend YouTube and Social Media: shamelessly promote your videos on YouTube and Social Media networks. They help spread the message with their pass-along nature.

In this context take a look at a stunt for Orange Telecom in Europe. The proposition: when you travel abroad your phone bill should not come as a surprise. The idea: shock travellers in an unexpected manner.

Agency: Publicis

The campaign also included a stunt where tourists  came face-to-face with a blinking, moving Mona Lisa at the Louvre, only to be reassured with a message from Orange about roaming charges. Is that creative thinking or far too intrusive?

What do you think of the Orange idea? Any other aspects of successful activation campaigns that come to your mind? Do comment in.

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