NYX launched into full-on activation mode for this year's Coachella event.

Leveraging a glitter theme, the cosmetics brand created a literal and figurative glamour playground. From a mouth-shaped slide and glitter fountain to a pro makeup artist serving up tutorials, NYX demonstrated how to speak the modern customer's language.

Activating to foster connections

Brand activations blend the thrill of experiential marketing with the action of trying new products. This merger of emotion and physical presence helps cement brand loyalty and boost fandom. And it cannot seem to happen too often in this age of heightened consumer expectations.

No longer are buyers, particularly younger ones, content to hear about merchandise or make purchases based on packaging or product need alone. Thanks to years of receiving instant gratification via digitization, they want every brand touch point to have flavor and meaning. Activation marketing campaigns accommodate these ever-changing expectations. 

On the flip side of the equation, brand activations encourage marketers to more innovatively use their data to customize messaging and increase profits. NYX's Coachella planners no doubt spent significant time poring over their database and historical information to build a buzz-worthy atmosphere. Their pop-up environment went beyond a mere tent event to flesh out a realm of glitter mixed with glam.

When brand activations work, they drive a sense of community and culture. Plus, companies position themselves to win over audiences who never even step foot in the activation sphere. Due to the viral spread of social media, a one-day activation can spread like wildfire to reach millions of views.

Ready to engage with consumers in a new way through experiential brand activations? Before going live, make sure to take a few steps during the strategic planning process.

1. Invite customers into the story.

An activation is not a movie, played on a screen while viewers stand idly by. It is a play, where customers are an integral part of the plot. How do you give them parts they will appreciate? Jane McConnell, EMEA marketing director at Eon Reality, says that the key to properly integrating customers into the mix is "creating a story world for customers to step into, which is purely defined by your brand's propositions, values, and latest messaging."

For instance, you may want to explore virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR), two means of immersing people into a different world in which your product can be highlighted front and center. HBO used VR to promote its series Silicon Valley. The resulting VR app gives fans a chance to live virtually in the show and engage with objects and characters in a fresh, fun way. With its activation, HBO has given viewers a novel way to enjoy the program--and a reason to keep their subscriptions current.

2. Invest in influencer shout-outs.

Tint survey found that 80 percent of consumers see user-generated content (UGC) as more authentic than branded content. Influencers bring this UCG to your activation, so leverage their power to woo. When asked by a Fullscreen study, nearly 55 percent of respondents in the 18-24 age bracket said they put trust in social influencers.

A well-placed influencer post can jumpstart interest in just about any product. "No matter what the topic--beauty, sports, travel, or something totally different--influencers will often function as a North Star for people seeking expert advice and insight," says Jeff Snyder, founder of experiential marketing agency Inspira Marketing Group. Just look at how music artist Khalid elevated BMW's #roadtocoachella activation. By bringing him in as an influencer, BMW tapped into his fan base and humanized the brand for festival attendees.

3. Introduce yourself to a new audience.

While you definitely want your activation to resonate with current fans, use it as a reason to meet new ones, too. A good way to do this is through co-branding, in which you share your activation experience with another company. Remember, you don't need to pick a business directly involved in your industry. Be creative, as Dunkin' and Peeps were this Easter season.

As a celebration of food and springtime, Dunkin' and Peeps took their respective shows on the road for a bit of brand activation fun. In vehicles traveling side by side, Dunkin' and Peeps reps stopped (at spots they announced on Instagram) to hand out sugary treats and fresh coffee to passersby. Not surprisingly, excited consumers hit social media with vigor to celebrate the delightful experience. Both brands got some marketing cross-pollination for double the fan love.

You don't need to create playgrounds in the desert or journey around the nation to activate your marketing efforts. All a brand activation takes is a willingness to connect on a deeper level with customers and prospects through heightened experiences involving your signature products.