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How To Staff A Brand Activation Successfully

September 22, 2021 by Tom Bronock

Whether in a retail environment, on-trade or in the third space (festivals, sporting events and other experience-led events), knowing how to staff a brand activation successfully is a vital part of your drink brand strategy.

The power of engaging with consumers on an inter-personal level cannot be underestimated and can offer opportunities to build lifelong affiliation and strengthen brand loyalty. 

A key component to strengthening your brand image through brand activation is engaging, well-trained, and knowledgeable brand activation staff.

It may sound obvious, but it’s astonishing how often we see brand activation staff who are not right for the brand and lack the skills needed to make an event unforgettable for all the right reasons. 

With over a decade’s experience in running successful brand activations and events, below we’re going to explore the following:

  • Why staffing is so important to brand activations
  • How can brand activation impact a business? 
  • How to recruit for a brand activation
  • What to consider when planning a brand activation event 
  • What to look out for when delivering an activation

Why Staffing is so important to brand activations

A brand ambassador engaging with customers at Imbibe 2018

Consumer habits are subject to continual change, and in an increasingly digitalised world, potential customers are seeking more personal connections with brands. It’s no wonder that huge marketing budgets are set aside to connect with consumers in live environments.

The staff you have on the front line of brand activation are critical, as well as other events, so much so we detailed a lot of tips ion how to staff events.

A brand activation with a huge budget set aside for the production and build, partnership rights, and operational costs can be rendered totally redundant with a poor team in place running it.

Choosing the wrong staff can be hugely damaging for a brand. Onsite staff can either engage and excite a consumer or in some instances put them off a brand entirely.

Brand activation example

If the service is impeccable at a restaurant or bar, and the staff embody the values of the brand, you’re likely to become emotionally engaged with the company’s story. It makes you an instant fan of the venue.

A positive experience leads to you telling friends and colleagues. You visit again and become a net promoter (link here) and a loyal cheerleader of the brand.

Now imagine your experience in the same restaurant was less than enjoyable.

The service was not up to standard, with rude or disengaged servers detracting from the experience. Though the food and drinks were good, all you remember was how the staff presented themselves.

At this point the potential damage is infinite as word of mouth is evergreen.

How can brand activation impact a business?

Staffing brand activations correctly is hugely important.

Brand activation staff have the same power to make or break the reputation of an organisation. You can hugely build a loyal community of devotees to your brand through a great interpersonal experience with your staff.

These (often) freelance bartenders or promotional staff are the front line – the conduit between your brand and how that is perceived to the consumers at your activation.

When it’s put like that it suddenly takes on a huge importance doesn’t it?

Arguably, they should be the highest-paid individuals involved in any brand activation campaign as their role is critical to its success.

If it is not a fundamental component of the brand activation for a brand manager, agency, or PR team then it will 100% risk the success of the experience.

Keen to learn more? 

Check out our recent brand activation case study where Red Bull and The Cocktail Service worked together for a specialist brand activation event.

Brand activation staff member from The Cocktail Service at the Red Bull Lab Bar at Latitude FestivalCase Study: Red Bull Lab Bar Activation at Latitude Festival


How To Recruit for a Brand Activation

This is the tricky part.

There are typically two routes to staffing a drinks brand activation.

1. Do brand activation yourself

The first is to do it yourself. This would apply when budgets are tight, you are a new brand, or a late opportunity has come in that the brand is desperate to do but budgets haven’t been allocated.

2. Hire a drinks brand activation agency

The second route is using a drinks brand activation agency to deliver and take accountability for your brand activation staffing. This is more typical of bigger brands and budgets and those that want a more specialised staffing solution.

The Cocktail Service’s Key Takeaway #1 

How to Staff a Brand Activation: Create a Process Which Works. Staffing is the key component of any successful brand activation. It is essential that you follow a process when hiring and working with your team to get the most out of them.

Recruiting tips for a brand activation

  • Profile staff members

When working with an agency you should receive staff profiles which will usually include a brief bio and an image of the proposed staff.

If you are staffing in house and not using an agency, building these profiles is a good habit to get into. It will ensure the staff you are hiring have the correct personalities, skills, and experience for your activation and to make it a success.

There is no such thing as too much detail when it comes to these bios! You never know when that third language or unusual skill will be required for an event.

  • Build a relationship with staff members

Gaining a sense of the candidate’s personality, experiences, values – can tell us a lot about their ability to fit and best represent the brand.

Asking candidates for videos, holding casting events with multiple staff, specific lines of questioning within a face to face ‘catch up’ all aid as very useful resources.

In essence: know your staff and build relationships with them.

Keep the gap between field staff and head office as small as possible and invest time in getting to know them.

  • Implement effective staff briefing and training

Establishing how the briefing and pre-activation training will be delivered is vital.

Properly onboarding your chosen team is so important and they must be fluent in the brand identity as well as knowing what their objectives are.

Aside from that, a clear plan for meeting times, activation timings, uniforms and onsite contacts is important to ensure there are no administrative issues.

  • Offer feedback and rewards for staff 

Rewarding brand activation staff for a job well done has always been a key focus for us.

This should be an essential part of your process, not a bonus. A simple explanation of what they did well and what the client was pleased with goes a long way to building morale. It will ensure staff are satisfied with their work and motivated to improve on their service in the future.

This goes a long way to nurturing and retaining talent.

The Cocktail Service’s Key Takeaway #2

How to Staff a Brand Activation: Get References. Often overlooked as its can be time consuming. References will give a true picture of potential brand activation staff.


What to consider when planning a brand activation event

Whether doing yourself or working through an agency, getting into the habit of creating a staff brief for the activity is very important.

Alongside a detailed brief should sit the brand guidelines and any other relevant information to the campaign. The brief will need to encapsulate every aspect of your event. 

Some of the key things to consider include: 

What is your budget?

Where do you want to activate your brand?

What is your target audience?

What attributes are important for the staff working on your activation?

What are they required to do? For example, sampling or data capture.

What are your measures for success? For example, sign-ups to mailing lists or a share on social media.

Remember: most do not understand your brand the way you do, so treat all agencies and brand activation staff as if you are introducing them to the brand for the first time.

What To Look Out For When Delivering An Activation

Two brand ambassadors serving at the launch of a a zero sugar energy drink by Grenade

Get References

Staff make or break activations. Just because a potential member of the activation team has presented well, looks the part, and says all the right things in an interview does not mean they will be reliable. References when hiring anyone are essential. For brand activations even more so.

Ensure you or your agency have reserves

Having a list of reserves to sub in at the last minute if there are any issues with staff such as sickness is vital.

On average, for every 75 staff we place, we will have a staff member call in sick or not be able to attend the shift.

The risk is there at any event or activation, so you must ensure you have reserves in place to keep your brand activation on track.

Aside from no shows, sometimes a team member doesn’t fit the mould you need in the live environment. When this happens, you need to act swiftly and decisively and pull them from the activation (not doing so can be very damaging).

Having reserves make this transition a whole lot easier and stress-free.

Brief and train your staff correctly

It’s important to brief and train your staff so they have a great experience working for you.

Brand activations that are run by happy and engaged staff get the best results.

Activations usually entail long days, with lots of time on your feet, constantly engaging with the public.

It’s key to look after your staff and build a strong relationship with them. That rapport will serve you very well if any of the difficulties that live activations bring occur for your brand.

Ensuring that the teams are robustly briefed, have all the information needed and are looked after with breaks and refreshments during the event will ensure the teams have a great experience working with your brand.


The Cocktail Service Key Takeaway #3

How to Staff a Brand Activation: Nurture Your Staff. Both in the live environment and post activation. Feedback and praise will ensure you maintain a strong relationship with your new brand ambassadors.


Staffing A Brand Activation: Conclusions

It’s clear that staffing an activation with the best talent that is matched well to your brand will supercharge your activation results. For an example of one of our brand activations, check out the Japanese gin activation.

However, many brands simply do not put the effort into the recruitment, training and nurturing of their activation staff.

We urge independent owners, brand managers, PR Teams and any other agency delivering staffing for brand activations to make the staffing process one that is front and centre of your experience.

Doing this will elevate your brand activation to the next level and create lifetime loyalty with consumers.

News staff for your activation? Book a call today or discover our brand activation services


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