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October 6, 2023

The 10 Biggest Challenges for Brand Activation Strategies

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You know what they say: if it can go wrong, trust that it will. And every brand marketer knows that goes double for live activations and events. 

We’ve heard it time and time again. The ten biggest problems brand activations run into are:

  1. A lack of consumer visibility
  2. Unclear starting goals
  3. Running out of budget
  4. No bandwidth to scale
  5. Low event attendance
  6. Zero data capture process
  7. Hard to demonstrate ROI
  8. Lost on how to track event success
  9. Disjointed global strategies
  10. Grueling, disconnected tech stack processes

We see you; each of these is a roadblock that you or your team will run into at some point or another. So here are all the ways things can go wrong and how you can solve them.

Do you need a template to scale? We've got you covered.

Lack of Consumer Visibility

As one former Red Bull field marketer says, brand activation success no longer hinges on smiles.  

When you’re in the thick of an event, seeing the crowds can feel like a major success. But then, you get home and realize you have no real idea of who any of the attendees were or where they’re coming from. 

A lack of guest visibility at brand activations is a serious problem when trying to reach a specific audience or even build consumer profiles to help brand awareness. 

Poor guest visibility can lead to:

  • Less effective marketing spend, since you don’t know which segments or audiences to target
  • A reduction in activation budget by leadership because you don’t have the data to show your ROI
  • Unclear direction for where to scale next since you don’t know why your event worked or why it didn’t

Solution: Include data capture tools

Data capture is the process of collecting important information related to your attendees. A data capture tool can be  software, a form, or even pen and paper surveys that ask specific questions about age, gender, and other demographic tidbits that help you fully understand who’s coming to your activations and events. 

With a good activation, it’s not as hard as you’d think to get zero and first-party data from consumers in the first place. The secret? It's a good value exchange.

In a recent 6k respondent study from Coresight Research and Sailthru, as long as brands are following privacy best practices, “the vast majority of consumers responded that they will share data with brands in exchange for value like loyalty rewards (70%) and promotions (80%)”. 

Once you have the exchange down, using the right tool to break down the information and build profiles will automate the process. Ideally, you want something that connects to the rest of your tech stack without adding any extra effort.

AnyRoad's platform shows who came to your event and other important into

For example, with AnyRoad, there are a few ways you can capture data from walk-up visitors, like contactless QR codes or self-service registration on tablets or mobile devices . Marketers can even turn on online booking, registration, and payment to meet the needs of each event, capturing the right information whether you’re hosting your own event that requires pre-booking or activating at a third-party event.. 

We even have questions we recommend you ask to understand your audience better. 

Unclear Starting Goals

Managing your calendar of events might seem like a goal in and of itself, but each event should come with a purpose. You're setting yourself up for failure when you don’t have a clear starting goal. 

You need to prove that you had a return on your investment to stakeholders, or you might need more money to do your next activation series idea. 

If you keep your goals flexible rather than making firm decisions, you run the risk of:

  • Missing key links between your activations and larger company initiatives
  • Losing out on budget after you’ve run your experience strategy for the quarter
  • Throwing spaghetti at a wall to see what sticks, wasting valuable time and energy

Solution: Make goals part of the planning process

When you make goals part of your initial planning process, each decision can become a chance to hone in on making that chosen goal happen. It helps you avoid vague generalities that will lead to weaker marketing results. 

Make sure your goals are SMART:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Actionable
  • Realistic
  • Time-bound

Building a full business case can help you generate which goals are essential to your business and which ones will be the most effective.

SMART Goals in a nutshell!

Running Out of Budget

Between late fees, inflation, and hidden or unexpected costs, an event budget doesn’t go nearly as far as it used to. Running out of cash isn’t just a fear; it can be a reality if you’re not careful or lucky. 

Going over budget happens in marketing thanks to poor planning and a lack of research or understanding of the current landscape. Planning too late and going through stakeholder approval can lead to sudden expenses cropping up or needing to understand how long construction of a booth will take, leading to overtime charges. 
When you run out of budget, you:

  • Lose the trust of your stakeholders and leadership, who need to approve the budget in the first place
  • Can’t fully create the amazing experience you planned so long for
  • Half-ass it and disappoint attendees, creating a negative impact on brand perception

Solution: Plan your budget early out with contingency plans and tweak mid-execution

Plan your budget and business case as early as possible, with researched decisions of who to hire, what to buy, and what travel you need. Using a budgeting template built for brand activations, you won’t miss any costs you’d have to consider yourself. It also helps you figure out your options beforehand, maybe even netting you an early bird price point!

If you’re in the middle of your strategy and find your budget starting to wane, it’s time to change out the engines mid-flight. What areas can you save on without canceling your full schedule? What’s nice to have, and what’s need to have?
If you’re having trouble making those decisions, we pulled together a step-by-step guide to make them fast. Grab it here and make some changes while you still have the time to pivot.

No Bandwidth to Scale

Marketers wear a thousand and one hats; brand, event, and field marketers are no exception. With planning, strategizing, and execution in the air, scaling your strategy can often be a juggling ball too far. 

A brand’s growth relies on scaling, which is the process of growing your strategy in a repeatable way without expending extra budget, effort, or time. So when you don’t have the time to scale, you’ll find yourself stuck keeping the lights on with your efforts with no way forward. 

When a brand’s marketing fails to scale, they:

  • Plateau their numbers, losing momentum for brand awareness
  • Miss out on a repeatable revenue cycle

Solution: Choose one success to build on and automate what you can

When facing the challenge of scaling, you have a couple of options. You can start small and build by picking one success and area of opportunity and breaking them down into improvement goals. Once you have those, you create a Milestone Map (which you can get here) that acts as guide posts towards your larger goals. 

But you still can’t grow without taking some of the labor off your shoulders. Many brands have learned to work smarter, not harder, with key automation for specific reports, email follow-ups, and data collection. 

For example, Leiper’s Fork Distillery used AnyRoad’s reporting to learn who their 24,000 visitors were and saved an entire day when they had to pull their reports. Even an agency, Conversate Collective, got in on the action with AnyRoad’s flexible data capture and fast reporting. 

They helped their CPG beauty brand client find out which distributors were the most effective (50% of attendees surveyed bought the brand from only two places) based on feedback without manually pulling all the feedback and survey data themselves. AnyRoad did it all on their behalf. See the feedback tool for yourself.

Low Event Attendance

There’s no worse feeling than putting your all into an activation series and having no one show. It’s not only disappointing; it’s embarrassing. After all, you’re the one who should know what will impact your brand’s growth, right?

Factors beyond your control sometimes contribute to a low attendance rate for activations like the weather, construction, or a last-minute competing event. But what if none of those happened, and you still saw a low turnout? 

Low event attendance is a big problem for a marketing tactic that hinges on people showing up. When you don’t draw many consumers to your event, you:

  • Lose out on potential brand awareness and new customer conversions
  • Miss out on data that you might need to make future marketing decisions
  • Can’t post it for FOMO and even more event marketing impact on social media

Solution: Re-evaluate consumer personas and hit them where they live

When you see low attendance, it’s time to re-evaluate if your activation location and how you market that event are all the best choices for your target audience. 

For example, JUSTEgg, an egg replacement brand, used their customer understanding not just to hit the pricer festival circuit. They went straight to the source. The brand wanted consumers to try and buy their product, and the grocery store wasn’t the most glamorous choice, but it made one hell of a difference. Between festivals and store activations, they collected 30,000 data points over 300 events. 

JUSTEgg's festival booth design

By hitting multiple potential locations, they could meet their customer where they’re at and get new information about where to go next. 

Zero Data Analysis

Great, you have your zero-party or first-party data. But now what? If you don’t have a process for what to do with the data after your experience, you can only take your learnings and effort so far. 

The data capture process should extend beyond just “get the info.” Following up via email with a personalized discount, gathering your data to find trends, and building a complete consumer profile are all part of this critical step.

When you aren’t using your data post-event, you’re missing out on the following:

  • The chance to continue building loyalty and encourage a purchase conversion
  • Learning the whole story about who’s attending your event and what they think about your brand
  • Finding fundamental patterns and trends that can help you discover new markets

Solution: Break down the dream process and what will happen to the data once you have it

Don’t just be satisfied with the data; let’s take it to the next level. For example, if you’re asking for a net promoter score, what’s your current rating post-event? What’s your brand conversion rate, aka what percentage of attendees are now more likely to buy?

Building a solid consumer profile is one thing, but certain data pieces can help you fully understand what your activation strategy does for the brand. 

AnyRoad’s analytics, for example, take the basic information and more asked for from attendees and transform it into automated trend reporting and accumulated understanding from attendee similarities to feedback patterns. 

A look at AnyRoad's Insights Dashboard

Lost on How to Track Event Success

You’re not just planning and executing a good time when you're running activations. You should have a goal in mind to judge whether your events were successful. Leaving an event fuzzy on the actual impact but happy is a bad sign for your success metrics. 

How will you report to your stakeholders or leadership, often both, if you don’t have a way to showcase what the activations did? 

When you don’t (or can’t) track event success, you’re not:

  • Thinking about the future of your events or what they can do for the brand
  • Allowing you or your team to work towards a larger goal
  • Measuring the reality of what you achieved

Solution: Pick a metric and hone in on it strategically

To get around this brand activation problem, you must pick a metric and improve it strategically through your events. For example, measuring the success of your events through a brand conversion rate is a great way to ladder your efforts to revenue as a whole.

Other metrics you can use to measure success include:

  • Net promoter score
  • Return on investment
  • Customer lifetime value
  • Average transaction value
  • Brand conversion rate
  • And more!

Hard to Demonstrate ROI

Proving return on investment for brand activations is a shockingly complicated process for a simple concept. Do your brand activation results justify the amount you spent to make the events happen? 

Honestly, that depends on what you’re trying to measure. If you’re unsure why you’re running brand activations, ROI gets harder to understand and demonstrate to stakeholders. Without a solid goal, knowing what to measure and how you need to measure it sets you up for failure. 

If you’re having a hard time nailing down what ROI looks like to your brand, you won’t be able to:

  • Communicate the importance of your activation efforts
  • Connect your activations to changes in revenue, awareness, and more
  • Ask for a larger budget for your next series of activations

Solution: Get into the weeds with easy activation goals and bring in other teams

When it comes to goal setting, the simpler the better. For example, is your goal conversion or brand awareness? What about database growth? Average transaction value? Each one of these goals requires a different way to look at your brand activations, and all can be considered ROI. 

But don’t let this be a decision only on your shoulders. After all, it takes a village. Bring in other teams affected by your efforts to understand better and track how your activations are impacting outside of your scope. 

When you can showcase how you change the business overall, you gain a robust ROI case for your efforts. 

Disjointed Global Strategies

In a larger company, a brand experience isn’t limited to one country; it’s a global endeavor. With so many different leaders and ideas for what will impact a target market, it can be a challenge in and of itself to keep international teams on track in one place. 

As is often the case, sometimes the hand can’t tell what the foot’s doing. So, efforts are duplicated or unknown due to a limited reporting scope. 

When you have multiple, disjointed global strategies, you run the risk of:

  • Not seeing the full picture of what all activations are doing for the brand
  • Siloed information that other teams could benefit from but don’t know about
  • Wasting a budget on repetitive efforts

Solution: Unify the teams under one banner

Set aside time to add to a shared reporting document folder or even use an activations platform to track multiple countries and efforts simultaneously. 

This kind of simple reporting saves time for individual strategists and leaders alike since they can understand how the brand activations are performing globally.

Don’t be afraid to over communicate. The more visibility multiple teams have into results, the more influential the brand’s marketing will be. 

Siloed Tech Stack

When you use a thousand and one tech solutions to run your day-to-day, even the smallest request becomes a full-time lift. After all, you have to manually go from platform to platform, pulling reports and adding them to your own doc — but wait! 

All of them are just a little wrong since none connect, so you have to spend another day double-checking data to be sure you’re not reporting the wrong numbers. 

Just writing about it is exhausting. When you use tech stacks that don’t connect, you’re more likely to:

  • Report your numbers incorrectly
  • Draw the wrong conclusions
  • Waste valuable time pulling reports instead of all the other tasks on your to-do list

Solution: Bring the team on one end-to-end platform that can serve their needs throughout all activation phases

Moving to a single, centralized experiential marketing platform like AnyRoad saves hours of time and heartache for a more optimized and effective experience. 

When you use an in-person solution to collect information at activations, there’s often no back-end solution to keep that information and sort through it.

AnyRoad’s insights engine makes it easy to leverage your compliant, first-party data, Net Promoter Scores (NPS), and qualitative feedback to get a deeper understanding of visitors, measure the performance of your programs, and report on the revenue impact of your experiences.


Brand activation strategies run into these ten problems constantly, so knowing how to get around the most common roadblocks will benefit you in the long run. 

Everyone runs into issues when planning events; the most important thing is to expect the unexpected and understand how to get exactly what you need from what you’re doing!

Step 1: Evaluate Your Scheduling Software Needs

Before researching online booking systems, evaluating your business needs is essential. After all, you don’t want to overspend on bells and whistles when you only need an online form. For newer events looking to scale, a more sophisticated system might be the goal but not the starting point.

Consider the type and size of your business, the nature of your services, and the volume of transactions you handle. For instance, if you run tours and tastings, you should look at solutions meant for high-volume enterprises that can include add-on shirts, beer steins, and more.

Scheduling Software Flowchart

We made a helpful flowchart to help you decide if you’re ready to invest fully in online bookings or look into a free scheduling app, like Google Forms, as a better starting point.

As someone trying to make smart investment decisions, you don’t want to buy a booking and ticketing solution that doesn’t meet your needs. Use our guided questions to determine where you are in your investment journey.

Booking System flowchart
Use the flow to gauge where you are on your journey!

2. Compare Booking Page Features and Pricing

Booking Page Features

Once you have a clear idea of your business needs, you can compare online booking systems that meet your criteria. Have a list of your most essential needs and what would be nice for you to have. Some features you should consider including on your list include:

  • Website integration
  • Branded booking page
  • Configurability to match your brand
  • Payment processing and add-on sales
  • Automated reminders
  • Automatic data analysis
  • Feedback collection and analysis
  1. Website integration
  2. Branded booking page
  3. Configurability to match your brand
  4. Payment processing and add-on sales
  5. Automated reminders
  6. Automatic data analysis
  7. Feedback collection and analysis






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