What are the challenges of digital brand activations?

As an ambitious agency or brand, you'll want to offer your customers or employees more exciting and interactive experiences. Be prepared for the challenges ahead with our handy challenges checklist.

In our last two blog posts, we've looked at what digital brand activations are as well as what makes them successful. To finish off this 3-part mini-series now let's have a look at the general challenges of putting together these activations for your pitches and campaigns as well as ways you can avoid these pitfalls.

Custom development is hard

As an ambitious agency or brand, you'll want to offer your customers or employees more exciting and interactive experiences. In order to do this you're going to need to move from the safe and familiar surroundings of WordPress into the bewildering world of custom development.

Regardless of whether you've got developers in-house or you need to reach out to an external vendor, custom development will end up taking a lot more time and money than you anticipated. As software developers ourselves, let us explain a few reasons why:

  • ⚠️ We're terrible at estimating complexity. Human beings are awful at estimating effort. On top of that, many software developers are often naturally optimistic. This makes for a dangerous mix and can end up in wildly underestimated costs and timelines.
  • ⚠️ Complexity is opaque. It's common that something like looks like it should take 5 minutes to fix, could take 5 hours or even 5 days. It's difficult to communicate why this is sometimes the case which is frustrating for clients.
  • ⚠️ Good developers are rarer than you think. Finding reliable developers can be a nightmare. Many times, you won’t know until it’s too late.
  • ⚠️ It can be hard to make changes. In this industry it's common to make changes up to the last minute. This may not be a problem with WordPress sites, but it can be a disaster with custom software projects. Usually this is because changes sometimes require completely re-doing an invisible layer or code.
  • ⚠️ Animation and UI interaction takes a lot of time. Developing beautiful transitions in an activation is a fantastic way to show-off your brand, but it can take a tedious amount of development time.

So what can you do about it?

  • ✅ Stick with what works. Having a library or selection of tried-and-tested activations avoids costly custom development.
  • Reuse your activations. If something goes well, think of other clients and brands you can re-use your activation with.
  • Centralise your activations. If possible, use a single database or platform for running all your custom activations.
  • Build strong relationships. If you've found a good developer or vendor, stick with them! 
  • Hope for the best, plan for the worst. Whatever you think the timeline might be, double it just in case.

Things will break

If you are running live events, the fact of the matter is that it has to work. Your website and apps need to stay operating even when your activation is hugely successful and getting hammered by traffic. How you set up your infrastructure and hosting is crucial.

  • Use appropriate software architectures. For example, keep your front-end code separate to back-end code.
  • Use CDNs. These let you place apps all around the world, increasing performance.
  • Incorporate scaling. If your traffic goes up, your servers should increase automatically.
  • Have a fail-over plan. If your main site goes down what happens?
  • Backup. Be able to rollback to a recent version in the worst case.

Driving engagement can be surprisingly difficult

Regardless of how beautiful and fun your activation is, getting people to actually see it and engage with it can be really hard. Whether it’s at a physical space or online, you need a strategy for pushing people toward it. We’ve seen excellent campaigns finish with 0 sign-ups. Build it and they won’t come!

  • ✅ Strategy before tactics. Before a brief is sent or a line of code is written, spend time thinking about how you're going to drive people to it. 

Security compliance is critical

Many campaigns get delayed when your client’s security department only hear about the project at the last-minute. They’ll possibly want to run security audits on your vendors and get more information on your vendor’s infrastructure, code practices, recovery plan etc. This can be stressful and potentially disastrous. 

  • Get compliance involved early. Make sure that you run the campaign by security departments as soon as possible.
  • ✅ Have reports ready. Have checklists and reports ready-to-go to avoid scrambling to write them at the last minute.
  • Know your code. Understand what technologies, libraries and frameworks you are using as well as their built-in security capabilities.
  • ✅ Know your infrastructure. Understand how your apps are put together, where their hosted and what happens in case of emergency.

Privacy is more important (and onerous) than ever

This is by far the most boring part of any campaign, but getting it is absolutely key.

  1. ✅ Locate your data. Know where your data is being hosted (EU data centers for example) and who is processing it.
  2. ✅ Be able to amend. Make sure you have the access and interfaces to amend and delete the data.
  3. ✅ Write policies. Make sure you have all of the cookie and privacy policies in-place
  4. ✅ Have a banner. If you need one, make sure you have a cookie banner that actually works.
  5. ✅ Know your plugins. Make sure you know what 3rd party plugins you have (analytics etc.) so you aren't caught out.

Overwhelmed?

At Backstage we deliver digital brand activations day-in-day-out. We're familiar with the challenges that live event and experiential marketing agencies face. Let us deliver your next win.

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