Aspirational vs “Activational” marketing

Is your marketing getting people all worked up but leaving them with nothing to do about it? Then, like the Wonder Twin Powers, it’s time to activate!

Here’s what got me thinking about this:

I have a serious bag problem. As in, I have at least:

  • 4 duffels
  • 3 hiking packs
  • 5 carry-on suitcases
  • 10+ hydration packs
  • 4 messenger bags
  • 4 hip packs
  • 7 laptop backpacks

And yet, despite having zero room for more new bags (that pic below is only my hydration packs!), I can’t stop geeking out over new bags and packs.

Why can’t I stop looking at the ads? Researching the details? Flipping through the look books?

Because, it’s not the bags I want…

I want the adventure.

Take a look at the marketing imagery used for any backpack.

The models are doing cool things in amazing places.

I want to do those things!

I want to be in those places!

I want those experiences!

In reality, I like the idea of those bags and the adventures to be had with them.

I’m not alone.

If you look at travel influencers’ Instagram posts, they share gorgeous shots of killer places and then…

…they rarely share the location. Maybe that’s their secret. But there’s huge demand for that info. The first question in the comments is nearly always “WHERE IS THIS?!?”

So, what if you gave us that adventure?

Your marketing probably shows your products used in awesome ways in beautiful locations.

Good marketing lets us see ourselves doing those things, and makes us believe we need your products to do them. But that stops short at Aspirational.

What if you moved past that to “Activational”?

Yes, I totally made that word up, but I like it.

What if you shared how you made that adventure happen? What if you shared your travel itinerary, where you ate, where you stayed, and the local culture you experienced?

What if you shared the gear you used, and how it made your trip better? So that, as people use your info to plan their adventure with your products, they look to you as a trusted guide.

Examples, please.

Travel equipment is too easy, anyone can figure that out. So I came up with a couple of random examples to show how you can apply this to other industries.

Performance Car Tires: We see them ripping around a track on a sports sedan. Where’s the track? When do they offer public track days? How do I join the SCCA and what kind of car do I need? Are there driving schools offering performance driving courses there?

Gravel Bikes: We see riders hammering up a crushed lava fire road against Iceland’s mountainous backdrop. Where is it? What’s it called? What’s the closest trailhead? Are there tour operators there? What type of bike should I bring? Best local snacks, coffee, bike shop, and brewery?

Spaghetti Sauce: An amazing homemade meal of baked pasta is set on an outdoor table, sun setting in the distance. What type of pasta was used? Why? How was this cooked? What are the common mistakes made when cooking this, and how do you prevent them? What wine pairs well with it? What’s the best way to serve it?

This is a short list. It’s only meant to get your creative juices flowing.

The first step? Think about how your customers WANT to use your product (which might be very different from how they actually do use it) and help them make it happen.

Sounds like work…what’s the upside?

Better engagement. Higher brand recall. Increased authority. More word of mouth. Longer time on site spent looking at your products and getting to know your brand.

All of which increase the likelihood of purchase.

What activities does your marketing portray? Could you tell a story around that to help customers Activate around your brand?

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