Aspirational vs “Activational” marketing

Nov 12, 2020 5:36 pm


Because you want people to actually use your products, right?

Hello Content Creators!

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 not having any more room for 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, and 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?

(Did you get this from a friend?

A Recent Content Project


This one's not mine, but it's a great example of how to make a statement that:

A) works without being polarizing

B) actually makes a statement

Athleta's Women Run commercial has been getting near universal praise for capturing the excitement many people, women especially, are feeling about the couldn't-come-soon-enough election results.

Why? Because it does so without preaching, without alienating, and without judging. It focuses on the positive, calling attention to and reinforcing the important contributions its customer base makes to the world.

Contrast this with sister brand Gap's red/blue hoodie post that, while seemingly fine at face value (I mean, who doesn't think we should all just get along?), fails to make any kind of statement.

Which raises the question: Does a brand need to take a stand on social issues?

I would argue no, which is a discussion for another time. But, if your brand is going to take a stand, here are a few thoughts on how to do it well:

  • Focus on the positive
  • Empower people, but not to the detriment of others
  • Harmless = Toothless = Forgettable (or worse)
  • Be honest, and be willing to back up your marketing with actions

The first step, of course, is to figure out what your brand stands for (and why).

PRO TIP: Process-Focused Content

Welcome to the new section that's ONLY for newsletter subscribers...I won't be putting these on my blog. This week's Pro Tip comes from Melanie Deziel, Chief Content Officer of StoryFuel:

"Right now, you should definitely be creating Process-Focused content. That is, content that helps your audience complete a process.

This includes things like tutorials, walk-throughs, DIY instructions, recipes and other instructional content. People are especially hungry for this type of content right now, as evidenced by increased search traffic, given that many of us don't have access to the people, places and products that we normally do, and are having to figure out how to do them on our own.

As an added bonus, this type of content has a long shelf life, providing tons of value for your audience for months or even years to come."

Want more? Check out her book, The Content Fuel Framework: How to Generate Unlimited Story Ideas, and watch her full session from Peak Content Summit for FREE to learn how to create hundreds of content ideas!

Cool Stuff I've Found


This week, since we're on packs & bags...

Osprey Raptor - This hydration pack remains steady even on the wildest trails, has great internal organization, comes with a tool roll, and hides plenty of clever features throughout. It's a great size, too, working for most any length ride. Comes in three colors, too, and women's specific versions..

Sierra Designs Flex Lumbar - Don't call it a fanny pack. Now, they're hip packs, waist packs or lumbar packs. Whatever they're called, I'm not usually a fan, but this one fits tons of stuff without squeezing my waist and flopping about. Meant for hiking, it works great on the bike, too.

Mission Workshop Hauser - I love this bag so much I have it in two sizes and three colors. For most rides, travel and hikes, I use the larger 14L, which swallows a ton of gear, cameras, pump, windbreaker, snacks and more! And, it does all that while remaining comfortable. Waterproof material, liner, and zippers keep everything safe inside, too.

Wonder t'win, powers activate!


Tyler Benedict

PS - Sharing is caring...can you pass this along to one person who needs to see it? Thanks!

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*Any items, services, or products mentioned in these emails are provided solely because I think you'll like them. I don't sell this space, but some links might be affiliate links, which earns me a small commission (beer money, really) if you buy something. This helps support all the free content. Thanks!