For CPG brands, product sampling is nothing new. But it continues to have relevancy in today’s marketplace. Sampling is being reinvented into brand experiences. Experiences which connect the consumer more deeply to your brand, generate product trial, trigger immediate sales and build brand loyalty.
According to a Path to Purchase Institute study, 65% of shoppers said that personal experience was the most important factor affecting a brand’s image. That’s why we look at product sampling beyond just a “here you go” approach; we want to create those personal experiences that truly influence purchase decisions and reinforce brand positioning.
(For a chuckle, I recommend this ‘Ode to toothpick sample guy‘ post. For all of you food court shoppers, this is not the kind of sampling I’m writing about today.)
“The most difficult aspect to marketing is getting the customer to try the product, especially if they don’t know it,” says Richard George, professor and chair of the department of food marketing at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia. “With all the high tech in our world, sampling can be a good old-fashioned way to differentiate.” (Source: National Retail Federation)
Attacking mass food sampling programs (or sampling non-consumable products, as well, for that matter) can be done in several methods. Here are our favorites:
1. Mobile marketing tours
2. One-day market takeovers
3. Seasonal multi-market flights
4. Year-long sampling programs
5. Retail / customer experience overhaul
Regardless of the timing of the campaign, our sampling programs are integrative and experiential. Because 88% who trial a CPG brand away from the point of sale will remember to put the item on their next shopping list (source: Path to Purchase Institute), we take our work very seriously.
Mobile Marketing Tours
This summer, we drove Sara Lee Deli’s Taste of Summer Tour from one location to the next over an 8-week period. We visited 84 different locations in Chicago, Grand Rapids, Lansing and Detroit. This approach allowed us to have one campaign vehicle, one educated and passionate team of tour managers and one schedule to manage. Not only did we partner with retailer locations, such as Jewel-Osco which saw a 4.38% incremental lift in Sara Lee ham volume, but we also hit up popular events and festivals in each market to raise awareness.
Integrated with an Instagram sweepstakes contest, there were 1,200+ entries which helped launch the brand’s Instagram account and following.
“Multi-market tours are events on wheels. Similar to how musical artists, the Globetrotters or Disney On Ice come into your town for their performances, brands can take their own experiences on the road,” explains Business Development Specialist Shantey Wilson. “At each stop, we excite the community, distribute swag, get folks registered for giveaways, educate new potential customers and leave a lasting impression.”
For the Freedom Rings Tour, we created a landing page where fans could follow the tour’s schedule, including when the musical performances were taking place near their hometowns. Other brands have kept social journals of their travels with the tour hashtag. Yet, others have used tour content for social videos, future ads and live testimonials, amplifying the reach to tour markets and beyond. One brand experience can be used to create a year’s worth of marketing content at once.
One-Day Market Takeovers
On National Coffee Day, we distributed over one million pieces of gum in New York City for Orbit. (Yes, in one day.) More of a PR stunt, this approach garnered media attention and a lot of online buzz.
One of the benefits of experiential marketing is how easily it fuels your public relations content. Coordinating the experience together with a strategic plan for media outreach will really take your sampling activation to a new level for your brand. You might even think of your campaign as a modern-day press conference.
The one-day takeover can also stop at key media outlets in market for on-air sampling. Or, if planned accordingly, you can book live remotes to support your takeovers.
During the one-day No Kid Hungry activation in Times Square, the team had arranged to ring the NASDAQ bell. This positioned the activation in the heart of Times Square. Looking for additional PR opportunities, such as that, which gets you to a central location near a crowd can be advantageous. Tagging onto other events or happenings can really boost your one day of attention-seeking.
Plus, leveraging social media can lengthen the campaign through continual content sharing.
Seasonal Multi-Market Flights
“We understand that brands have seasonal pushes,” explains Wilson. “And a tour-style promotion doesn’t always align with your overall marketing plan. That’s okay.”
If you’re a candy brand, for example, you’re going to want sampling opportunities in multiple markets during Valentine’s, Easter, Halloween and Christmas – running simultaneously in many markets.
Each market needs to be looked at uniquely. Which point-of-sale retailers can you partner with? What events are happening? Where are the high-traffic areas for guerrilla marketing tactics? How do locals in that community feel about your brand/talk about your product? Each market will need a precise plan and schedule to meet your brand’s objectives. Yet, they can activate during the same flight period in order to boost seasonal sales.
Perhaps you want to do a multi-campus activation during the same week to reach college students moving back to school. Or perhaps you have a large product launch happening on one key day that you need supported in your top tier markets. Or maybe, like McDonald’s, your brand wants to do 24 hours of giving across the globe.
Your sampling activations should support your overall marketing plan, including the timing.
Year-Long Sampling Programs
Tap into your ambassador programs to create year-long sampling opportunities. In addition to arming your selected team of brand advocates with free samples to distribute at their leisure, develop strategic opportunities for them. Put them in touch with your point-of-sale retailers in market, or allow them to purchase event permits for key events in their market.
No ambassador program in place? No worries.
An experiential marketing firm can evaluate all of the annual sampling opportunities available across all markets and devise a plan. In addition to recruiting talent, your experiential marketing shop should be able to provide transportation and warehousing options. Inventory can be location-tracked for security purposes. And marketing signage can be kept neat and orderly for every sampling opportunity throughout the year.
If your CPG product can be enjoyed by someone every single day, then a 365-day sampling approach may make the most sense.
Retail / Customer Experience Overhaul
We also help CPG brands re-think their everyday retail and customer experiences.
Wineries understand, as shown in this Cornell study, that offering tastings improves the customer experience – and therefore, influences a customer to spend a little more or buy another bottle.
Have you thought about your customer experience? Are there ways to improve the experience when someone buys your product?
According to EventTrack, 98% of us are more inclined to consider a purchase after participating in a branded experience. Is it time for you to take your food sampling initiatives to a new level?
Let’s chat about your CPG brand and the way it currently samples products.