What brand manager or retailer wouldn’t love to increase sales by 368%?  And right now you’re thinking, sure go peddle your services elsewhere!  But if you can suspend your disbelief for just a moment – I’ll tell you how my team at Pro Motion did just that and how you can do it, too.

Over the next few articles, we’re going to share some valuable industry advice on how to develop and effectively implement a successful sampling promotion, on-premise, off-premise or in conjunction with another event.  We’ll give you some strategy tips, as well as a detailed checklist that will prepare your teams for successful sampling activations. In doing so, we’ll share real-life examples from our most recent sampling campaigns for an up-and-coming soft drink brand, a top-selling beer brand and a new health juice, all of which have turned to sampling as a way to increase market share.

We can’t stress this enough: take your time and plan for success.  We begin planning each of our sampling programs by asking the same seven questions.  It is from this upfront, comprehensive strategizing and game planning that a sampling program gains its uniqueness and personality.

  1. Which product are you sampling and why?
    Usually the first part is pretty clear, but answers to the “why?” will guide much of the strategy behind the sampling.  If you are launching a new product and you need to generate awareness, you may opt for larger sample sizes, longer engagements and locations with smaller, targeted crowds.  Conversely, if you are looking to reintroduce or emphasize a brand message, you may be better off serving smaller samples to more people.  As an example, our health juice client wanted to focus on putting the product in the hands of their target demographics – recreational athletes and health-conscious moms – and our sampling engagements focused on education of the product’s myriad health benefits.
  2. What does the interaction look like?
    This is your chance to get fun and creative – just make sure to keep your focus on your objective.  Will your engagement be educational?  Entertaining?  Edutaining?For our beer client, we engaged consumers through the game of foosball, implementing a multi-location tournament.  We added a twist to the traditional game by adding sand to the table.  This was something that resonated well with the target demographic and played into the brand image.  Doing so allowed the brand to live up to its mission of bringing people together, where strangers become friends and old friends become even closer.Think about your brand and its positioning, as well as the preferences of the target demographic, and have fun coming up with effective ways to engage during sampling.
  3. What is the best time to engage your target demographic?
    Depending on your product, alignment with holidays and sporting events can be organic and beneficial because both offer built-in audiences and unparalleled equity.  With our beer client, we chose the weeks of the World Cup as a time when the target demographic was spending more time on-premise.  Furthermore, our concept of a foosball tournament played off the excitement of the main event, and harnessed the heightened competitive spirit of the consumers.If your product doesn’t logically line up with sports or a particular holiday, there are plenty of other timing considerations to think about: different seasons (warmer weather brings out the partiers and the active crowd alike) and school calendars (we’re thinking about back-to-school, Spring Break and summer vacations) offer plenty of guidance towards optimizing your sampling efforts.
  4. Where is the best place to find the target demo?
    Energy drinks do well at sporting events, parades and festivals where you can find targeted audiences based on themes, and recreational areas provide plenty of thirsty, active consumers.  Meanwhile, on-premise sampling allows you to reach your demo where they already are, but it also gives you an opportunity to show love and support to your best retail accounts.We recently chose a combination of guerilla and sponsored events that had high attendance of moms and college students, two target demographics for a soft drink client.  Our teams sampled at a St. Patrick’s Day Marathon, Major League Baseball games, Minor League Baseball games, and other large community events.  Street teams were also set up in convenience stores, where they handed out buy-one-get-one-free coupons at the point of purchase along with samples of product.
  5. Who are the key stakeholders, and how do we get buy-in from them?
    It is very important to make sure you have buy-in and support from each level – manufacturer through retailer – because everyone has a stake.  Our best sampling programs happen when there is one key decision-maker (typically the brand manager) who receives input and resources (access, manpower and, yes, money) from wholesalers, distributors and accounts.  Make sure you know who these key players are, utilize this opportunity to grow the relationships and include them early in an effort to get buy-in and ownership.
  6. What does the perfect brand representative look like?
    Think of your target when choosing your event team, and make sure to hire individuals who are going to represent your brand well.  This may sound obvious, but finding the perfect Brand Ambassador is not always easy.  Identify what you’re looking for – age, sex, ethnicity, special skills, knowledge – and be picky.  There is no need to compromise when the world of Brand Ambassadors is chock full of diversely talented individuals.
  7. What does success look like?
    Being consistent in measuring your results will give you a better idea of the program’s success.  Our soft drink Brand Ambassadors visited more than 200 locations, and distributed over 86,000 total samples.  The key result, however, is that sales during the sampling period skyrocketed in our sampling market, increasing by 368%.  Our juice brand more than doubled sales in each of its markets, and our beer brand, which sits atop the market share leaderboard already, has seen an overall growth year-over-year since their first sampling program with us.  We believe brands need to set attainable goals that represent the growth you would like to see, and track that progress throughout, using milestones along the way, and be prepared to tweak your strategy in order to hit your marks.

Next time we will take a look at the details of pre-event planning and preparation, providing you with a checklist of items you’ll need before your teams are ready for action.

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