By Adam Curry, Creative Director
Propose a sampling campaign to someone as part of a creative brief and you will probably get a reaction similar to this:
Why is this? Well, picture the scene.
Some poor sod in an ill-fitting T-shirt, frantically handing out very forgettable products – breakfast biscuits, chocolate, moisturizer or whatever. Meanwhile, at the other end of the “value exchange” you have frowning commuters with handfuls of product trying to work out what they just received and why; before shrugging and throwing it in the bin.
Of course, needs must, and getting “samples-in-hand” is an important strategy in the back pocket of many a brand owner. But what’s the point of getting some one-to-one attention for your brand – something that is such a rare commodity in modern marketing – if you aren’t going to do anything with it?
Contrary to what you might initially think, the answer to this conundrum isn’t just to spend more. Judging by what I’ve seen in the field over the past 10 years, it’s a common mistake to assume that the level of creativity is proportional to budget.
Sure, every brief has it’s practicalities to consider, but regardless of size or spend it should always plant a seed. It’s ironic that with mass sampling the ‘idea’ is all too often sacrificed in favour of the numbers. However, in what is frequently a noisy environment with minimal dwell time, a simple, memorable idea or message has never been more important.
So, before you head blindly down the sampling road, ‘take five’, and ask yourself whether your sampling plan effortlessly tells a story with:
i) An appropriate delivery…
ii) A simple message…
iii) A what next…
At Sense, every sampling campaign we run is put through this particular mangle.
In 2008, we were challenged to distribute two million pots of Müller Rice. Mechanics were basic, but by tagging the activity ‘The Perfect Snack Tour’ we bypassed any negative preconceptions about rice pudding and in that moment had recipients focused only on positives: value; health; choice; and taste. We even had them walking away thinking of other occasions it was perfect for.
In another instance, during London 2012, Sense was responsible for distributing 600,000 samples of Glaceau Vitaminwater. We knew the benefits of each variant weren’t properly understood. So, by adopting a very simple ‘spin to sample’ mechanic, we created a platform to educate consumers about how the products could help them to be their best.
More recently, Galaxy asked us to help distribute 1.2 million bars following the re-launch of the ‘Why have cotton when you can have silk’ strapline. We knew our female audience wasn’t particularly loyal to one brand of chocolate, so we gave them a reason to remember us using the ‘Upgrade your Day’ message. Essentially they could have a Kit Kat, they could have Dairy Milk, but they deserve Galaxy. Our team of charming chaps delivered Galaxy bars with compliments to lucky ladies across the nation, making sure our brand was front-of-mind when they next fancied a treat.
Our message to any brand looking to do a sampling campaign is simple: start by looking at the marketing potential rather than the assumed limitations of sampling. By looking at sampling as a creative medium rather than a logistical approach, we can continue to push the boundaries of the channel. Ultimately elevating sampling’s status from bottom of the barrel, to your brands ‘secret weapon’.