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Brandcrush, a product sampling and experiential marketplace, explains why product sampling is such a powerful tool in the modern marketing mix, and shares its must-consider list of factors – including packaging – for successful sampling campaigns.

[Brandcrush co-founder Matthew Hurle will be speaking at the upcoming PKN + Food & Drink Business LIVE Brands Behaving Bravely breakfast forum.]

Product trial is one of the oldest tactics in the marketer's playbook, and with good reason: since the rise of the advertising industry, people have become increasingly wary of being “tricked” into bad purchase decisions. Giving people the chance to see, smell, taste and touch a product before committing to purchase can go a long way in building trust and removing the risk from a buyers’ purchase decision.

When done correctly, sampling has the power to:

Drive sales

Sampling programs have proven time and time again to be one of the most effective ways to drive sales. Depending on the category, sales conversions have been reported as high as 90%, bringing a new level of disruptive power for brands.

According to an IMI International Study quoted in Chief Marketer, sampling has the greatest impact on consumer purchase, a consistent finding for the past 15 years.

Remove barriers and connect with new markets

By eliminating the risk and barriers to trial, consumers are encouraged to try products they might not otherwise. Product sampling offers a way for brands to get the attention of new target markets, and convert them into loyal customers.

As PROMO Magazine found, 9 out of 10 people who tried a product sample would buy it if they were satisfied.

Create real and personal encounters

Sampling can achieve what other marketing communications simply cannot: connecting the brand to the heart and mind of the consumer through real encounters and personal experiences. While other forms of advertising can create awareness and may even place the brand on the consumer’s consideration set, it’s often not enough to get them to make the all-important first-time purchase.

A report from Sampling Effectiveness Advisors shows 73 per cent of consumers said they were likely to buy a product after trying it. Only 25 per cent said the same thing about seeing a television commercial. Sampling can bolster brand perception and create a positive association.

By offering a product sample at the right place and time, brands have the ability to create an association for their product as something beneficial or pleasurable at a critical moment or point of decision. For example, offering a hydrating sports drink at the end of a race can leave consumers with a lasting positive impression and drive future sales.

 

SAMPLING 101: SEVEN THINGS YOUR SAMPLING CAMPAIGN SHOULD CONSIDER

Sampling seems simple, right? You give away free products, customers love it, your brand benefits… what could be so hard about that? Yet, without a careful strategic approach, sampling activities can all too often become ineffective and expensive. Here are a few key things to think about when planning your sampling campaign.

Time & Place

Take great care to choose the right venue and timing to sample your product. Just because the opportunity is there to sample doesn’t mean it’s the best opportunity for your brand.

Focus on choosing locations and moments where your product can be put in the hands of your target market in a relevant environment – for example, providing a cold drink when people are thirsty or giving away sunscreen on the beach.

Packaging

This seems obvious, but how your products look will be crucial to your brand’s success. A sampling activity is likely the first introduction consumers will have to your brand – a critical moment to make that all-important first impression.

According to research cited by The Paper Worker, one-third of consumer decision making is based on packaging alone, and we also know that consumers are much more likely to share their product experience online if the packaging looks appealing. Factors such as colour, typography, use of imagery, sustainability, and perceived quality can all make a huge emotional and psychological impact on how consumers feel about your product.

Often, your sampling activity will involve the distribution of a smaller, trial-size version of your product. In this case, it is even more important to make sure packaging reflects your full-size product so consumers can easily identify your product when looking for it on the shelf or online.

Presentation

Logistically and aesthetically, it’s essential that your sampling activity has your brand and products shining in their best possible light. Signage should be on-brand, any associated marketing collateral should be pristine and thoughtfully displayed. Again, it’s important to make sure you are replicating your on-shelf and online persona as close as possible – this will also help consumers recognise your products easily if they want to purchase it after being given a sample. Brand Ambassadors (those serving your products) must be knowledgeable and enthusiastic about the product.

Brand Alignment

How can you deliver a sampling activity that reinforces your brand message? It’s important to make sure there is a relevant alignment between the environment of the sampling activity and your brand, to ensure the people who receive your samples are part of your ideal audience. For example, a sampling activity that gives out green smoothies after a yoga class is likely to have a better outcome than the same product given out a motorcycle convention. By choosing environments and audiences that naturally align with your brand message, you will connect with more engaged people, and in turn, you’ll see higher sales and more meaningful reviews.

Amplification & Supporting Communication

How are you supporting your sampling via marketing communication or promotion? This is where digital marketing channels offer tremendous value. Make sure you are connecting prospective customers with your brand on a wider level by inviting them to engage with your brand online. Use social media to amplify your efforts, create shareable content, and invite engagement with your audience by way of surveying, ratings, and incentivised referrals.

Follow-up

Your mission is to convert prospects into customers. Do this by providing an irresistible, time-sensitive offer that encourages purchase. Try giving a discount code along with your sample – this is also a great way to measure the success of your sampling tactics.

Measuring Success

What does success look like to you? Obviously, an uptick in sales is always a good thing, but there are plenty more ways your brand could benefit from a sampling activity.

Increasingly, data is becoming the currency of marketing. According to AdWeek, 83 per cent of marketers identify that the ability to make data-guided decisions is one of the most important capabilities. Product sampling, like all face-to-face marketing activities, gives unprecedented access to deep, considered feedback data from consumers. This is especially useful when trialling new products, or variations on existing products.

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