When sampling takes place in two of the busiest airports in the country—Chicago O’Hare and Denver International—during the height of the holiday travel season the word “challenge” is taken to new heights. Any sampling event can be a logistical challenge. Product may get lost en route to the venue. Brand ambassadors may not be up to snuff. Even the weather can make life difficult. But when sampling takes place in two of the busiest airports in the country—Chicago O’Hare and Denver International—during the height of the holiday travel season the word “challenge” is taken to new heights. Herbal supplement maker Airborne undertook the largest product sampling effort in airport history when it gave out 840 000 samples from mid-November to Dec. 28.
“The objective was to get our product in the hands of as many consumers as possible ” says Alison Calder vp-marketing at Airborne. “We’ve found that a large percentage of people who try Airborne continue to use it. A number of travelers swear by Airborne which is why this promotion was such a perfect fit. We reached those people who are constantly on-the-go in their environment.”
The sampling took place during two four-hour segments Monday to Saturday 6-10 a.m. and 4-8 p.m. which are busy commuter times. The brand had to follow strict rules including getting federal background checks for all those participating.
Thinking of passing on through the metal detector for your next sampling program? Take these tips from a brand that’s been there:
Plan plan and plan some more
It’s best to leave six months to pull the program together. When it comes to airports time is essential. Give yourself a good head start because the levels of security and regulation you’ll face are great and the time frames in which paperwork comes through can vary from five days (if you’re lucky) to three or more weeks (if you’re not).
Know your target
First determine which airports should be involved to reach the target demo—commuters versus holiday travelers and international versus domestic ones. “Airborne wanted to reach business travelers heavy travelers the airline industry and mothers ” says Galen Weaver vp-airport operations and client services at agency Airport Marketing Income (AMI) which specializes in airport programs and handled for Airborne. In this case it made sense to do it during the chilly holiday season when air travel among those groups is high and an immune-boosting product is in demand. The holiday season offered a good mix of business travelers and vacationers.
Pay attention to the paperwork
In order to get your program approved by airport authorities a document must be sent to the local airport authority outlining the program and addressing the security of the staffers as well as product storage the logistics of getting the product through security and how it will be sampled. The airport authority usually needs about 30 days to work through its channels to approve project plans.
Leave plenty of time for security badging
Staffers just like regular airport employees need to be badged so they can pass through security without a boarding pass. Badging requires four to six weeks lead time before the start of the program. Potential staffers need to be able to pass a federal background check.
Airborne worked with AMI to have would-be samplers fill out an application that was subsequently signed by the airport authorities in both cities where the sampling was taking place. It was then returned to the applicant who was required to go to the airport with two forms of identification and proof of citizenship to submit the badge application and get fingerprinted for a federal background check. Once cleared the application went to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) for a security threat assessment which took anywhere from a few days to three weeks. After that applicants returned to the airport for SIDA (Secure Identification Display Area) training on security measures and were required to pass a test at the end before receiving their badge. People transporting samples from off-site storage also needed to be badged.
Get your samples security-approved as well
Security issues aren’t only about the people. The product to be sampled needs to be secure too. Since airport space is at a premium Airborne stored its 840 000 samples which were shipped in from Texas off site in a space about the size of a three-car garage and brought in samples through security as needed between the two four-hour daily sampling sessions. The brand ambassadors were also responsible for trash removal after the program which in Airborne’s case amounted to 15 large trash bags of paper plastic bags packaging and rubber bands and 2 000 collapsed cardboard boxes.
During the 10 a.m.-4 p.m. downtime ambassadors removed trash and re-stocked the storage area with samples. Then the evening staff showed up and the process started all over again. It was intense but successful thanks to proper planning.