Sampling grows up as marketers hand out much-needed education with their product
FOOD AND BEVERAGE MARKETERS have boasted about the merits of sampling for decades. One sample and their product will speak for itself. But many brands are starting to take it a step further using “education-based” sampling experiences to make a deeper connection with consumers. Take vodka brand Russian Standard for example whose objective is to stand out among established vodka brands in the U.S. market. Through the end of the year the brand will hit 14 markets with a sampling program that features Russian-speaking female brand ambassadors hosting authentic vodka tastings that include traditional Russian pickles and bread. Consumers take a shot glass and look into each other’s eyes and blurt out “Na Zdorovie” (to your health) and drink. Then they follow it up with a “Zakuski” (snack). Education about the authenticity of Russian Standard’s brand is a valuable component of its sampling programs.
“In the U.S. people drink vodka in many ways so we wanted to bring a bit of Russia into the experience by incorporating the language and the traditional way to do a shot ” says Todd Bellucci trade marketing manager at Russian Standard (Factory 360 New York City handled).
Endemic brands like soy products can also have more successful sampling programs when consumers truly understand what the product is all about. To help consumers understand the benefits of soy as part of a healthy diet SOYJOY put together a multipronged sampling program that educates the public about its often-misunderstood product. The program kicked off with street teams in 12 markets in April followed by a partnership with YMCAs in July and house parties in August. On Nov. 11 the brand wrapped a 10-stop tour which included South Street Seaport in New York City and the Mall of America in Minnesota to engage health-conscious women ages 25 to 54 with Food Network-style cooking demos nutritionist consultations and massage therapy.
“We felt it was critical to focus on educating the consumer about the robust history and benefits of soy and whole soy in particular ” Rebecca Zimmerman brand manager at SOYJOY says. “We put together several different elements of the consumer sampling program knowing that there had to be an in-depth one-to-one educational component and that it would involve more than handing a product to consumers.”
At YMCAs the brand posted signage and set up a booth with product samples and literature. Trained brand ambassadors kicked off conversations with members on the health benefits of soy. In August 750 house parties were held in one day providing hosts with soy recipes yoga DVDs and other educational materials illustrating ways that soy can play a part in a healthy lifestyle (Eventive Marketing New York City handled). Education-based sampling programs are not only a smart strategy for foreign or endemic products it can help boost brands ubiquitous to our supermarket shelves. And it hardly gets more ubiquitous than Bumble Bee tuna. Expanding consumers’ perceptions beyond the tuna sandwich is what Bumble Bee’s educational sampling programs strive to achieve.
In September the brand teamed up with 3 000 personal trainers in 300 gyms across the country to help spread its message that tuna is a healthy food option that lends itself to delicious and convenient recipes families can enjoy on a budget. At the gyms Bumble Bee set up sampling stations with pouches of its premium albacore tuna (more than 150 000 samples were distributed) and literature on the benefits of eating its products. The brand also handed out recipe cards and coupons (Active Marketing Group San Diego CA handled).
“This program allowed us to provide fun creative and easy-to-prepare recipes as well as coupons that ultimately these trainers could discuss with their clientele and really spread the word ” says Dave Melbourne svp-consumer marketing at Bumble Bee Foods. “People know that tuna has Omega 3 but the program provides specifically all the benefits that the product has to offer.”
In addition the brand runs a bustling website beewellmiles.com that provides a forum for consumers to discuss the benefits of tuna with other website visitors as well as with experts like registered dieticians. But an educational component is not all that makes these brands’ sampling programs a success. Each made sure to funnel their messages through credible sources. Their messengers—native Russians local YMCAs and personal trainers—upped the credibility of the brand promotion. And sure most people are delighted to take a freebie as they push around their shopping cart. But ensuring that a product sticks in consumers’ minds—not just in their tummies—with educational elements can help make the case for why your brand is worth their time and money.