Think of traditional sampling activity and you can be excused for picturing good-looking young men and women handing out miniature packs of Pringles or cans of deodorant at busy train stations. This type of campaign still has its place in the marketing mix, but a new and more sophisticated way of reaching a specific audience has evolved.
In a world where data has begun to dominate, it seems a natural extension to apply customer insight to the business of driving product trial. The result is Affinity Sampling, which is set to revolutionise the way brands get into the hands of their target consumers, at the right place and at the right time.
Based on the knowledge locked in our clients’ databases about reach and demographic preference, product samples are paired with a trusted ‘carrier brand’. The key aspect is that the brand and carrier have ‘lookalike’ consumers. Ultimately, samples are enclosed within orders placed with the carrier brand.
It’s that simple, and it’s proving very successful. Partly this is down to the devil in the detail of the data. But it’s also crucial to enthuse the target market by creating dialogue and engagement via social media and through the carriers’ digital platforms.
There’s nothing people love more – and apparently there’s little of greater value to brands in this connected age – than sharing a good experience online.
For advertisers who understand that sampling is an important part of their media plan, this creates brand engagement by making a positive impact. The target audience is at home or work, free from the distractions associated with street sampling, and in a receptive frame of mind having just opened their order from the carrier brand.
Recipients also share their experience spontaneously on social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Meanwhile, the use of specialist software aids campaign analysis and gives an understanding of consumer sentiment.
For carrier brands, it casts them in a good light because they are playing their part in a memorable experience. They also benefit from the ‘halo effect’ of social media sharing. For agencies, it is a measurable way of making sure that their clients’ brands are getting directly in front of the target market. And for consumers, it means that the pleasure of receiving an online purchase is enhanced when it is accompanied by a brand gift that is highly relevant to them.
The technique is also future-facing, as information from one sampling campaign can inform follow-up communications, maximising an emotional engagement that has already been established.
Response One is currently working with more than 50 carefully selected carrier brands, but the list could be almost endless. Whatever the requirement, it’s a case of identifying the right carrier for the product, and acting as a partner throughout the process.
Global companies including P&G, Coty and Estée Lauder have already sampled the benefits of affinity sampling. Many major media and specialist promotional agencies are also involved. And the list of carriers includes online retail giants Asos, The Hut and Missguided, among others.
In a recent campaign, Davidoff wanted to launch its latest male fragrance, Davidoff The Game. The target profile was smart, affluent and ambitious businessmen. Response One’s experience marketing team researched and opened up new channels to reach this audience, arranging for prestigious retailers The Savile Row Company and Allsole.com to include samples with online orders.
The agency also designed two competitions to be hosted on the retailers’ Facebook pages. On The Savile Row Company’s page, customers registered for the chance to win a full-sized product. Lack of entry requirements generated a high level of response, and the winner was chosen at random. Meanwhile, Allsole.com hosted a competition that required customers to leave a comment explaining why they should win a full-sized product for the chance to receive one. This generated an in-depth and emotive level of response. In total, the social media response rate was 6.4 per cent including competition entries, Facebook shares, likes and positive comments.
Damian Coverdale, managing director of Response One, says: “We developed the service with a test-and-learn approach, and now have a bank of knowledge of what works and what doesn’t. We’ve recently joined the IPM and see our fellow members as the perfect people to discuss the new service with.”
Through this new approach, sampling is now truly multi-channel and can go from bland experience to brand experience. It’s a cost-effective way of reaching and engaging with the right people, driving consumer behaviour and, ultimately, loyalty.
The power of social media means it has never been more important to reach the right people at the right time with your brand. Get it right and those people could become long-term advocates.
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