In the film “He’s Just Not That Into You,” Ginnifer Goodwin’s character is making out with a guy and starts to get nervous. She retreats to the relative safety of his bathroom to call a friend for some moral support. While she’s in there, she opens the cabinet and sees some Crest Whitestrips and puts one on. Thus began the in-theater experience last month for the brand.
And in five markets, when the film ended, brand reps were waiting by the exits with samples of the new Crest Whitestrips Advanced Seal. They passed out more than 200,000 promotional cards that included upper and lower strips, a $10 coupon, and a funny message linked to the film.
“[Theaters] were a logical place to test and see how people would receive our product,” says Andy Deister, brand manager for Crest Whitestrips, made by Procter & Gamble. “It’s all about the experience. We needed to reinforce that with moviegoers.”
For P&G, the general audience for the film was a perfect match for the product: young, giggling, guy-crazy girls and women.
Companies like P&G are searching for interesting ways to get samples to consumers in unexpected places. The average program includes about 500,000 to 1 million samples, with the average cost per item ranging from 25 cents to 40 cents, says Cindy Johnson, president of Sampling Effectiveness Advisors.
“Long gone are the days when a brand is doling out 3 million to 5 million samples at a time,” Johnson says. “It’s become more expensive to get a sample out,” so marketers are looking to maximize results.
Here’s a look at some surprising campaigns.
On March 14, Sargento will bring its Salad Finishers and Potato Finishers food items to the place where people are most likely to use them: the kitchen. The company is staging more than 1,000 parties with help from House Party, an agency that hosts in-home events.
Hosts are solicited online and through House Party’s extensive database, and prescreened to assure a good fit with the products — which in this case combine Sargento cheeses with other ingredients for salads or baked potatoes. Hosts in the Sargento sampling will invite dozens of family members, friends and coworkers, and set up salad and potato bars. As part of the fun, hosts will hold blindfold tastings for their guests and play salad-themed trivia games.
The program is expected to draw between 13,000 and 15,000 guests, mostly women ages 35 to 54 who are passionate about cooking. The guests will be given product coupons to take home, and blogs will be monitored to gauge their satisfaction.
The cost to stage 1,000 parties can run $120,000 and up and includes the search for the appropriate hosts, product coupons, Web site expenses and tracking results. The hosts earn the right to be the “influencers,” receive coupons to purchase the products and plan a fun party.
“Word-of-mouth is a very strong component in terms of how you can build awareness and trial,” says Troy Davis, senior marketing manager for Sargento’s Finishers. “Traditional sampling wouldn’t really have helped us. We wanted a party setting and that strong experience where consumers can interact with the brand.”
The use of in-home events to sample products is on the rise. House Party CEO Kitty Kolding says that this year, the company will more than double the number of events it held last year.
“What we are creating for the client is not just a personal experience, but we’re embedding it in a fun social experience,” Kolding says. “That’s what makes people talk.”
THE GREEN MARKET
While other brands are headed for festivals and water parks, Cadbury Adams is trying something new: sampling at farmer’s markets.
The firm is visiting 10 cities this month — a time of year when consumers often suffer from sniffles and sore throats — to sample its Halls Naturals with Soothing Honey Center Harvest Peach cough drops. Reps in branded outfits will distribute 200,000 two-piece samples with a $1 coupon.
“We look for unexpected events and occasions to sample our products,” Halls Brand Manager Becky McAninch says. “It’s all about breaking through the clutter and being relevant and top of mind with our consumers.”
The company is making stops at Lincoln Park Farmer’s Market and Chicago Green City Market in Chicago; Union Square Greenmarket and Fort Greene Park Greenmarket in New York; and Hollywood Farmer’s Market and Mid-City West Farmer’s Market in Los Angeles. Other stops include Philadelphia, San Francisco, Boston, D.C., Dallas, Atlanta and Houston.
Zoom Media & Marketing, which conceived the idea, says a growing number of marketers want to sample where consumers are highly receptive — rather than, for example, intercepting people running to catch a train.
“The environment and setting are key,” says Patrick West, Zoom Media’s vice president of experiential marketing. “Clients are turning away from generic street sampling or festival sampling. They are turning toward locations where specific types of consumers can be found, and in a setting where they are in good spirits and the sample will be used, retained and remembered.”
Alacer Corp., maker of the fizzy vitamin drink mix Emergen-C, has gone snowboarding. Reps wearing branded backpacks will be carving the trails at Stowe, VT, Waterville Valley, NH, and Stratton, VT, this month and passing out samples of the health and energy booster drink mix to boarders on the mountains and in lift lines. The reps, who are experienced snowboarders themselves, will also offer sport tips while sharing the brand message “Feel the good.”
To taste the latest flavors, people can visit drink-mixing stations positioned under an inflatable tent dubbed Emergen-C’s “Get Shred Ready Igloo.”
The effort, which began in January, is part of Alacer’s sponsorship of the 2009 Burton Super Demo Tour and Burton U.S. Open.
“We’re sampling in an environment that is friendly and where people are having a great time,” says Michael Galef, vice president of marketing for Alacer Corp. “We’re just being authentic to our consumer.”
About 170,000 Emergen-C samples will be distributed throughout the Burton events. Alacer is collecting e-mail addresses from consumers who want to receive marketing messages and a monthly e-mail newsletter.
Last New Year’s Eve, SoBe Lifewater was on hand at three nightclubs in Miami’s South Beach to let people taste its zero-calorie drink, launched that month.
Club-goers who used the valet parking service discovered cold, full-size bottles of the drinks in their vehicles and branded floor mats. Each beverage came with a message card from SoBe reminding people to hydrate themselves after a busy night on the town.
“This was something that aligned with the mysticism of the brand,” says Coltrane Curtis, the creative director for Epiphany, which handled the effort. “We wanted to get it in the hands of people who are going to influence consumption.”
Some 2,200 bottles were distributed as part of the promotion, a first for SoBe. On-site signage helped support the giveaway. The effort was part of a larger sampling push on beaches and streets totaling 20,000 samples.
“We wanted to engage people in a way that was unexpected,” Gary So, brand manager for SoBe Lifewater, says.
For more articles on premiums and incentives go to www.promomagazine.com/incentives