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A strategic approach to product trial

Fola Enifeni, Strategist at Shared Experience Agency TRO, discusses how to get the most out of a product trial campaign.

Food and drinks brands are increasingly understanding the power and importance of product trial as a key tool in their marketing strategy.  So why is this?

There are many preconceptions of trial activity within the marcomms industry but put simply, sampling works.  And the stats back this up.  According to Opinion Research Group, 81% of consumers would buy a product if they received a sample and liked it.

“At a time of unending choice and interruption for today’s consumer, brands must continually innovate their strategy and devise more effective ways to reach and connect with their audience,” says Andrew Orr, Client Services Director at TRO.  Turning up in the right place, at the right time and with the right experience is key.  Sampling must go beyond simply handing out the highest number of samples in the busiest spaces.

Here are some tactics that can help brands get the most out of their sampling campaigns:

  1. Data-led trial: Be it to attract a new audience or re-connect with an existing one, getting samples in the right hands is key and hyper-targeted trial is the tool for this. Overlaying multiple data points (from category, consumer, sales and regional information) is proven to increase effectiveness and reduce ‘audience waste’ and can elevate even the simplest of sampling campaigns.
  1. Drive buzz and engagement through relevance: To increase cultural capital, brands should take advantage of key calendar moments as consumers are more engaged and the majority are seeking inspiration from brands on how to celebrate these moments. It is important for brands to identify periods right for their brand and not just activate around these days but get creative and capitalise on the consumers need to be inspired.

Our recent work with Strong Roots demonstrated this.  The ‘Veganuary Response Vehicle’ helped capitalise on increased interest in alternative diets by delivering a sampling campaign that aligned with a consumer need for culinary inspiration.  The creation of the world’s first ‘meat patch’, promoted by Tommy Fury and available to try alongside the product, created additional interest and wider awareness of both the brand and the campaign, helping drive strong January sales.

  1. Consider strategic brand collaboration: Partnering with the right brand can create a platform to get in front of new consumers and increase brand awareness in an efficient and mutually beneficial way.  For instance, brands such as Graze have collaborated with ASOS, adding samples into ASOS packages.  This adds value for ASOS customers, increasing brand appeal, but also doubles as exposure for the sampled products.
  1. Be more impactful through multi-channel integration: Sampling doesn’t need to work in a vacuum, it can play a key role within an integrated campaign. Whilst sampling is not typically regarded as the key tool in marketing, it can support a wider brand story and engage consumers to be part of that story.
  1. Connect through personalisation: In the digital era where personalised marketing has become the norm, consumers are now demanding the same from brands in face to face interactions. Customisation campaigns increase engagement and interaction with brands, with the additional benefit of driving social sharing.

TRO worked with Hennessy to celebrate their collaboration with Chinese contemporary artist Zhang Huan through a personalisation pop-up at Selfridges during Chinese New Year, delivering a relevant, value-adding product experience at the point of purchase.

There are many benefits seen from a strategically planned and executed sampling campaign, from increasing brand awareness and growing consideration to driving propensity to purchase and ultimately sales. Moreover, with ad blockers driving the cost of digital engagement upwards, product trial can offer a cost-effective way of positively connecting with and adding value to consumers.

Ultimately the tactics used will depend on a brand’s overall aims and objectives, but in a time of constant innovation and creativity in consumer engagement, the crucial role that clever and effective product sampling offers brands of today and tomorrow has never been clearer.

To find out more about TRO, get in touch with christopher.booker@tro.com.