Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Why getting ‘brands in hands’ drives digital demand

By Martin Rothwell, Client Relations Lead, GottaBe!

Brand sampling is a key tool in any marketer’s armoury and is known to directly increase revenues.

Depending on where you go to source your statistics, physical product giveaways are said to boost sales by anything from 24% to 2,000%. While indicative results may vary wildly, it’s generally agreed that sampling is a good investment for brands.

But sampling campaigns create more than offline buzz: they also have the potential to drive traffic and e-commerce sales, which have become strategic objectives for many organisations.

Think beyond traditional sampling settings.

Firstly, let’s take a look at sampling’s offline playbook.

Broadly speaking, sampling initiatives fall into two pots.

High-involvement sampling is all about building emotional connections with your brand. If you have a team handing out freebies at a festival, for instance, it’s not just about the giveaway; the experience you give to consumers who are sampling the product matters too. A water brand might want to provide an event chill-out zone where consumers can recharge as part of the sampling activity. All of this helps people to recall your brand when they’re in-store.

Low-involvement sampling, on the other hand, is geared towards trial and building purchase intent. Think including samples in delivery boxes from the likes of Hello Fresh. This type of activity suits large audience pushes, with the chance to get feedback and plug learnings into the next iteration, for an improved sampling experience.

By collecting feedback from customers who have sampled your products, you can gain valuable intel on what your customers like or dislike about your products. This feedback can then be used to improve the product or position the product differently in market, leading to a better customer experience – and ultimately increasing customer loyalty.

Moving seamlessly from physical to digital

So far, so good for physical sampling. But it is increasingly offering an opportunity to drive people online, too. This could be through QR codes or promotional offers, so the consumer is compelled to continue their journey digitally. This works well if the goal is specifically to encourage sales through your e-commerce site, for instance.

Digital is becoming as much a driver of brand sampling activity and is too important to ignore. But what’s the smart way to go about it?

There a lots of ways digital supports and enhances sampling, from boosting e-commerce receipts to building online communities. Online it can be easier to build a picture of target audience ‘lookalikes’ of people you connect with in the physical space; thus extending the prospect pool to new customers you can target online. In other words, digital brings scale to sampling long after the initial campaign may have come to an end.

It works in reverse, too. Digital can help to create awareness of sampling activity before it even begins. This means consumers are better engaged, know what to expect, and want to get involved in the physical activity which, in turn, drives traffic to digital landing pages and e-commerce stores: a virtuous circle.

One way to make this happen is to harness the boom in using online influencers, as many brand already have done during the past decade or so. 

Getting influencers on board early can help shape the strategy in ways that will appeal to your – and their – audience. It can flag the physical event you’ve planned before it happens and give people a reason to pop along to pick up a sample.

If you then drive that audience to digital, perhaps using a QR code on the promotional pack that promises more goodies when they go online, you can track redemption and other activity. Through this, you can build a picture of where the influencer’s audience lives: thus helping you plan more targeted high- and low-involvement campaigns for the future.

It’s worth realising that people who visit your physical sampling event can become micro-influencers of their own. Give them a reason to create and share User Generated Content, and their audience can subsequently share it too – meaning you might soon reach a much larger audience.

Sample and connect: the drive to digital in action

Using offline sampling to drive online activity is also a great way to monitor and measure the success of campaigns. This can include metrics such as awareness – share of search increase over time, for instance – plus social media engagement; on-site code/offer redemption; or simple site traffic analytics.

We brought all of this together in a campaign with Solent University. The objective was to help the institution capture data and register third-year students on affiliated job portals.

To deliver this campaign we provided Solent University with promotional staff armed with iPads and other data-capturing tools. The team engaged with students – not least, with doughnuts – to encourage them to sign up to portals and placement schemes, to help further their education.

We worked with the university to help educate our brand ambassadors about the scheme so they could confidently promote it to students and support the campaign to the best of their ability. They were carefully selected to match the age of the target audience, for better engagement.

Throughout the six-day campaign, we sampled more than 1,000 doughnuts with students and achieved 74% conversion ratio for sign-ups.

Proof if any was still required that getting brands into hands leaves the target audience hungry for further interaction, and fuses offline and online activity to ensure the power of sampling can be realised.