Sampling in a digital world | DMA

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Sampling in a digital world

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Sampling activity has gone a lot further than promo girls handing out mini deodorants at train stations or cubed cheese handed out with a trial voucher at your local superstore.


This traditional activity still has its place, of course. But in a multimedia world of waning consumer attention, brands need a more impactful and immediate way of getting into the hands of their target market.


Data dominates in marketing as it now does in many other walks of life, so it seems a natural extension to apply customer insight to the business of driving product trial. The result is what we call Affinity Sampling, which could revolutionise the way brands get into the hands of their target consumers, allowing them to deliver samples at the right place and at the right time.


It’s a relatively uncomplicated but very effective process. Based on knowledge about customers locked up in clients’ databases about reach and demographic preference, product samples can be 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.


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.


Advertisers understand sampling is an important part of their media plan, and Affinity Sampling 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.


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.


Moreover, carrier brands are cast 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’s a measurable way of making sure that their clients’ brands are getting directly in front of the target market.
Perhaps most importantly, it gives consumers the pleasure of receiving an online purchase, enhanced by delight when it’s accompanied by a brand gift that’s highly relevant to them.


It’s also future-facing, as information from one sampling campaign can inform follow-up communications, maximising an emotional engagement that has already been established.


Global companies including P&G, Coty and Estee 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 giants ASOS, The Hut and Missguided, among others.


In a recent campaign handled by Response One, Davidoff wanted to launch its male fragrance, Davidoff The Game. The target profile was smart, affluent and ambitious businessmen. Response One’s Experience Marketing team researched and opened 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 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% including competition entries, Facebook shares, likes and positive comments.

Sampling can now be truly multi-channel and really 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.


With social media reshaping the way brands connect with consumers, from engagement to campaign amplification, it’s never been more important to reach the right people at the right time. Get your sampling activity spot on and they could become fans of your brand for a long time.

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