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Sample this !

For years new products have tried to get our attention by using Sampling.

Last month I was given 3 tea bags at a Sydney train station neatly enclosed in an envelope advertising the new lipton tea favours. Train stations are not a bad way to sample in mass, particularly if your product is aimed at the mass market, however it was surprising how many of the tea bag envelopes were dumped in the bin before people had exited the station.

Why would this be?
I think in part, people are walking so fast that they don’t really know what they are being given until after they have already received it. In that case, non-tea drinkers would probably dump the sample anyway. That said, sampling at train stations is a game of numbers. For example, let’s say that 10,000 samples were given out. Lipton would have hoped that say 5,000 of the sample packets were read by the consumers, and that 3,000 made it to the place of work or home next to the hot water jug, and then perhaps 1,000 of those were consumed as a drink. Finally, the big test is how many of those who trialled enjoyed the experience of the trial pack so much that they went and purchased one of the new flavours from the grocery store.

As mass media becomes a more difficult medium to communicate new products to consumers, techniques like sampling will become a more integrated part of the marketing mix. But rather than treat the exercise as just an awareness campaign, I think product managers should be applying some basic rules to maximise the return on their expenditure.

1. Built in buzz
To increase the trial rates of the sample, it’s important to build in as much “buzz” as you can. Make sure the sample goes beyond “just try this” and try and create a “memorable experience” from the product involvement.

2. Pick the right audience
Not all samples are tea-bags, and depending on the sample costs you can get better value by giving samples to the target demographic. Even within a train station, product samples can be directed to the target demographic. Japan railway stations regularly hand out tissue packs complete with advertising and most are directed at either male or female depending on the advertisement on the tissue pack. If the product sample is of reasonable cost, make sure you spend time up front identifying the best people who should be given the opportunity to benefit from participation in the trial.

3. Test the Sample
Before organising 1000 samples, organise 3 different samples and get 10 made up. Test these to determine which one works best. You may need to do this a few times, but it’s guaranteed to improve your percentages!

4. Pass it on
If possible, provide an easy way for people who try the product to promote the experience to their network of friends and colleagues. A positive trial experience can be multiplied 10 times if the person who samples the product can relieve the product association by telling friends and colleagues with his or her own story. This is called “Consumer Generated Media” and can be a powerful way to expand the reach of any sampling program.

5. Collect Consumer Insight.
If you are going to the trouble of handing out your samples, make sure there is a way to collect consumer feedback from the trial. This can be done using the sample fulfillment agency by ensuring that comments and experiences are recorded. In addition, you should always provide an easy way for consumers to provide comments on what they liked or how the product could be improved either through a call centre, website or paper form.

6. Measurement of the program.
Great sampling programs have a way of tracking the trial to purchase percentages. The local bakery always samples one of their new breads on the front counter. By measuring the sales of that particular variety during the day it is sampled provides an ROI model for the sampling. Another techniques is to include a
“where did you hear about us” question on signing up for a product or service.

I would welcome any other experiences with sampling or ideas on making it work.

Purple Cows are for real!

Many of you would have heard of or even read Seth Godin’s excellent book, Purple Cow. The book articulates in an inspiring and easy to read style the challenge facing the modern marketeer .. that of trying to create something that is truely remarkable in a world where products for the masses are pretty much saturated!
As Seth says “Cows, after you’ve seen one, or two, or ten, are boring. A Purple Cow, though…now that would be something.” Companies need to take more risks, create something remarkable that a few people care about, and make it easy for them to tell their friends. The basic concepts in Purple cow can be summarised in these 5 points.

Sell what people are buying
Focus on the early adopters and sneezers
Make it remarkable enough for them to pay attention
Make it easy for them to spread
Let it work its own way to the mass market.

Purple Cow !So, it’s hardly surprising that the Golden Palace casino has taken Seth literally. In what could be described as guerilla marketing, the Golden Palace casino has taken to spraying cows with their logo, obviously hoping to attract the attention of passing cars and the media as part of a publicity stunt.

I guess it worked, as I am writing about it!

Advert-a-Mat !

IntelliMatAs the price for LCD and Plasma screens continues to fall, marketeers are begining to use them to communicate to consumers at or close to the point of purchase.

From a subtle “Would you like fries with that?” message at consumer facing side of the checkout, to more main stream advertorials describing functional uses for products, marketeers are using them as new ways to communicate to consumers.
Now, thanks to the Egg Factory, they are being used as floor mats !

Here’s how they describe it …

IntelliMat is the next step in floor advertising and messaging. It involves using an electronic display, with image quality similar to that of a flat screen monitor, in combination with a floor mat to display a dynamic message to individuals walking over and/or using the mat. The mat is portable and is capable of being placed throughout stores, professional buildings, and large public areas. In addition, the mat can be updated and changed, via the Internet, from a remote location.

The IntelliMat™ has the potential to be a powerful marketing tool and has the capabilities to provide numerous functions. In addition to displaying floor advertising, the electronic display housed within the floor mat can be used to give directions or instructions, as well as provide a unique aesthetic. Further, IntelliMat has the potential to be interactive with the consumer.

Not sure that I can dance on my toes fast enough to interact with a floor mat, but it certainly makes for an interesting new way to intergrate a communication message close to the point of purchase!

If you are going to think Big, do it right !

In contrast to my recent post about the small Blowfly brewery, Carlton United Breweries (Fosters) have created a big advertisement that is continuing it’s current theme of recognizing that consumers are wise to the same old ads.

Whilst this ad would have cost a packet, it did get many things right.
Firstly, it plays to an educated audience that recognises that beer is beer. Secondly, the ad is entertaining and draws on inner male passions by combining the themes of a ‘Brave Heart meets Lord of the Rings’ style cinematography that will appeal to most of the Australian beer drinker audience.

Whilst the ad will no doubt be shown on television, Fosters have created a specific ‘Big Ad’ website for the ad to assist with it’s obvious viral charm.

So the message here is this, If you are going to spend big money on advertising, make sure that your message can be heard above the constant marketing flow of demands for attention!

Boutique Branding

As our supermarket shelves become more and more full of home brands (generics), the desire to be different or unique is creating a whole new trend in boutique branding.
Blowfly Brew
Boutique and Brands is almost an oxymoron because once the lifecycle of a product gets to a stage where the product is mainstream, the brand is no longer boutique.
Small to medium sized businesses with boutique rands often utilise viral or buzz marketing and execute them with far more success than big corporations.

So how can you create a boutique brand in today’s world?
One way is the ask your target audience to get involved with your product before you start, and that’s exactly what the Blowfly beer company did in a process they call “Open source beer making”. They collaborated with the online community to design and create a new beer. Here’s how they describe it …

We’re the lunatics from Brewtopia. Backed by one of the best up and coming breweries in the Australia, in 2002 we created a beer built on a concept we called Viral Equity – thousands of people across 20 countries helping us make a brand new beer over the internet. Crazy? Yes. Doomed to fail? Yes. But it didn’t….

With only the use of word of mouth marketing, they had developed a unique brand and following before they had even made their first bottle of beer.
The beauty of this company is that they created an audience during the whole product evolution process. They will even customise the label If you would like to here more about their story listen to The Gadget Show #19 where their CEO Liam Mulhall is interviewed.

I wish them every success!

So what are the key elements for building a Boutique brand? I can list a few, and would welcome any additional suggestions.
1. Involving your consumers in the product
2. Creating a reason for them to spread the message about your product
3. Offering some form of product distinction / uniqueness to your product

On Pack .. the untapped communication medium

As the rise and rise of Generic brands begin to dominate our grocery isles, it is any wonder Branded manufacturers are wondering what they can do to convince their consumers of the additional value in branded products. Whilst key product positioning within the supermarket shelves is a success factor in consumer propensity to purchase, consumers are becoming smarter and want to know the value of a brand before paying a premium to the generic.

I think many are failing to effectively utilise the one piece of real estate that they have the most control over. Product packaging can be used to effectively communicate to consumers, but too often is it only used for “Best ever”, “Now with the next best thing ingredient” or even “Look, we are now worth paying that bit extra for!”

Here are some new and emerging trends
1. Unique code identifiers.
Products can now be manufactured with a unique product id so that every individual product sku has it’s own identifier. This can be used for promotions that link the opportunity to enter with actual purchase. Usually on the inside of the label, the unique id can then be keyed into a website enabling additional brand communication. Alternatively the unique id can be sms’d to a special number.

2. Product usage tips
Many products can take advantage of the packaging to educate consumers in product usage. Recipes, Training tips are good examples. What you can’t fit into a the package can be used to provide a short explanation and a link to a website for a longer description.
Often individual usage tips could be placed on different varieties enabling greater education across the product range.

3. Functional Claims
Too often brands have lost the ability to communicate the basic USP (Unique Selling Proposition) of their product and the package is an all important way to do this.
99% Fat Free, Low GI, Omega 3, Gluten free and other functional claims have gained popularity recently. I think as consumers seek out products with certain claims, manufacturers could do a lot to enhance their products by helping consumers identify products within a certain function.

4. Augmented Reality Marketing
Augmented RealityNow for something on the new frontiers .. and that is the idea that you could embed special descriptions onto a package that when an camera is placed over the descriptor, a 3D image of the brand or claim stands out from the package .. think of the Princess Leia recorded message being displayed from R2D2. Augmented Reality overlays information within an environment to enhance a person or group’s capabilities to act in an environment. Data, text, images, sound & video. I had an opportunity to view an Augmented Reality demo at a conference recently. Certainly gives you perhaps the final reason to upgrade your phone to one that has an on board camera.

Podcasts

Podcasting is gathering favour thanks to Apple who have now incorporated Podcasts in their menu structure of itunes version 4.9

What is a Podcast? Here’s the definition from The Podcast Network

“The long story…a podcast is an audio show similar to a radio broadcast (but better and more relevant to you…the listener) that is either downloaded from a website or delivered via an RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feed automatically to your desktop music application via an aggregator, or a podcatcher application as some like to call it.

The short story…its great and relevant audio content, that is easy to get and that you can listen to anytime and anywhere.

Podcasts can be available in a number of audio formats including MP3, WMA and AAC, though MP3 tends to be the most favoured format due to wide spread acceptance by pretty much all types of portable music devices like the Apple iPod and the Creative Zen.”

Podcasts seem to fall into several categories
1. Music playlists (some with or without commentary)
2. Latest News type of podcasts either for movies, music and usually published by existing media agencies of tv or radio.
3. Niche talkback shows that often publish a 1 hour show each week

There maybe other categories, but I want to consider the topic of advertorial content or the best way to advertise using Podcasting.

Direct
Companies with big brands that have a fanatical audience can probably create a direct Podcast from their existing websites. Brands that service the hobby market such as SCX slot car racing could conduct interviews with various slot car clubs which would include news of product updates, and sponsored competitions etc.
General Motors already run their own blogs to communicate to their various segments and recently started to include a Podcast to their blog called Fastlane to extend the richness of their communication medium.

InDirect
But what if your brand doesn’t have fanatical consumers? Whilst it may be difficult to think of a reason to use Podcasting to talk about tissues, or a tin of beans, I believe there are opportunities for Brands that want to be seen as innovators to utilise Podcasting to help communicate things that other media is either too expensive or not suited for.
Examples could be, a Wine Appreciation discussion where Wine Growers, Makers and other interesting parties are interviewed to educate consumers on types of grapes, wines and events. Other examples are a Pet Talk back show which could discuss the joy of Petcare, a New Parent talk back show talking about how to care for a newborn baby.

Internal
Certainly all companies could use Podcasting as a way to communicate leadership and strategic direction to their employees. There are many good examples of this, and the tech industry giants like IBM, Cisco, and Microsoft are good examples of incorporating this tool into everyday communication to their employees.

So, in summary, Podcasting may be relatively new and most Brands are still to get their head around Blogging .. but I believe the Brands that embrace this technology will be better placed to attract the increasing consumer audience that is finding favour with this medium.

Add that something special to your drink?

We have heard of pass the salt, but how about “pass the straw”?
Yes .. you will soon be able to get your favourite flavour delivered via a straw.

Unistraw™ is a patented straw drinking system that delivers flavours, nutrition, energy, or specific pharmaceuticals through beads that dissolve in the course of drinking.
The Unistraw™ drinking system has application across the following areas:
§ Flavouring milk, water, wine, and soda
§ Deliver energy, salts and minerals for the sports market
§ Deliver health-value and vitamins for the lifestyle market, and
§ Transport proteins, antibodies, probiotics, and specific pharmaceuticals for the health market.

The Unistraw is not just a new product; it is the basis of a completely new category of products. The Company expects the Unistraw to enormously influence the global beverage industry by providing a fresh, innovative way to deliver taste and nutrition to consumers.

Check it out!

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