Month: June 2017

Brand Connections Launches DIGITRY™

Brand Connections, an independent agency whose slogan “Make Marketing Easier for Marketers™” really resonates with me, has announced a marketing strategy  for sampling that does my heart good.      As I read the release and consider the import one line really  jumps out at me “… we can authentically recommend the right options…”.      By increasing sample program options and integrating the full range of Brand Connections sampling assets a new cohesive whole is created.

As I have often bemoaned, our sampling industry has traditionally been saddled with constant intense competitive pressure to feature one form of sampling “over” another rather than looking at brand needs and seeking the optimal hybrid solution.   This step should be seen as a positive as a sampling company can truly bring multiple options to the table when a strategic plan for a brands’ trial program is being developed.    Far too often this crucial strategy step has been undertaken by resources that simply do not have a true appreciation of the sampling universe.    For the product sampling industry to continue to grow and thrive as a strategy, the companies that are truly experts in this complex arena need to be brought into the process far sooner than most situations allow today and this approach is one I sincerely welcome.

I continue to believe that a single company, no matter how extensive their scale, can never be perfect at every form of sampling in the ecosystem.  However, this step positions DIGITRY™ as a thought leader and not just because I have been advocating for this kind of position for years, rather because I firmly believe it is the right thing to do in order to meet brand needs and increase the recognized value of our industry.    So, sincere kudos to Brand Connections in taking this step and let’s watch and see how the marketing world reacts to this long overdue approach.

Another very important point the release speaks to is ratings and reviews with a service, in partnership with Bazaarvoice, known as DIGITRY Advocate.   This includes the website found at  which is an easy human interface to sign up with the intent of receiving samples and returning to “our website to rate and review the product”.         While this release talks about “each DIGITRY offering is powered by DIGITRY Advocate, providing brands with a seamless opportunity to generate ratings and reviews through our product sampling and review community website”  I do want to know more.     One of the stumbling blocks in the ratings/review arena is that the concept of a community, where one need ‘sign up’ as a method to generate and capture ratings/reviews, does continue to be challenged by some.        

The debate surrounding the broad topic of ratings/reviews and their authenticity requires me to spend focussed time on that topic in a post later this week as I still struggle with clarity of the best practice for capturing authentic ratings and reviews – in particular from reaction to sampling programs.

This is not a new topic for me, back in 2000 our original StartSampling website contained an “Our Samplers Say” section (right rail, mid page & thanks to the wayback machine yet again) that struck such fear into marketers hearts  that we were forced to take it down.   So, we have come a long way and the genuine opinions of product samplers are and continue to be a valuable data stream.   The “how to” best leverage these powerful reactions remains unsettled so stay tuned for some thoughts on that.

Posted by jlarryburns in Product Sampling, Product Sampling Ecosystem, Product Sampling IN HOME

From Australia – interesting campaign notes ….

We do attempt to provide a view beyond North American shores ... this piece from B&T magazine  details the integrated Australian campaign that Coca-Cola is running for their No Sugar Coca-Cola launch with the tag "Say yes to the taste you love".    So, in Australia, with a population of around 24.5  million people to execute  a sampling campaign to deliver 2 million samples you are talking about a remarkably large segment of the entire population!     Imagine executing a program in the US to deliver a number of samples equivalent to nearly reaching 10% of the population  - you would be in the 30 million sample neighborhood - so THIS  is a sizeable effort.  

What is also interesting is the range and depth of activities all hooked into the core sampling effort.   The efforts include mobile (as in a truck doing hand to hand; photo), influencer efforts with the first 3,000 cans, Stadium events including a take over of an AFL match, a TV campaign, a voice activated out door refrigerated panel in Sydney (photo) ,  Shazaam,  Facebook Live,  Celebrities, and the list continues.    Clearly the idea of taste is crucial to the brands launch and with absolutely no surprise sampling plays a key role.   Equally gratifying is the hybrid nature of the sampling program tactics - locations, events, a stand alone kiosk, influencer programs and while not mentioned in great detail  I am certain in store efforts are being folded in as well.    

Another example of a major Multi-National speaking with it's budget -  saying quite loudly - SamplingWorks.    This is a type of campaign, one that seeks to sample AND to do so across myriad options, we are seeing that speaks to the trend we notice globally.   Strategy first, then once you get to "how" to sample you make the distribution efforts fit into your brand needs.  Not executing a "sampling program" so much as initiating a successful launch and trial program featuring sampling.   This is where major brands should certainly be going in terms of best practices and it's wise learning for smaller brands as well.   

Posted by jlarryburns in Product Sampling

Local News Stories …..

In my data diet I see many of these kinds of articles and generally I do not post them in the “industry news” section since they would be a steady stream.   This particular example is speaking about local producers being featured via samples at one Hy-Vee location in Faribault, Minnesota and overall is a good example of a solid way to leverage local press that, even in this digital age, can provide extra value.

However, I did want to call out the fact that publicizing local in store events and activities beyond just a retailers  own circular or in store signage can only help.    We know that one attraction for retailers offering samples is as a traffic building opportunity.  Well,  then reaching out beyond current customers can only be wise.

If, as a brand, I were participating in any sizeable  in store event program I’d take the time to make it as easy as possible for retailers to take advantage of such a sampling chance.    The logistics of control (or lack thereof) make people think twice about attempting to get these kinds of articles into print and I get it.    Yet, perhaps something as low tech as an online “fill in the blank”  press release form (including insertion locations for local reporter emails) is all it might take to get something to happen – in particular among the smaller chains and independents with an escalating desire to differentiate.    As I said I do see these kinds of articles on a routine basis but, it is these small details that can so easily slip through the proverbial cracks.

I know, I know, easy for me to say … but I did so anyway.     The truth is no one says they do not like samples, so, if a few more people hear about it … all is good.

Posted by jlarryburns in Product Sampling, Product Sampling- IN STORE

Great post from across the pond “How Effective Is Product Sampling? Eye-opening Research”

I really enjoy coming upon such passion when someone writes about Product Sampling – it kind of reminds me I am not all that strange to feel so strongly about the power and value of this industry.     The blog was posted on Wednesday by eventeem, a UK based company that quite clearly knows of what they speak and apparently has a very solid grasp on how to execute well within their market.  We  would strongly recommend a read* because the narrative is so spot on.

It is rare when we come upon someone (or group of people) who has tried to pull together multiple sources and develop a narrative about the value of sampling.  We sincerely applaud the impressive effort, as we really appreciate how difficult the task can be.   Next time feel free to use the resources here as nearly every reference cited in your terrific work can be found in our industry news annual compilation section.

In truth, the struggle to arrive at ‘industry facts’ is a major driving force behind SamplingWorks! as an entity.   We are working to curate a succinct listing of industry facts (by year) that can be used to persuade brands about product samplings continuing value within the overall marketing marketplace.   Traditionally the challenge to such a listing has been, given the intensely competitive nature of our industry ecosystem, that facts often do carry a host of context  that need illumination to be fully understood.    The facts we could have are also often cloaked in “confidentiality” and frequently not shared with the industry or vendors for valid competitive reasons.   There is really no debate about the fact that humans love samples, we are curious animals and discovering the new appears to literally be in our genes.   The real data sought surrounds brand value and ‘proof’ of the ROMI of sampling budgets and here at SamplingWorks we are attempting to compile best practices to demonstrate the kind of ROMI the ever more powerful finance teams on brands require.

This blog post is  absolutely destined to be referenced by others; perhaps even cited as a source  for facts in future presentations as each new person assigned to “prove sampling works” does their diligent searches and arrives at it.    We strongly support the passion and the facts contained – with the caveat that this is really speaking most directly to the wonderful world of the event/location/in store sections of our product sampling ecosystemas well it should give the eventeem business.    This writer is not throwing shade upon the value – this is a strong piece, far better than most and yet, it (appropriately) ignores a wide range of alternative tactics.    Saying that,  we would even go so far as to say, if you are a brand considering a hand to hand / event based  program in the UK, the eventeem samping checklist is a remarkable document that gives a tremendous road map to brand success for this kind of sampling effort, in this country.   Every country has it’s own set of unique logistical requirements and using local on the ground experts is essential to insure success and those can be found in both single country as well as cross border firms with solid local roots.     Clearly, although we have not had the personal pleasure of working directly with this team, they are smart and committed folks.



*Note: For context only, the points made remain valid  Arbitron/Edison data is from 2008, the USPS study referenced was completed in 2010, and the Atlantic piece  addressing Costco (a classic as well)  hails from 2014.

Posted by jlarryburns in Product Sampling, Product Sampling - EVENT, Product Sampling - LOCATION