Popchips earn 72% lift in velocity !!

Popchips earn 72% lift in velocity !!

Love headlines like this:

  Focus on ‘one snack at a time’ helps better-for-you popchips earn 72% lift in velocity in target cities

Fact is that, while I’d like to say product sampling = increased velocity in a direct and simple manner, this campaign had a lot more going on.   Although at it’s root it really was all about getting the product into peoples hands the program success was clear in the write up by author Elizabeth Crawford on Food Navigator   … which is a worthy site with often interesting content (Just FYI)

Clearly, not every brand could (or even should) do what PopChips did; even if they had their own large 10th Anniversary budget.  However, this is a GREAT lesson in thinking strategically about ones brand, the right fit (in terms of celebrity), and having a good deal of fun creating experiences where sampling clearly worked and did achieve the ultimate goal – a rise in sales velocity.

Well worth a look at this article … it’s quite a testimony that SamplingWorks!   … when done well!

Posted by jlarryburns in Press Releases & Coverage, Product Sampling, Product Sampling - EVENT
A new pathway to the grocery shelf

A new pathway to the grocery shelf

Naturebox Goes Offline with Safeway and Sprouts

I read this and smiled.    This discovery commerce brand as launch platform has started to show up on shelf – having been “proven” in terms of best sellers via an original subscription business.

The NatureBox brand is moving into Safeway and Sprouts.    Talk about turning the “traditional CPG models” on their heads?    My favorite lines are the quotes from NatureBox CEO

“We look at the online and offline world as very complimentary,” he said. “[What] we’ve done is figure out ways to leverage each of these channels to feed the other. So one example that is with our retail partners, we are able to send consumers to their stores through social media and coupons in our boxes. That is something that is also exciting for our retail partners targeting this millennial demographic.”

This is a very natural way to think about how to integrate the powers of human feedback (at scale) into ones product development and planning cycles.   It also allows a constantly moving way to monitor and pick up on trends.   Once you see it – it makes all the sense in the world – but imagine pitching this idea in a CPG board room not that long ago.    A different form of constant innovation and feedback loops.   It will be fascinating to watch and see how this all plays out over time.
Oh, and by the way I have ordered a NatureBox in the past and liked some things, liked other some things a LOT,  and a few not so much – and that’s kind of the point.    A brand born of a purpose – healthier snacking that has introduced many people to new ideas, forms and tastes … Watching how this brand grows and evolves will be key learning for many in the food/Beverage industry – whether they like it or not!


Posted by jlarryburns in Product Sampling
Product Sampling Is The ‘Anti-Promotion’ Media Post, picks up April’17 post.

Product Sampling Is The ‘Anti-Promotion’ Media Post, picks up April’17 post.

I liked this and commented on it when it originally ran on LinkedIn back in April – (interesting that the links of original new item are “no longer available”).  Yet, now this time around I have been contacted by several folks who “thought of me” when it ran this time in Media Post.   Speaks to the nature of “reach” and it’s continued importance in what we as marketers (and people!) consume.

What I said then I still believe to be true …Sherry Orel’s (April 7. 2017) post is a heart-felt suggestion that appeals to my own emotion surrounding how under appreciated the art and science of product sampling is! Product sampling is a different strategic tool in the marketing arsenal, it has unique qualities and as she points out “No other consumer promotion tactics need to work as hard as sampling in order to be successful.” To me that suggests that to truly tap the full power of product sampling and use it to your best advantage as a marketer you really need to step back and consider what is the absolute best approach for your brand and that requires both terrific creativity and solid execution. Frankly, that is why SamplingWorks has been launched. Though I might express certain ideas Sherry touches on in a slightly different manner we are singing, in harmony, from the same sheet music when she says, and I quote “Sampling is a proven, long-term, equity building tactic that is the most effective tool in the marketing mix to convince a consumer to buy your product.” and that my friends, I could not have said any better!

Read the post – it’s a good one!   https://www.mediapost.com/publications/article/306153/product-sampling-is-the-anti-promotion.html?


Posted by jlarryburns in Product Sampling, Product Sampling Ecosystem
Joining forces … SG360° Acquires Data Service Solutions (DSS)

Joining forces … SG360° Acquires Data Service Solutions (DSS)

Best wishes to all involved, knowing both firms and the midwest market this move seems eminently logical.

I wish all involved luck and success – these two firms, along with enormous printing prowess,  have substantial expertise in the care and feeding of product sampling programs.  In particular the assembly & fulfillment as well as distribution & packaging design elements of “How Sampling Works”.   The industry lines continue to blur however and hence handling data, order capture and other parts of the process are, I am certain, enhanced as well.

Available scale increases as success grows a company –  a good thing for the business.   I am, however, left concerned about support for startups and smaller scale firms who are inefficient / costly to manage by companies of ever growing size.   It’s the nature of the business a positive in many ways so I am not ranting against that windmill.    Thankfully new technologies and equipment can make “small runs” feasible so, I continue to hope care is given to insuring smaller scale clients are not forgotten as they too can also grow into more important customers … over time.

Posted by jlarryburns in Press Releases & Coverage, Product Sampling, Product Sampling IN HOME
USA Today – Really?

USA Today – Really?

While decidedly tongue in cheek this piece in today’s USA Today raised my hackles a bit.    Yes, the science is real – reciprocity is a very real behavior and not overlooked by our industry as a positive.  However, to suggest that the act of taking a sample obligates one to feel they “ought to” buy is taking the science a bit beyond simple the reality of the marketplace.   (The tattoo example is interesting but fails to mention if in the “club” perhaps there were other factors (say alcohol consumption) that might have played in the willingness to get the tattoo – regard less of subjects reporting (or some 68% of them)  reporting later that theyu would not have gotten it if it were not free.)   I am discussing free product samples here (what a surprise given the title of these pages) and not commenting on the free shipping issue

Look, the reality is that today’s shoppers are very “hip to the tricks” of marketing.  People understand that stores are handing out free samples to get you to buy, they know that brands are providing samples to people because the brands believe that once someone tries their product or service they are more likely to buy it again.  There is no mystery, no hidden secret impulse brands are trying to leverage.   People by our very nature and genetic make up are curious animals – we (generally, as a species)  LIKE to try new thing, to explore, to discover.  When a brand engages in product sampling they are simply offering someone a choice to try or not.   Is a brand likely to receive some ‘halo’ of positive thought by participating in a sampling event, well yes, of course.   But, with “conversion” norms NEVER coming even close to 100% – if reciprocity was an absolute rule – wouldn’t everyone feel compelled to buy?

In the real world people make choices, they generally do know what they are ‘getting into’ with a sample and I seriously doubt that any CPG brand is relying on “guilting” someone into buying simply because they sampled.   Many people pass by free samples all the time and do not “take one” – why?  They self select or perhaps they do feel like they do not want to be obligated if they engage – whatever their reason is it’s theirs.

But, in truth if you are interested and want to try something for free go right ahead – with full knowledge that you MIGHT feel, if you liked it, it is worth buying – or not.    Humans have free will even though in far too many cases tricks of manipulation can get people to do things they do not want to do.   In the world of free product samples perhaps common sense ought prevail and we should not make an assumption that free samples inevitably lead to higher rings for the retailer.  Sure, they HOPE it does and that is part of the reason to invest in sampling but I think more highly of we shoppers  – don’t you?

From USA Today, August 14th 2017,   No, nothing comes for free. Not even free samples or free shipping


Posted by jlarryburns in Product Sampling
July Hodgepodge*

July Hodgepodge*

Several items that caught our eye this month:

July 12th From Event Magazine (UK).   Pepsi launching a Ginger flavored cola (something I would like!) via a “sampling program” at 10 UK Universities.  Photo booth mentioned … not sure if one must engage in sharing media in order to try the product  – hopefully not.

July 6th.   I like this one only because I think EVERY liquor store opening ought to create such an option, appropriate to their own market of course.    “… store will devote a section to products sourced from New York wineries and distilleries and feature a dedicated tasting area for product sampling. “  This is about the opening of the Tin Woodman’s Flask 

July 6th  I find this very interesting – New CMO on June 12th and an announcement of this program in her third week!      Sampling is clearly not only for the new – witness Honey Baked Ham’s declaration that hence forth (over this summer at least)  Friday shall be Tryday!  An idea that I think can create some routine traffic (perhaps?) not every store will participate of course but “Customers can visit a local store from 11 a.m.-2 p.m.* to try a product sample for their next summer occasion.”

July 14th – From Canada – another example of the classic store opening approach.   “There will also be Giant Value product sampling for all to enjoy.”  An announcement of the next Giant Tiger store opening – this time in Charlottetown, PEI!

Friendly the Giant Tiger (CNW Group/Giant Tiger Stores Limited)

July 13th – Palm Coast Observer.    Love the headline “Shoppers rejoice for ALDI opening in Palm Coast”    “Just” another store opening notice – it seems they all do include “product sampling” in some manner in the copy but, interesting how in some cases it’s featured (if you will) and in others just kind of in there (as if it were expected/assumed)

July 11th – Australia based but participating countries involved include United States, Brazil, Poland, Italy and France.   As is ever more typical of solid campaigns this offers “a range of activities such as experiential and outdoor activations, product sampling, in-store point of sale, digital and print advertising, public relations and social media amplification.”    I am all for “an international marketing campaign celebrating intimacy.”  but  have these folks met the varied constituencies they might encounter here in the US?     I have to chuckle envisioning  the lawyers here trying to get the contest rules ironed out for “SKYN® Condoms is recruiting couples across the globe to enter a competition to win an all-expenses paid trip and critique the nation’s top intimacy locations.”    Oh, come on, if I don’t have fun with this one … no offense to anyone I just smiled when this one hit the data feeds I am collecting.

July 12th – Closer to home from Cleveland, our friends at Workplace Impact have a unique service that works to “serve the needs of restaurant owners looking to increase sales.”    These folks do a lot of interesting sampling programs and this recent article is included because of the 25th anniversary video (Feb, 2014) at the end of the article which really made me smile.


*noun   1.   a heterogeneous mixture; jumble.
Posted by jlarryburns in Press Releases & Coverage, Product Sampling, Product Sampling - EVENT, Product Sampling - LOCATION
Ummmm …. Remember that Australia “No Sugar Coke” program ….

Ummmm …. Remember that Australia “No Sugar Coke” program ….

Well, while I enjoyed talking about it as an example of a major sampling push (2 million samples for a county with a population of around 24.5 Million) .    Something tells me I might have jumped the gun and/or negotiations are taking place in the press.    To whit – it appears that Woolworths Limited* who control nearly 40% (2014) of grocery sales in Australia recently said this:

“We have taken the decision to not range this product at this time,” a spokesman said.     “Our customers looking for a no sugar or low sugar cola option have ample choice already. We continue to stock Coca-Cola Zero in our stores nationwide.”  For the full story click here

Kind of flies in the face of the big new sampling program to launch No Sugar Coke as a replacement for Coke Zero.   While you all known my affinity for sampling, and I do really find the Coke sampling plans interesting, reality is that without distribution in stores representing more than a third of grocery sales let’s all agree now to NOT judge the impact of the sampling program on a pure financial basis unless this minor little hiccup gets addressed – deal?


* YES. Woolworths for you out of touch Americans.  Which btw had no relation (except for the name which had not been trademarked in Australia!) to the venerable, yet now extinct, F.W.Woolworth chain that many of us grew up with.   Did you know the Woolworths we knew (stock symbol ticker Z, to give you a sense of it’s importance at one point in history) ceased to be in 1997?  The company focus moved to athletic equipment eventually became known by a major store brand – Foot Locker(2001) and the ticker symbol changed in 2003 to FL which it is today

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

BrandShare® talks about Triple Digit Growth in Sampling !

In a press release issued today the folks at BrandShare (with help from Marx Communications) are reporting some great things about sampling!

Huge sampling growth!   Expanded retail partnership!  Billions distributed!   I expect this release should generate some solid interest for Brandshare and their product set.

Yes, rapid e-commerce growth continues to drive the Product Sampling Ecosystem  Discovery segment to ever new heights.   I am obliged to point out that the “triple digit growth” described in the headline speaks to what BrandShare’s internal numbers are expected to be and in fact reflect growth from 2013 – 2017 .   A really strong and utterly believable growth rate over 4 years – however it will be interesting to see how social media and the trade press pick up on this release and if they simply trumpet triple digit growth or if they apply any sense of context.

Also that 2.2 billion samples distributed figure mentioned which remains a wildly impressive number represents the total distribution count since inception (in 1984!).

What really resonated with me was in talking about BrandShare’s  E-Commerce Network ,the Walmart e-commerce sampling program is described as having expanded to 4 million sample packages a month.  To me that is the most amazing number in the release … because at that scale Walmart alone is distributing well over 50MM samples a year via e-commerce with 50MM being a wildly conservative number.  We do know many  “sample packages” contain multiple samples. (e.g. Walmart Beauty box my household last received had 6 individual samples.  Plus a visit to this one site within the overall sampling program clearly shows this particular discovery commerce box features a large number of samples/box) .   Hence its quite safe to talk about this program alone as distributing well over 100MM samples annually.

Given today’s hectic, bumper sticker sound bite, news world that we inhabit I suspect this story will be mis-reported,  Sincere kudos to the team at Marx for being creative in how they took this solid data and created real excitement with it and the Infographic is terrific.    The press release is certainly well documented and I have no reason to dispute any of the claims in fact I’ll  add it to the list of “suggested articles with interesting data”,  I’ll just think of this as an interesting experiment in actually critically reading ‘statistics’ versus just passing cool numbers along.

My favorite line from Doug Guyer’s quote “As television advertising declines and more consumers block online ads, sampling has become the best route to buyers’ hearts.”  and with that statement I most heartily agree!   In this era of dwindling attention a sample carries far more multi-sensory impact than any other form of marketing- period.

P.S. the infographic shared with the release is quite a piece and well worth of a look:



Posted by jlarryburns in Press Releases & Coverage, Product Sampling, Product Sampling IN HOME

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 Digitry.us  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