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

Interactions introduces Brands2Desk Experience.

On May 11th Interactions, part of  Daymon  a global enterprise who has grown from its 1970’s roots in private label expertise to include myriad services worldwide, announced  this new service via a press release last week.    This business extension, Brands2Desk, is part of Interactions Daymon the consumer experience marketing arm of Daymon which includes a wide range of  retail solutions and experiential marketing  options.

Brands2Desk is a new service for Interactions but certainly not a new idea nor service to the sampling industry.  Workplace Impact, Inc. has been in business, doing this kind of work (reaching employee’s at their place of work), in the US for over 28 years while Theworkperk offers an alternative sampling service in the UK.    This new service from  Interactions is a welcome entry as it will increase awareness of and interest in reaching people for sampling and trial efforts during their working days.

I have always thought the workplace does provide a unique and remarkably uncluttered marketing environment for employees to interact with brands. As long as one takes into account the needs of the employer (not interruptive, welcomed,  approved, culturally appropriate) then such programs are seen as providing a real value to the employee!   There is a very positive element that comes from integrating a brand into the already existing social networks and communication channels that exist in every workplace.    Social interactions about a brand  can be quite simply a very natural occurrence.  So,  once a sample becomes available during the workday, people are very likely to talk about as they do about the weather, the work they are doing, their bosses, politics, sports or any other conversation that is simply a normal part of many people’s work days.   Since every workplace is at least somewhat unique (and THEY all certainly think they are) creating a network of companies and relationships is a process so, for brands interested in reaching employees in their workplaces I would encourage questions about any vendors reach, as well as the depth and maintenance of relationships to insure your brand will be welcomed into the companies you seek to reach.

At SamplingWorks we always welcome new entries within our product sampling ecosystem and this new service expands the players  (and brand choice) within our Location category by being a new player in the Workplace segment.

Our belief that product sampling remains an industry on the upswing is again borne out by the introduction of yet another new service from a major company with many strong retailer and brand relationships.


Posted by jlarryburns in Product Sampling, Product Sampling - LOCATION

Elite Sampling & Media Group – divests Network of DR Office Wallboards

Elite a long time sampling (& Media) firm has taken the step of selling to Mesmerize Marketing their network of approximately 5,000 wallboard locations in medical offices.  As was announced in this pick up of their press release,  and based on study data, patients really do have positive response to information provided at the Point of Care (POC).

For Elite as represented by Nick DeBellis (President) this action offer the chance to focus on the core of their “prosperous CPG sampling and promotions business”.   Elite Sampling & Media Group LLC has a long history across several areas of the product sampling ecosystem  including what SamplingWorks refers to as the Location and In Home categories .   I will take this news as yet another good sign for the industry.   A long term vendor chooses to exit (though remaining connected) from a line of  business that was not directly related to sampling which should provide even more focus on sampling and helping CPG brands reach people in several different ways.

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

Exact Media – Ready for prime time.

Back in February of 2014, we posted a news piece (Ad Week) on Unilever’s early work with Exact Media and it seems the company is ramping up and ready to make a larger splash in our product sampling ecosystem.   In short they provide another way to reach people in their homes via the “ride along’ distribution model coupled with more elaborate (precise) targeting and a respect for research, results provision, and transparency that I applaud.

I’d propose they participate in the ‘In Home’ segment of the ecosystem that I refer to as “Discovery- catalog/ecommerce inserts” because generally the human receiving the sample does so under a “surprise and delight” scenario.  However, some of the press has alluded to adding an element of ‘requested’ to their process as well.    As with most interesting product sampling business models, one finds it difficult to cleanly drop a company into a single descriptor – so I default to a “what they are known for” method for placement.

Back in February of 2014, Exact Media reported reach was 25 million North American households (through an extensive retailer network) and plans were to triple that – by this time I can only imagine they have sufficient targeted reach to handle most brand needs.   The release speaks to services available in US and Canada, sounds like the UK is not far behind with China appealing as well due to the burgeoning ecommerce market there.   As with all models that involve interfacing with retailer fulfillment operations, the magic lies in being able to create an “easy enough” to execute approach that retailer systems can tolerate.   Reading between the lines while noting the “pitch” on the Exact Media site it sounds as if Exact Media has created ways to offer the retailers informational value and a process which just might be enough of a trigger to get attention paid to the very solvable problem of sampling integration (it really just takes a bit of work).

While this ecommerce accompaniment arena is not “new”; several vendors offer services that run in the ‘ride along channel”;  it seems like, as in many parts of our exciting product sampling ecosystem, innovation continues to flourish making me proud to give voice to the power of product sampling as a strategic tool for savvy marketers.

Posted by jlarryburns in Product Sampling, Product Sampling IN HOME

Why I hate Press Releases (although I do cover them)

A press release appeared in this morning’s information diet consumption.  TryFree.Club sent out a release  speaking about their model and site.   Being always interested I went a bit farther and the site is lovely, pretty, easy to navigate – in other words it looks quite legit.  However, a bit farther into it we come upon one of the challenges that plague the ‘free sample’ online eco-system.    While I shall not question the business goals nor entrepreneurial zeal of the founders I find it disturbing when there is a clear assumption made – no one is actually going to read the terms and conditions.  Why?  Becasue right there in clear language lies the following statement:

“The Free Trial Products are NOT Free. They are Free to Try for a certain period. After that period passes, you will be required to Pay, Review or Cancel your commitment to the brand you ordered from.”   

I am not trying to single out this particular site because there are many one could look to for examples of the muddy waters of the the online ‘free sample’ ecosystem but since it popped up in my feeds I note it.   In fact these folks may really be attempting to offer a legitimate source of the kinds of products featured as they speak about the desire to create a marketplace – time will tell.

So, to my marketing readers when you work with your agency, supplier/vendor, and media partner to run a true product sampling campaign just always be aware there are some constant headwinds of “consumer hesitancy” due to the plethora of confusing or even downright misleading sites.   Overcoming such hesitancy is really quite simple, but you need to insure a rigorous thought process surrounding consumer perceptions is considered.     Just one simple tip, even a clear ‘red flag’ – when the mouse print at bottom of a landing page or page one says something like “the owners of this site have no relationship to the brands show on this site”, often in far more ‘legally dense’ language consider yourself warned.

Sorry to rant – maybe I am just crabby today.


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

Ad Age chimes in – more on P&G changes

As I wrote last week, the P&G earnings call was quite a useful bit of learning.   Here is the Ad Age reporting on it – always interesting to see how various press outlet spin the same news.   Favorite line: “…increased investments in product formulations, packaging, advertising, sales support, sampling, R&D and pricing,…”

Posted by jlarryburns in Product Sampling, Product Sampling Ecosystem

Wait, Product Sampling is how large a market?

Interesting note in ChiefMarketer.com today … first because it talks about and links to an interesting Unilever program worth checking out (more details here) and even more so for the statistics they quote from the ANA study undertaken with PQ Media.   As we now understand from seeing the study published the sampling market rose in 2016 by about 5% reaching $34.12 billion.   Further the breakdown is 25% of that in B2C and 75% in B2B.  Hmmmm … so the sampling market in total that I speak about most often is about $8.5 Billion.   I would then assume that the entire market labeled professional in our ecosystem represents B2B spending (which is technically true).

Perhaps I ought to take a more somber tone as these many billions are nothing to sneeze at …. then again no, for the business is still fun even with such high stakes and so I will continue to enjoy my learning, sharing and reporting.   For many practitioners I speak with these market estimates ‘feel’ elevated  – but it matters not.   Even sliced in half there is clearly a vibrant thriving sampling market and brands would be wise to think far more strategically about their sampling options than many do today.

P.S.  The Unilever Degree / DRYV tie in is based on significant research concerning millennials and their interesting clothing habits and to this human appears to be one of those classic win-win-win’s we all speak of but rarely actually achieve.  Good for the Brand (Degree), good for the “channel’ (DRYV) and actually good for the sampler too (those sad uninformed millennials, he says with tongue planted firmly in cheek).   I use that tone in part because the author’s commentary  somehow made me want to – in other words the brand channel article is a fun read as well as being informative and worthy of attention.

Posted by jlarryburns in Product Sampling, Product Sampling Ecosystem