In Store Sampling – Because Marmite & Peanut Butter Cookies won’t sell themselves!


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I walk past aisle after aisle, hastily looking for where this store has hidden the deodorant. It’s like when I really need something I can never find it, but of course when I don’t need that certain something, it’s always right in front of my face.

Passing each aisle I notice small promotional tables, some with almost lonely, awkward looking promoters struggling to get noticed by consumers who generally ignore their presence completely. I say this because I have become one of those consumers. The “I’m in a rush and I know what I want,” type.

I have also worked as a promoter. The one who works hard, finally makes a sale & high fives herself, as the consumer smiles, walks away and drops the item into the nearest shelf in the next aisle…..

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This is the problem with in store sampling, and this is why I really struggle to see its real worth at times, especially when it’s a hit or miss to making sales.

Look, don’t get me wrong – I understand that for a consumer to buy into a new product or an existing product they haven’t experienced before, they would want to try it (in whatever form it exists) – instead of just buying it with the hopes that it turns out to be the most delicious Marmite & Peanut butter Cookie they have ever had in their whole lives…

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Yes, this is where in store sampling becomes relevant –  where the brand needs to prove to the consumer that they can trust it –  where we get the consumer to taste and hopefully fall in love with our brand…

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Hold up…. Let’s reverse back to the point where we say, “hopefully fall in love with our brand.”

This makes me think back to the days of traditional advertising, where brands shoved their ‘stuff’ in your face, told you that they were the best out there & you had no real option other than to buy their sh*t (please keep in mind that I was never a part of those days, but I speak like I was just for effect…).

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Where’s the experience?

Where’s the part that I start to feel some warm feelings towards your brand, rather than feeling a little less nibbly after the snack you just fed me. At what point will I get home, throw off my shoes and say, ‘Wow that stuff is really great, I am going to add it to my shopping list & share my experience.’

Yes, if my friend asked me, I may respond by saying, “Oh that, Yeah I tried it and it was great” – 1 point for the brand. But unless the offering was absolutely innovative or the most delicious treat I have ever had, I am probably not going to remember it tomorrow.

It’s about the experience, not just the taste – something which is generally forgotten in the aisle.

Lets put this into a real world example.

Dining out at a new found restaurant…

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As you walk in, you are immediately embraced by the smooth sounds of music and diners in elated conversation. The hostess smiles & greats you, creating immediate comfort & warmth. As she whisks you to your table, the smell of good food & wine wafts past, leaving you with an eager smile. Your table has been beautifully set; clean table cloth, shiny cutlery, and the biggest wine glass you have ever seen (bonus! 🙂 ). Your order arrives on time & the food lives up to your expectations. You leave the establishment with a full belly and a great experience, one that you will defiantly choose again & share with others. You may have already shared it with others through a number of look at me selfies, including the infamous foodporn selfie.

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Okay…So what does any of the above have to do with in store sampling you ask?

People build relationships & emotional connections through a number of stimuli. If the same consumer had walked into a cold room, with an uninterested waiter, no music or laughing, boring table settings & was then served great food, they may still talk about it to their friends… but they won’t boast about the overall experience.

Peanuts on wooden table, Munich, Bavaria, Germany

Sounds a bit similar to the in store sampling example, doesn’t it?

It’s all about creating emotional connections throughout the consumer journey. It’s not just about that lonely promoter in the aisle, trying her level best to push sales without any support, but rather a number of linked consistent messages and engagement techniques en route to purchase, keeping your brand top-of-mind.

And when the consumer reaches an aisle & sees your brand, all the feelings & experiences up until that point should give them a reason to walk up to the promoter, interested to trial the product – with the intent to purchase.

It’s not about the brand selling, it’s about the consumer demand for the brand – they need to want it.

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  • Let’s stop putting promoters in store with the hopes that this alone will ensure continued long term sales growth
  • Let’s use more integrated strategies that emotionally connect the consumer with the brand, creating more long term relationships that drive ongoing sales.
  • Don’t use in store sampling as a sole driver, but rather as the final reminder on the consumers journey to finally try the brand & make that purchase!
  • Perhaps bring out Marmite & Peanut Butter Cookies – In some strange way, I feel that this may actually work… and if it does, call me!

XOXO Industry Newbie XOXO

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