7 Questions to ask when planning a successful sampling campaign

16 Jul 2019

When it comes to marketing strategies, sampling is often listed in a touchpoint plan – but it’s seldom the star of the show. Yet, as we at Brand Factor have learned, it’s possible to build a brand just through the smart use of sampling.
Nature Valley is a great example of a brand that has increased market share by relying almost completely on sampling. During the last three months of 2018, we coordinated the sampling of about 500,000 granola bars across South Africa

Get brand in hand. First-hand experience of a brand trumps everything else, especially when it comes to FMCG, confectionary and snack products. Everyone prefers physical interaction with a product as opposed to just seeing it on paper or a screen. Nothing beats the face-to-face introduction and interaction of sampling to get consumers interested in your brand.

Here are some questions we’ve found useful to ask when planning a sampling campaign


1. What else is going to be in the goodie bag?

There are lots of sampling opportunities at events, which makes this a popular sampling option – but brands need to ask the right questions. This is an important question for mass participation sports events in particular, where there is lots of competition for the attention of consumers. Will your brand stand out? Or will you just be another freebie, quickly forgotten?

2. Is my product relevant to the market and the event we’re targeting?

Look carefully at the profile of the event or place you’re targeting for your sampling drive. Who is the likely consumer and shopper? Will they be able to afford it? Handing your brand out to everyone just for the sake of reach doesn’t make sense if the person you’re giving it to isn’t likely to be interested in it, or able to afford it. This is also why it’s important to brief your promoters so that they understand who you are trying to reach.

3. Does the sampling context make sense?

Everyone wants free stuff – but does the context make sense? For example, If you’re looking to sample a snack bar or a new beverage in morning rush hour traffic, will motorists be interested in it? Ideally, you want members of the public to be delighted to receive your brand. This also applies to the goodie bag conundrum – if you’re just another freebie in there, you’re not necessarily going to get the emotional impact you want.

4. Does my distribution justify the investment?

If consumers love what they taste, will they be able to find it easily in a store? Where is my brand likely to achieve the greatest volume of sales? There’s no point in sampling your product if nobody can buy it, or sampling in a region where you’re not going to achieve significant volume – you won’t see the sales lift or increase in share you’re looking for. Make sure you have enough stock in the regions where you’re sampling, and the ability to get more stock quickly if sales go well.

5. Do I want reach or engagement?

Do I want to reach as many consumers as possible, or is my brand more of a niche product? Our strategy for Nature Valley was national reach, and this paid off – Nature Valley achieved 78% growth in the wake of the sampling campaign, and is now number two in the granola bar category. But for a more niche brand, or one that requires greater consumer education, a strategy that focuses on engagement rather than reach might make more sense. This is also important when it comes to selecting and training your promoters – the more product education required, the more training your promoters will need.

6. Do we need an activation?

Sometimes to make sense to add an activation to your sampling drive in order to bring the brand personality and values to life, and make more of an impact. Make sure the activation aligns with what the brand stands for, generates interest and excitement. Assess the investment you’re planning to make against the sales you think you’ll achieve, and what you could achieve with the same money if you were making a more traditional media investment?

7. What kind of impression do I want my promoters to make?

Promoters and sampling often go hand in hand. As a general rule, promoters should be neat and tidy, confident and able to talk about the product benefits if a member of the public asks questions. If possible, try to meet your promoters and quiz them on their product knowledge. Building a relationship with promoters over time also helps them to understand your brand better, and communicate it more effectively to the public during a sampling and activation campaign.