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Eclectic Thought Samples From Larry Burns

Marketing Terrorism? Really?

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Eclectically Sampling has been a place for my musings over many years.   I took a hiatus as life underwent some unexpected and unwelcomed changes.   So, here in June of 2017,  there is a place where I share commentary about the world of Product Sampling and invite you to visit SamplingWorks if you are seeking that fare.    Here, on the other hand, I will be discussing whatever topics strike my fancy – actually living up to this blogs name.

Marketing Terrorism.

What grabbed my eye and prompted this note was a short sentence in a Washington Post bylined article printed in my local suburban newspaper (YES, in actual print on my driveways end each morning) .

 “The promotion of a youthful figurehead with an iconic family name appears to be a key element in the rebranding effort”

(Daily Herald, May 28th, Section 1, p12)

The article headline was “Bin Laden son becomes al-Quida’s mouthpiece”.     I read the piece and was thinking about it for a moment and then suddenly it all felt very wrong.  Just wait a moment!   Have we really “normalized” the awful reality of these organizations to simply another “brand” to be discussed as if a “New and Improved” burst had somehow appeared on their package?

I know in this era of endless news cycles and awareness of the marketing lexicon to describe all sorts of things it has become commonplace to apply branding concepts to nearly everything.   While this supports my long used quip (said with a laugh and strange accent) “Everything’s marketing” ..  I found this piece to hit me squarely in the WTF part of my brain.

Acceptance and ‘normalization’ are an enemy of critical thought.   Somehow looking at al-Qaida as an organization undergoing a “rebranding effort” pulled me up short and made me shout … “Now hold on a damn minute here!”

At the risk of being declared an older white comfortable suburban guy railing against the institution of Journalism I actually find little fault in the article itself.  It clearly reports (in a rather matter of fact way) on what is happening and offers background and places the subject in a context to be understood.   It pays off on the headline and is about a 300 word, 9 column inch, page 12, piece and yet, somehow it still hit me so wrong.

By choosing to relate the changes in leadership of a terrorist organization to language best used in analyzing the latest soda / pop advertising campaign are we not diminishing and in some insidious ways simply ‘accepting’ the normalcy of the organization’s very existence?   Yes, I do know it is a horrible reality that needs to be reported upon and I also know continuing to approach every piece by screeching fear in not proper either.    Yet, somehow this fits with the all too familiar way the news seems to ‘accept’ something and simply move on to the next.   Editorially I get it – this is a page 12 filler piece, worthy of some coverage but really  … nothing blew up, no one was killed hence, it’s not bleeding so it’s not leading.

Still … something here is truly unsettling.   I feel it, I know it – I guess I just can not find the right words.


Freeosk – are there going to be enough samples?

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(6.29.15 Chicago Tribune)

1.5 million/week for Freeosk   That’s a lot of people being reached.   Favorite line: “It does brighten people’s day,” Eichorn said. “Intuitively everyone knows that free is good.” While I like the line, there are some cultural nuances that suggest “free is good” is not a shared intuitive sentiment everywhere – but his point is well taken.   My ongoing question – will the industry shift to produce sufficient samples to drive ALL the human interest in trying new things?   Not certain this scale can be maintained…

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Reviews really matter … but

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(6.17.15 ZDNet)
New York based company Influenster a significant player with 180,000 actives a month writing reviews. Is there a shakeout coming? What is a brand to do – so many choices … but frankly I think brands need to begin to fundamentally revamp their approach to discovery. However my favorite line; “With the mobile app, the company also hopes to drive “in-store activation””. speaks volumes about the continuing reality of the way the CPG game is still being played. VAST majority of buying still happening in RL (= Real Life for those of us over 40)
zd.net/1enDJbi

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Not your mother’s fragrance …

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(5.8.15  Digital List)

Announcement of Scentbird moving out of beta in early May.   Very tight description of their reason for being and as I said before it seems very well grounded in new (and clever) approach to meeting the fragrance customer needs.   Favorite line: “…although 56 percent of grandmothers and 53 percent of mothers have a signature scent, only three percent of Millennials stick to one scent.”   If ever there was a better, yet simple, depiction of a shift in the notion of ‘brand loyalty’ among younger folks – I have not yet seen it.   Hence,  a clear and very real need for a ‘new way to shop’.

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In tune – Bonnaroo and Sampling

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(5.5.15 prnewswire, again I know  … but PR can still be news?  right?)

Makes perfect sense for GNC to be immersive at Bonnaroo.  Will be really interesting to see how the  integration of GNC with outbound media is accomplished.   Favorite line:”The outdoor space will have hammocks and classic lawn games”.  Simply because it sounds like fun.     
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Smiley360, 750K members … hmmmm

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(5.4.15 PR Web, I know, I know …)

600,000 members is a substantial community – Smiley360 Favorite line I love trying new products & giving my opinion.” (*Update May ’16 now reporting 750,000 members)
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UGC – Forbes likes Sampling, whether they know it or not ….

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(4.30.15 Forbes)

While not directly related to sampling – it actually is – since a recommendation is made to use certain “agencies” like CrowdTap and BzzAgent to generate UCG.    Guess what?  Any solid well run classic product sampling can create exceptional UGC too!.   Favorite line: Shopper behavior has changed, especially with millennials, where there is more of an expectation of having a closer relationship with a brand.

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BareMinerals – Sampling success

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(4.20.15 Retail Week)
Consistently we find marketers expressing the desire to sit at the intersection of social and sampling.  There have been several startups over the years who have tried.  Their largest challenges have always been the willingness (and ability) of brands to offer sufficient samples to consistently populate such programs.   People love them, retailers like them too – but brands?  Until a genuine re-thinking of how a brand allocates marketing resources occurs, sampling will remain an under supported strategy in the marketing world.  I love to see new ideas – and maybe this one will prosper! Favorite line “A third of recipients of BareMinerals’ make-up foundation went into a store following receipt of their sample.” That ‘response rate’ is very consistent with US norms.
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Scentbird – personalization personified.

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(4.6.15 Luxury Daily) Scentbird– a concept that appears quite well grounded in what the trends are suggesting will continue to matter ever more as time goes on – that sense of personalization AND recommendations based on that understanding. Favorite line: “…every scent is accompanied by icons that tell you where to wear the perfume (office, date night), what type of fragrance it is (sweet, fresh) and how you will feel when wearing it (classy, sexy).” Speaking as a male who is not a fragrance wearer my reaction to that level of detail is “who knew?”
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Samples Drive Beverages in C-Stores

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10.19.15 – C-Store News
Focus on setting up ‘well managed’ beverage counter (who knew 70% margin!) – but what is listed #4 out of THE 5 items for success = sampling! Favorite line “People are three times more likely to try a new product if they can sample it first.”
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