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Eclectic Thought Samples From Larry Burns

“Digital Disruption, Data, and Consumer Desire – Impacts on Best Practices in Product Sampling

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From the May 2014 Virtual LEAD Marketing Coference: Best Practice ideas that enable successful product sampling efforts in today’s rapidly changing digital marketing world, presented by Larry Burns of Start Sampling. Included are discussions of our shared exponential market reality changes, the digital Eco-system in brief, growing use of behavioral data for ROI proof, new targeting (and analytic) options, retailers moves to drive more value from their consumer knowledge, changing consumer expectations impact on marketers, and a question and answer session.

 


Marketing Personalization Requires More Than the High-Tech Touch

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(Updated 6.19.17)   We’re a high-tech society, from mobile devices and tablets to robots, and online advertising is ubiquitous. We continue to adopt the newest technology as soon as it’s available – with some consequence (Try reading “Present Shock” by D. Rushkoff).  Our marketing world is no different. The marketing technology landscape (original link was 2014, here is updated one today) still includes classic tools like email marketing, display and video ads as well as newer technologies in the “spend optimization” toolset, like personalization, and now, “contextualization.” And the new ones are arriving at blistering speed. While these tools are exceedingly helpful for companies to engage with customers, I’m concerned about whether we are replacing too much of marketing’s soul in the process with what are really, at the core, simply “rules-based” machines.

Marketing tools are not only great, but today it would literally be impossible to operate without them. Yet the temptation to rely too heavily on machines (which, let’s face it, many marketers are not fully conversant with, due to the allure of slick ROI models, number-crunching, algorithms and swarms of “hard to argue with” data) is quite loudly present.

I am a data geek. I love the tools. And yet, I caution that we risk missing the essential human touch – like the creative spark that comes when a team or individual crafts a brand’s development based on better information about what customers really need or want, or most importantly, how they connect with a product on an emotional level.

Machines have no emotion. All they can do is process data. That has great value, but when you try to systemize the art of marketing, you’re really just creating faster and more effective ways to inundate potential customers with additional content – and there’s a problem with that. In the end, you may just create more effective ways to push products on customers, which everything tells us is not what customers really want!

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How experiential changes the meaning of ‘value’

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This is from the UK and about “experiential” but we felt it belonged in this archive.  I always find passion for what one does an entertaining read.  Favorite tline (think about a sample when you read it_: Because it’s ‘real’, a physical thing, they can visualise it, imagine the experience and see how it brings the creative idea to life.

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Continued Proof that Sampling Works

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In the era of “big data,” the notion of executing programs in a scan-based targeting and analytics frame has become available to the sampling market. What that means is that by utilizing behavioral data (purchases a consumer makes in a particular set of stores), we can understand how those purchases are tied to the individual. Then, we can aggregate that information and look at a how the sampling tactic impacted in the marketplace.

The way we marketers do this is by executing a sampling program in the real world. We have discovered a very interesting way to “look back” at naturally occurring experiments in data about programs we have been running. It boils down to simply that one group of people receives a sample, while another group does not. Then, we look at the difference between theses matched test and control groups to see whether or not the sampling program was impactful.

For example, we recently received some really remarkable results from a company that operates within the grocery channel – results that demonstrate the power of sampling to influence consumer-purchasing behavior. We did a beverage category study, and quite literally saw a product trial rate four times higher within the test group. In other words, four times as many people who received the sample actually went into the store and made a purchase than the number of people who didn’t receive the sample. We also saw a very high increase in actual unit sales within that sampled group in fact an almost 700% increase in measured purchasing by people who received the sample was present.

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Embracing the Discovery Commerce Rabbit Hole – Tumble on in With Me…

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Discovery commerce has interested me for a few years now. At last check, I counted well over 100 different available “subscriptions” out there for the taking. And lately I’ve really been wondering… what itch is discovery commerce scratching?

A lot of people create ideas for subscription boxes, put them together and get them into the marketplace.  Consumers are finding the boxes and beginning to subscribe to them. What’s more, the concept is now cutting across many different markets. Categories and themes are beginning to emerge, from beauty and fitness to “eco-friendly,” crafts, pets, food, men’s, women’s, children’s and baby-themed boxes. This says something about entrepreneurialism.

Now, what does that mean for marketing? A subscription box is the quintessential example of “mass personalization” – but one that still allows “newness” to get through. From the onset of the discovery commerce movement, I believed that boxes with a curated purpose would have longevity, but I didn’t give the spirit of creation enough credit. Now, so many unique themes have emerged, along with the inevitable “knock offs” that so often follow. Celebrities have even joined in, lending their name value and/or creating their own line of boxes.

I would even suggest that completely new brands are being developed around specific kinds of consumer curiosities or needs, like the clothing box, Stitch Fix, or NatureBox, a truly interesting healthy snacks model. It’s fascinating to watch these new ideas and concepts pop up. To get an idea of the sheer breadth of what’s available, check out http://www.mysubscriptionaddiction.com. It lists many of the available monthly (or quarterly, or whatever chosen timing) boxes and offers comments and reviews. The site itself is a terrific example of content curation by people for people – a trend quite worthy of attention on its own! General sites like this are quickly becoming a more prevalent intermediary stop on the “Purchase Pretzel” consideration path (what many of us still call the “path to purchase”).

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What Happened When Birchbox’s Founders Refused To Take No For An Answer

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BirchBox PR continues … Nice to see their successful entry in the “Wild West” of Discovery Commerce.  Check out www.mysubscriptionaddiction.com if you want to see why “Wild West” is proper notion.  Favorite line “[Our business] model is designed to make personalization part of the experience” to which I say AMEN! [Link]

 


Flash of Genius: Garnier’s Samples

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Very interesting take from the other side of the pond.   Garnier in Germany, doing the right things.   Good learning for us in the US.  Favorite line “…and distributing a large enough quantity of samples for widespread participation.” [Link]

 


Sampling: A Portal to a Relationships

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As I spend ever more time with marketers in the consumer packaged goods space, I find that their passion for discovering more about their customers continues to expand. They especially crave the chance to engage customers in dialogues that foster a relationship. Wise marketers do want genuine, open engagement and communication so that they can better understand their customers and develop opportunities for new services and products based on what folks actually want.

The clever companies are recognizing much more frequently that product sampling is not just a terrific way to give people a chance to try the brand’s product, which we know from marketing science findings really is the best way to get someone to change their behavior.   Marketers are using the sampling technique for more than that. Using the sample itself as a portal to a relationship is becoming a much more prevalent practice.

Here’s what I mean by “a portal to a relationship”: many customers are quite willing to engage in an exchange of information in order to receive a sample. This willingness sets up a “fair value exchange.” A consumer is willing to talk a little bit about themselves and what they want or like in order to try the product that the manufacturer or brand is offering.

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The Need to Refocus Marketing on People’s Needs

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Prompted by the recent news coverage about Hillary Clinton’s statement that she hasn’t driven a car since 1996, I started to think about the disconnect between the elite and the general public, especially how that disconnect relates to recent trends in marketing. Of course, the lifestyle differences between someone who’s constantly in the public eye and an average individual can be drastic, but have we in the marketing industry fallen into a somewhat similar trap? One caveat to all of my writing here: yes, exceptions prove the rule. Do I mean to suggest that ALL marketers are out of touch? Absolutely not. Not yet. It’s the trend I feel out there which concerns me.

It seems that too many marketers in my CPG world are inexorably moving away from the traditional marketing practices through which brands were built. I grew up in the days when marketers engaged with the public to see how products were being used in order to make improvements or changes, or to learn what products customers needed. Even with the advent of rich social data from “real people,” it still appears that too many CPG marketers create products themselves  products that then get blessed by senior-level executives who are often out of touch with the real market. So, the industry ends up trying to craft plans to entice the general public into purchasing things which may or may not fit into their lives (and remember, exceptions only serve to prove the rule).

Products that may seem useful, different, or even exciting to a senior level executive may have little merit in the everyday life of the populace the executive’s company is trying to serve. The disconnect is really driven home in this era of widening income inequality. A recent OxFam report stated that the wealth of the richest 85 humans on the planet is equal to the combined “wealth” of the 3.5 billion poorest people on earth. In our industry, wealthy individuals in the top 2% income bracket (but certainly not on the “85 richest people” scale) are usually key decision-makers in the marketing and advertising hierarchy. People with titles like CMO or VP of Marketing, or even senior product managers may find themselves living a lifestyle quite removed from the day-to-day reality of the people who buy their products.

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7 Ways to Measure Product Sampling Success

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Posting on the Handit2 network blog raises some solid strategies on measurement which is an absolutely crucial element of sucessful sampling programs and should be determined UP FRONT.  what does equal success, define it and plan to measure it!   Favorite line “Activity on social media doesn’t necessarily translate to a purchase, but it does demonstrate brand awareness and interest.

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