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Group Sampling and Co-op Programs

While we know that sampling is critical to brand-building for manufacturers, it’s attractive to retailers as well. Co-op programs are particularly valuable because (as I said in an earlier post) they attract more attention and generate more excitement.

Here are a few reasons why group sampling events benefit retailers (and typical consumer reactions). They:

• Drive traffic. (Oh, they’re having a big sampling day. Let’s go there.)

• Build your brand. (They have a strong organics department here. They really promote it.)

• Provide extra value. (I love this store. They’re always offering special promotions like this.)

• Trigger new purchases. (I tried it. I liked it. I’m gonna buy it.)

• Generate word of mouth. (You should shop where we do.)

Co-op sampling programs can also be used as an opportunity for the retailer to gather information — through giveaway sign-ups, formal surveying or simple qualitative conversation and observation.

That said, sampling is about far more than handing out free products. It involves choreography to ensure the retailer and the brands participating are all delivering a concise, well thought-out message.

The sampling team should be well educated about the brands and the offers on display at store level. They should be salespeople and people persons, comfortable making suggestions, sharing information and generally talking it up. Sampling is about putting the right kind of brand ambassador out there; ensuring the sample event has the right location in the store; and crafting a compelling, integrated message.

As I see it, when the economy turns around, it will be the retailer and brands that kept up with their sampling and other promotional opportunities that will be stronger.

The leaders will be those companies who gave their customers a reason to stay engaged.