It’s not a secret that food and beverage brands, for the most part, use sampling to get their products into the hands and hearts of prospective consumers. Whether in a retail environment or “in the wild,” try-before-you-buy works.
In fact, a recent study from Cadent Consulting Group found that 76% of retailers felt product sampling was effective at generating sales. And they aren’t wrong. In fact, 70% of us are more likely to buy a new product after first trying it.
When it comes to sampling, people are happy with free goodies and brands gain valuable exposure. In addition, sampling allows companies to reap the psychological benefits of being perceived as generous, activating the reciprocity principle - which often leads to purchase.
But while a bump in sales and brand recognition is attractive and noteworthy, it doesn’t always provide brands with the data they need to make smart decisions related to everything from product quality to consumer targeting and distribution. Brands need a product sampling approach that helps them gain consumer insights, build up databases, re-target, increase loyalty, and keep the conversation going with consumers. Unfortunately, finding an environment that provides this kind of value isn’t easy to come by. Until now.
Product sampling: the basics
Traditional sampling programs run the gamut from experiential (retail, street teams, brand events) to direct mail (ads, offers, subscription boxes), but generally when you think of free samples, you likely think of Costco. These “Sultans of Sampling” have made it possible for some consumers to piece together a pretty decent lunch by doing shameless laps around the store. Their approach to product sampling is hailed as genius, not only bringing in new customers but driving loyalty and sales (some reports showing ROI upwards of 2,000 percent in some cases).
Ah, the power of free.
Yet, while slinging snacks and smiles seems straightforward enough (and has given Costco a reason to continue the tactic), most brands – especially emerging ones – need a highly-optimized sampling program that allows them to gain lasting ROI that is mindful of inventory. It is for this reason that brands are increasingly looking for a venue where they have an engaged audience who are armed with access to technology; a location where word-of-mouth flourishes. They are looking to the workplace.
Why the workplace is the product sampling Shangri La
For CPG brands in the snack and beverage space, competition is fierce. The ever-growing choices within each category can be overwhelming for consumers, and they create an environment in which new products are easily missed and often forgotten. But sampling in the workplace gives brands a captive audience in a place that contains very little competitive clutter. A marketing paradise, as it were.
When it comes to brand fans, the workplace is of their biggest platforms. In fact, while at work, brand fans are 20% more likely to be word-of-mouth conversion catalysts within their peer groups or networks. And word-of-mouth among workplace consumers is 45% likely to be passed along to others in their external network; and of those, 48% are highly likely to lead to purchase. But perhaps most impressively, 96% of workers seek the advice of co-workers before making a purchase decision.
So, if the office is such a rich environment for engagement, why isn’t everyone on the workplace sampling train? One would imagine that it would be impossible to walk into an office building without tripping over samples galore. But the truth is, historically, workplace sampling has had an Achilles’ heel. Most brands that have sought to engage consumers in the workplace found existing avenues too expensive when evaluated against total consumer engagements. So, while the opportunity is there, the bottom line has not supported the investment.
“This frustrating barrier to entry is something we have heard about time and time again from many of our clients at ALB,” said Hogan Shrum, President at A Little Bird. “We knew the data surrounding workplace sampling was clear and represented an undeniable growth opportunity for our clients. It made our decision to act that much easier.”
MORSEL is a smarter workplace sampling with an experiential twist
Last year, A Little Bird launched MORSEL, a subsidiary company that uses a “crowd-sourced” sampling approach coupled with a proprietary, AI-based data and analytics platform. By fusing ALB’s marketing and experiential expertise with CPG partner needs and executive feedback, MORSEL speaks to the key components needed to achieve workplace sampling campaign ROI. And it accomplishes these goals at a fraction of the cost when compared to standard sampling and market research programs.
Through MORSEL, healthy snack and beverage brands participate in the same experience-driven sampling program – a “crowd sourced” approach. MORSEL serves as a stand-alone brand rather than a supporting service, allowing us to effectively and pragmatically support the workplace engagement channel for each of our clients. MORSEL gives consumers amazing product experiences as they enjoy snacks, receive engaging social/digital content (and entertainment), and participate in the ever-expanding MORSEL community.
In exchange for snacks, office employees participate in MORSEL’s Snack and Tell program. MORSEL gives brands in-depth, consistent, and measurable product feedback directly from consumers so they can continue to create better products and improve their value proposition. When it comes to new packaging, recipes, and other pilot products, MORSEL allows brands to catch issues before they are rolled out on a mass scale. In fact, one of our snack clients was able to identify a critical packaging flaw via the MORSEL program – before it became a crisis of national proportion.
Now it's time to get to work
For those brands seeking sampling campaigns that offer more data and the opportunity to amplify their message at a fraction of the cost, workplace sampling might be the answer. Who knows? Your brand might just be the next big thing people are raving about around the watercooler.
Do you have questions about MORSEL or the value of product engagement at the office? Send us a note!