We are considering conducting a product sampling campaign. But product sampling can be expensive, and I want to ensure we achieve a return on our investment. Is product sampling a proven strategy to increase product awareness and drive sales?
While there are many marketing strategies you can use to increase product awareness and drives sales, recent surveys confirm product sampling is a proven strategy for achieving both these objectives. According to a recent Promotional Marketing Association survey, 75 percent of customers say they have become aware of a product through product sampling.
There is also data to confirm product sampling drives purchases. In fact, 81 percent of consumers said they would try a product after receiving a sample, according to a December survey conducted by Opinion Research Corp. on behalf of the United States Postal Service. Additionally, 61 percent of survey respondents said sampling a product is the most effective way to get them to try a brand.
The key to product sampling is having a good product and targeting the correct consumer. The most effective way to ensure a successful product sampling campaign is to start by developing a detailed plan with measurable objectives and a method for measuring the results.
Looking to implement a product sampling campaign or need to expand a current one? Contact me at 910.772.1688 or jennifer at sweeneypr.com.
This past August I wrote about Gap getting back to the basics with their denim jeans campaign. Apparently, that is just what Gap needed.
After struggling financially for the past few years, Gap posted a profit last quarter and it is attributing it to focusing on its roots (of course cutting costs was part of the strategy as well). It certainly seems that Gap took the right approach especially with fashion trending towards everything denim this spring.
In addition to its focus on denim, the Gap also redesigned it stores with a clean new look, making it easier and faster for customers to find what they are looking for. And they did their research too, and determined the best way to target women is to put the jeans closer to the fitting rooms. The secret for men is to display mannequins with outfit suggestions because men rarely try on clothing.
How well do you know your customers?
Fun Gap Facts
Bad News for Sara Lee: Institutions worldwide are taking a harder line against “junk foods”, including America’s favorite, the hot dog. Apparently timing is everything.
With public sentiment shifting, the iconic wiener is in danger of no longer being as American as baseball; but then again, neither is baseball (and the vote is still out on apple pie). It would seem schools don’t want kids eating unhealthy foods, nor does the federal government for that matter, which means parents will eventually limit if not eliminate the poor frankfurter from their regular diets. And hot dogs, for better or worse, could someday become the new face of antiestablishmentarianism.
As the new king of the hill, Ball Park plans to capitalize on its success by upgrading its traditional campaign strategies.
According to BrandChannel, Ball Park’s marketing efforts are focusing on a new demographic: moms and their sons. The brand conducted consumer research and discovered that its sales primarily come from teenage boys and their mothers, and not adult males as had been assumed [Editorial aside: why didn't they already know this?]. This realization helped CMO Philippe Shaillee to redirect promotional efforts. Shaillee explained that the target mom was “really looking for a hearty solution for her teenage son and husband,” and not “just a lower quality snack or that would get them into this mindless eating behavior, but something that was solid, yet still fast and convenient.”
They also plan to do some sports-based advertising and some social media stuff. Oddly there is no mention of nutrition or healthy foods. So I went to the Ball Park website, where I found a whole line of “Better For You” product offerings – low-to-no fat and far fewer calories, but with all the great taste. Now that’s a hot dog marketing angle you can wrap your arms around.
Regardless, there is no apparent need to panic. Ballparks in the United States expect to sell nearly 22 million hot dogs this year, according to the National Hot Dog & Sausage Council. And that’s just a tiny portion of the 730 million packages of hot dogs sold at retail stores last year.
Anyway, a healthy hot dog is better than no hot dog.
My husband and I were watching CNBC earlier this week and saw the new Coke Freestyle Jet Machine. We were both equally intrigued.
Coke Freestyle Jet Machine actually launched in 2009, but is currently being test marketed across the country. It is a drink dispensing machine that offers consumers 100 different flavors. You use the touch screen to develop your custom coke product, including anything from Diet Black Cherry Vanilla Coke to flavored waters and energy drinks. You can even get products not currently sold in the United States.
This got me thinking about our recent trip to Vegas when I saw flowers in a vending machine. And I have grown accustom to see Red Box (a glorified vending machine) selling movies and video games in my local grocery store.
After some quick research online, I saw that everything from high-end products including iPods to digital cameras and digital music are being sold in vending machines across the country. And the locations of vending machines have expanded to military bases, airports, fast-food restaurants and hospitals.
The bottom line is that vending machines aren’t just for candy anymore. And as consumers prefer to be in control (from airport check in kiosks to scanning your own groceries), this trend will continue to expand and we’ll all be more comfortable with purchasing everything from custom soft drinks to the iPad from a vending machine.
On the business side of things, for example, there is a provision that will require restaurant chains with 20 or more locations to post calorie counts on menus, menu boards, drive-thru menus and vending machines (seriously). Apparently the goal is to educate (shame) consumers into eating smaller portions and/or healthier selections.
On the consumer side of things, beginning in 2014, everyone will be required to purchase health insurance or face a $695 annual fine. There are some exceptions for low-income people. I would compare this with the requirement most states have to carry auto insurance… and you can see how that has made all of us better drivers. And of course, there is the 10 percent excise tax on indoor tanning services.
Meanwhile, recent IRI (Information Resources Inc.) data revealed at SNAXPO 2010 (yes, a trade show dedicated to snacks!), confirms that consumers want what they want: 47% of shoppers say they want to eat what tastes good rather than what’s healthy, and two-thirds of snack purchases still are in indulgent snacks.
According to a Cincinnati Enquirer story, “In a study published last year by the online journal Health Affairs, only half of customers in poor New York City neighborhoods with high rates of obesity and diabetes noticed the calorie counts.”
I have two thoughts:
1. As a marketer, this should make for some amazingly fun strategizing over the next decade.
2. As an American, I am becoming “numb to the dumb”.
But do you know what I am not a fan of? Self-serving, long-winded, uncreative, poorly produced LOST podcasts.
OMG. If you want to know the problem with easy-to-access social media and easy-to-use technology, start with LOST podcasts.
For the record, there are some very good LOST podcasts out there that I listen to religiously, like “God Loved Jacob“. And then there are the hundreds that absolutely suck the life out of you.
Imagine a room of 6-8 drunks sitting around a living room coffee table loudly talking over each other, swearing like sailors, giggling like schoolgirls and spewing one ridiculous thought after the next. Or imagine a dull, annoying, mindless nincompoop droning on and on in a monotone voice without ever saying an interesting or enlightening thing. Now multiply that by 200 and label it the LOST Podcast of the Week.
Don’t believe me?
Try to spend more than five minutes listening to any one of these without reaching for the sharpest pencil you can find to jam into your ears:
While the nice thing about the Internet and social media and easy-to-use technology is that virtually anyone can get involved. Virtually anyone can produce a video or a podcast or an MP3 file and post it online for the world to see or hear or both.
But the truly unfortunate thing about the Internet and social media and easy-to-use technology is that virtually anyone can get involved.
I believe there is an old saying to cover such situations: Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.
Our company is getting 4-5 requests a week from bloggers for product samples to test and a second product for a giveaway. Should I be sending all these bloggers my product? We are a small business and have to be selective who we send product samples to.
By Jennifer Manocchio
The good news is that if you have bloggers coming to you requesting product samples, you have already generated some awareness in the marketplace. We have typically seen an increase in blogger product requests after media exposure or a targeted blogger campaign.
You should definitely be selective with blogger samples. According to a Technorati study, the average blog has only 6 readers! Yes… 6 readers! Therefore, it is important that you research each blog prior to sending product samples. You certainly want to be sending product to a blog that reaches your target audience, is credible and has a significant number of readers to make the largest impact possible.
Following is how we evaluate blogs to determine the credibility, reach and impact.
1. Review the blog: Ensure the content is relevant and tasteful. Take a look at how the blogger conducts product reviews. This will help you determine what to expect and to ask for any alterations you see necessary (including a link to your web site, retail locations, etc.). Also, some blogs list the number of views or followers. This will give you a good indication of reach.
2. Technorati: Visit Technorati and conduct a search on the blog to determine the blog’s authority. The authority is simply the number of other web sites linking to that blog. The more web sites linking to the blog, the more credible you can consider the blog.
3. Track Unique Monthly Visitors: Free tools like Compete and Quantcast can provide estimates for the number of unique visitors a blog receives each month. The only caveat to sites like these is the free versions do not provide estimates for blogs hosted by WordPress or Blogspot.
4. Other Social Media Sites: Conduct a general Google search on the blog or blogger to determine what other social media sites he or she is involved in. If he or she uses Twitter, Facebook, etc. and has a good amount of followers, that can certainly help increase the reach of your product/brand.
You can usually see immediately if the blogger posts reviews on other social media sites. If not, simply ask if that is possible as part of the product review.
5. Google Page Rank: Determine the page rank using the Google Page Ranking tool. A higher page rank will help influence organic search engine optimization.
Also, if you are short on product samples, consider declining the product for the contest or providing a discount or coupon for the blog readers instead. While the product giveaway will likely increase exposure, bloggers will still consider covering a product without a giveaway.
Need help sorting through all the blogger requests or want to launch a strategic blogger relations campaign to increase brand awareness, increase relationships and increase sales, contact me at jennifer at sweeneypr.com or 910.772.1688.
I was one of the more than 60,000 attendees at the International Home and Housewares show earlier this week. With a show featuring about 2,000 companies from around the globe, you are sure to find some new and innovative products. Here are just a few that caught my eye.
Spin & Go Touchless Mop & Wringer: One of my least favorite house chores is washing floors. Usually my husband does it, but when he isn’t home (a USMC infantry captain tends to get deployed a lot), I get the pleasure of doing it.
The Spin & Go Touchless Mop & Wringer solves two of my problems when washing floors – you don’t have to touch the mop/water and it doesn’t leave your floor sopping wet. This is especially helpful when washing our hardwood floors.
The bucket provided has something like a salad spinner attached to it. You simply place the mop in the spinner, hit the foot pedal a few times and the water is wrung from the mop head. You can also detach the microfiber mop head and throw it in the washer.
Houseware Profboard Cool: You couldn’t miss Houseware – a German company – at the show with all the employees wearing lederhosen and as friendly as can be. The director of sales quickly jumped at the opportunity to demo a few products for me.
The one I thought was most useful for consumers was the Profboard Cool – a thawing and cutting board. You place your frozen food on the board and it dethaws your food at a rapid rate. For people like me who forget to take out the frozen chicken or beef first thing in the morning, this is a great tool. The board also absorbs the water so your food isn’t soggy.
The product easily transforms into a cutting board by using one of the six different covers that easily snap onto the board. You can keep yellow for chicken, red for fruits, etc. so you don’t run the risk of contaminating food.
DrawerDecor: My utensil drawer (spatulas, ladles, ice cream scoopers, etc.) is a mess and it often takes me a few seconds to locate what I’m looking for. DrawerDecor solves this problem. It features a non-slip mat and removable components in several shapes and size to hold your utensils. It’s customizable, easy to clean and comes in variety of colors to match your kitchen decor.
Calibowl: Designed by a California native and surfer dad (hence the product name), the Calibowl is designed with an inward-curving lip, kind of like a wave, that pushes all the food onto whatever you are eating (chips, bread, utensils, etc.). It is perfect for dips at parties, soup, pasta and more.
Island Bamboo’s Monogrammed Bamboo Cutting Boards: As the founder explained it, this is a great gift for the person who likes to entertain or has everything. While at the show, I saw a lot of bamboo products, but this was rather unique. You simple place your order at the dealer, the dealer ships it to be monogrammed and then they either ship it to your home or the dealer’s location (whatever you choose).
I’m sure there were many more innovative products at the show, but with 2,000 exhibitors, I probably only covered a little more than half of the show. If you attended or exhibited, feel free to share your show feedback, including favorite products, trends and more in the comments section.
Walmart will soon have about 1,500 in-store MoneyCenters – that’s roughly one in every other store – where you can cash your check or pay your bills. Apparently company associates just aren’t busy enough selling clothes and groceries and electronics and fast food and automotive supplies and home furnishings and sporting goods and computers.
According to recent news reports, Ira Rheingold, executive director of the National Association of Consumer Advocates, said the MoneyCenters could be a good thing for consumers, by bringing more competition to the industry and focusing on an underserved segment of the population.
And when you really think about it, how much worse could Walmart do than the traditional banking industry that drove us into our current recession? At the very least we know they will greet us upon arrival.
Still, local watchdog groups are keeping a close eye on Walmart as it expands its financial services. After all, Walmart is becoming more bank-like without any of the regulation. And the company does have a reputation of destroying anything and everything that gets in its path.
Quite frankly I have no idea if the MoneyCenter concept will work; clearly Walmart thinks it will. And I guess it really doesn’t matter one way or the other. For as Sam Walton once said, “There is only one boss. The customer. And he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else.”
And that’s the bottomline.
For the record, I am jealous. I love the windy city I once called home, and I miss the wonderful energy that is unique to this Midwestern metropolis. I also love the Housewares Show and this special opportunity to experience a seemingly infinite number of exciting new products – some that will make it and a lot that will not – and feed off the amazing level of hope that fills every inch of every booth space.
Of course, Jen will bring back some nice chotchkies for everyone. And I am certain she will write about the entire experience in her Consumer Products blog. And it will be great.
But on the whole, I’d rather be in Chicago at McCormick Place for IHHS… or at least for the day after when they dye the Chicago River green.
Back in the ’90s, there was a Cleveland builder who got busted for building a bunch of new homes that were never attached to their foundations. Turns out it really didn’t matter, because the foundations were faulty as well.
According to one expert, “the footings and foundation are to a home what a person’s legs and feet are to their body.” Steve Bible, director of operations for Medallion Homes, says “The purpose of an engineered foundation is to support the superstructure of the home with consideration given to the existing soil conditions. The walls and roof of a home bear down on the foundation that rests on the soils that differ. With every house that is built, the soil must be studied to determine the engineer’s design criteria.”
And what does all this have to do with a media list? Everything.
Your media database is the foundation of your publicity and media relations program. It is not something that should ever be taken lightly or for granted. If it is not right, then the rest of your efforts – sending out news releases and calling media – will likely be a waste of time and money.
Unlike the home and building construction industry, there are no standards or regulations to guide database builders. Instead it is left to everyone’s discretion as to how they will strategize and construct their lists. And that is just awesome… not.
Some use printed directories, some use electronic directories, some use online database services, some just rely on news distribution services and don’t maintain any databases at all. Whichever of these methods are used, it is critically important to realize that this is at best, just the first of many steps that are required. Because unfortunately, none of these methods will allow you to create the database (foundation) capable of supporting the rest of your program.
Printed, electronic and online databases are generally only 75-85% accurate on any given day. Media outlets are missing. Media outlets that have shut down are still listed. Contact names are wrong. Contact information is wrong. And the support you receive from these providers is often useless.
But it is a place to begin the process (more on that in just a moment).
As for news distribution services, don’t get me started. These services (no names please) charge a premium to shotgun the marketplace with no assurance that the desired reporter/editor/producer/blogger will ever see the news release. And, of course, you do not own the database, nor will you ever see it, so good luck with your follow up.
Creating a valuable, living, breathing media database is important and hard work. It begins with the creation of a basic list (see above) that must then be honed and maintained over time. Ultimately, whether your list has 20 or 20,000 contacts, you need to be in communication with those contacts – initially to ensure you have the right person and eventually to establish a working relationship in which you understand what to send to whom in what way and at what times to achieve maximum results. Likewise, you need to know how and when (if at all) they wish you to follow up after sending them information.
Believe it or not, communication with the media is branding. How you interact with editors and reporters and producers and bloggers will determine how these critical gatekeepers of information report about (or simply ignore) your organization and products. Putting the right information in front of the right person at the right time is important. Putting the wrong information in front of the wrong person at the wrong time is likewise important.
So, the next time you think about whipping up a media list to send out a news release, think about branding and reputation management. Think about how a sound database can help you and how a bad one can hurt you. And do the right thing.
It takes less time to do a thing right, than it does to explain why you did it wrong. ~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
We have developed 300 new product sample kits for media. The kits feature everything the media needs to test the new product. How should we go about distributing the product kits?
By Jennifer Manocchio
Since you have invested in developing these product review kits, you want to ensure they will have the greatest impact among both media and consumers. In order to do that, first determine what markets you want to target.
If the product is only available in select markets, start by targeting media in these markets. The media is more likely to write about product available at their local stores. If media decide the product is worth covering, it can help drive retail sales. Additionally, retail buyers like to see that you are supporting product sales in their markets.
Also, consider any long-lead consumer and trade magazines. If you know your product will be available nationally in the near future or if it is available online, national media will consider testing or writing about your product. It could take up to 6 months for a national magazine to cover the product; therefore, start that process as soon as possible.
Once you determine the markets, the second step is determining what media within those markets to target. Certainly you’ll want to start with media that will be interested in the product and media that will reach as much of your target audience as possible.
While it may seem obvious to start with the newspapers, magazines, blogs, web sites, television and radio stations that reach the most people, don’t forget about niche media. For example, consider you are promoting a DIY product. While regional home magazines might have a lower circulation than a daily paper, don’t overlook those publications because the majority of the people reading a regional home magazine are likely your target audience.
After you have developed your target media list, start by contacting the media (by phone, email or both) and determining their interest in receiving a product sample kit. We highly discourage sending unsolicited product samples because it can be a big waste of time and money. Product samples could be shipped back to you or media could simply toss your package in the garbage. While it will take more time to contact the media, the results will be better.
Following product distribution, contact the media again to ensure they received the materials and to answer any questions they may have. This will also give you an opportunity to gauge the interest of the reporter and whether he or she plans on writing a story.
Distributing product samples to the media is a process and requires time and attention. However, if you are taking the time and money to develop product review kits, it is definitely worth the investment to ensure you are targeting the correct media and the media has confirmed they want to test your product.
Launching a new product and want media coverage? Contact me at jennifer at sweeneypr.com or 910.772.1688.
Last year I went to Vegas for a girls trip and we stayed at the Wynn. Our experience was absolutely terrible, from maintenance issues, to bad food and poor service. You can read all the details here: http://consumergoods.wordpress.com/2009/02/24/the-wynn-not-all-it-is-cracked-up-to-be/
After we got back last year, I immediately went to work writing and sending the Wynn a letter about our experience. Within a few days, I received a call back from guest services, and the Wynn decided to comp our rooms.
Just last week, my husband and I gave the Wynn a second chance. I certainly didn’t have high expectations this time based on the past experience. However, we were pleasantly surprised and the experiences were day and night.
We had a great time at the Wynn. The service and food were excellent. We definitely recommend grabbing launch at the Country Club Grill for a great view of the golf course and excellent food. My husband said it was the best burger he ever had and it was the best French dip sandwich I ever experienced.
All in all the Wynn was top notch. I would definitely recommend it after this past experience.
Everyone opposed to a healthier America, please stand up.
Now, everyone who believes that a leading cause of obesity in America is deceptive labeling, please eat a double bacon cheeseburger.
According to the FDA, “22 products made by  companies violate the federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act. The violations include unauthorized health or nutrient-content claims, and unauthorized use of words such as “healthy,” which have strict, regulated definitions. Companies receiving these letters must respond within 15 business days, detailing the steps being taken to correct their labeling.”
Really? This is what we are worried about?
Please do not misunderstand, I am all for honesty in packaging and labeling and advertising; this is good stuff. And I am all for a healthier America. But at a time when dollars are tight, Americans are fat and healthcare spending is out of control, are we really supposed to think this is an important use of anyone’s time and money?
And while I am quite sure that all 17 of these food companies are hustling to cover their arses and make whatever changes are necessary to appease the FDA (and they should), I can’t help but think there are bigger fish to fry… or bake if that is the healthier alternative.
My dad used to tell me that the secret to a stable life was relatively easy: “All things in moderation,” he would say. But my dad was an independent man, like most Americans. So despite his own advice, he ate and drank and smoked what he wanted. And when he suffered the consequences (which happened often) he never once blamed it on “unreliable product labeling” or lack of government protection.
So, while I am glad the FDA is doing their job to make it easier for health-conscious Americans to easily access reliable information about the calorie and nutrient content of food, I am nonetheless skeptical.
When Americans decide they want to get healthy, they will get healthy. Until then, they will eat all the wrong foods regardless of the labeling.
In the words of Wimpy, “I will gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today.”
And there you have it.
Our company would like to start a blog; however, we have limited internal time/resources to develop it ourselves. Is it ethical to hire an agency to manage and write our blog?
By Jennifer Manocchio
Unlike other marketing and public relations strategies, social media (blogging, microblogging, social networks, communities, etc.) is all about transparency.
At Sweeney, we feel strongly that in order to be transparent with your audience, you or someone in your organization needs to be writing the blog posts. It is however, completely acceptable to have an agency help manage your blog. The agency can provide an editorial calendar of blog topics, design the blog, determine who will be writing it, provide you with keywords for SEO purposes, drive traffic to your blog and get your blog listed on blog rolls and blog directories. But in order to participate transparently, someone within your organization needs to be blogging.
It can be acceptable to have someone else other than the designated blogger write a post if it makes sense – a vendor, client or partner for example. However, be sure this is clearly identified in the “by line” or signature of the blog post.
While it may seem like a quick and easy answer to have an agency write your blog posts, it will go against the grain of social media and in the end, will not help your organization speak openly and transparently with your target audiences.
Need support developing your social media strategy? Contact me at jennifer at sweeneypr.com or 910-772-1688.