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Surround sampling

"We hope you enjoyed the meal. Would you like to try out the new pudina-flavored Hajmola?" Rachit Vats reports. Why experimental sampling works | The Customer

business Updated: Feb 21, 2011 14:40 IST
Rachit Vats

"We hope you enjoyed the meal. Would you like to try out the new pudina-flavored Hajmola?"

Sounds strange, but this is exactly what Dabur Foods did recently as a part of a sampling programme. At the conclusion of the campaign, Hajmola Pudina grew to become over 12% of the mother brand.

Dabur undertook an extensive radio-led initiative in which listeners were asked to vote for their favourite unbranded street food joint in their city. The company then held extensive Hajmola sampling exercises at the listener-identified outlets. In addition, 1,000 dhabas on highways across India were given a brand new look with the Hajmola brand prominently featured. The idea was to promote Hajmola for post-meal consumption.

"Competition is increasing and differentiation is crucial. Sampling is one the best ways to engage with the consumer and get her to experience the brand. We are able to make a complete emotional contact and establish the last mile connect for the brand," said George Angelo, VP sales, Dabur India.

As advertising and marketing budgets shoot up, more brands are searching for interesting ways to create consumer connects. While sampling still helps generate trials, it has seen increasing depth added on over the past two years or so as a means to generate faster consumer conversion.

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"Sampling provides the consumer with an immediate product experience. Increasingly, companies are aiming to get samples to consumers in unexpected places, via a sampling-by-surprise approach or just the traditional one. Sampling budgets are certainly increasing," said Pinakiranjan Mishra, partner, advisory services, national leader - retail & consumer products, Ernst & Young.

Sanjeev Kapoor's FoodFood, the new 24-hour Hindi language food channel on TV, did a sampling exercise through an eat-a-thon for media agencies recently. The aim was to focus favourable attention on the channel with the people who plan and buy media space for advertisers.

"We see sampling as a route to build new categories and innovations. It helps where there is a barrier to purchase. Over the past year, we have increased our focus and budgets for sampling activations, such as for NutriChoice," said Anuradha Narasimhan, category director, health and wellness, Britannia.

"The key task along the consumer pathway for many brands is shifting from awareness to active consideration/purchase," said Satyajit Sen, CEO, ZenithOptimedia, India.

When Hindustan Unile-ver (HUL) re-launched Pond's as a new premium skincare range in 2007, it set up kiosks at 450 malls and shops in 23 cities, with experts giving customised recommendations. Procter & Gamble similarly set up Olay Wall Units at leading malls and offered on-the-ground beauty consultancy.

More recently, HUL has gone for innovative sampling in foods. While parent Unilever gets 50% of business from foods worldwide, for HUL, it is just 20%. "We want to be winners in foods. This category is all about sampling," said Shreejit Mishra, ED, foods, HUL.

In a key initiative - 5 Baje Ki Knorr Local - HUL brought Knorr to consumers while they were on the move in Mumbai. The objective was to convey the proposition of "taste and convenience" of Knorr ready-to-cook spice mixes cooked into freshly-prepared dishes and served to women travelling in first and second class compartments in local trains. A total of 192 consumers were sampled every day.

In another activity - Snack on Wheels - HUL rolled out a mobile unit which facilitated sampling and selling of Knorr soups and soupy noodles across colleges, popular hangout spots, residential and commercial areas.

Premium tea brand Taj Mahal was similarly served by the company 10,000 ft up in the air on Jet Airways flights to promote its tea bags.

In total, HUL claims it reached about five crore consumers through sampling in 2009. About 1.7 crore consumer contacts were made through experiential marketing. The 2010 figures have not yet been compiled.

"Consumers today look for more than just a product; they seek an overall brand experience. Sampling was used by Del Monte to help generate brand awareness, association and conversion," said Yogesh Bellani, business head, Del Monte foods business, FieldFresh Foods.

"Consumers in India need healthy foods but their awareness is still low. They were not seeking the kind of products we were offering, so we are using sampling that we're executing at three levels - in stores, neighborhoods and at places such as the gym, spas and cafés. At least 30% of our budget is allocated to sampling," said a Danone India spokesperson.

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That experiential sampling delivers results is something many marketers vouch for. "For Real and Activ, we recorded handsome growths in all key markets where sampling activities were held. The third quarter of this fiscal alone has shown our foods division report a 42% growth. Awareness levels have gone up significantly for brands like Dabur Lal Tail and sales grew by over 50% in districts where sampling activities were done," said Angelo.

"Almost all brands are going for innovative sampling, as it's the best way to get consumer feedback. The impact is always positive; we see at least a 100% jump in sales and sometimes even more. On an average, each month we have between eight and 12 sampling activities being carried out in our stores," said Ashutosh Chakardeo, head - buying & merchandising, HyperCity.