Turning up the heat with summer sampling: The Digital Edition


Summer is coming, and brands want to get their products safely into the hands of nervous, Covid-conscious customers. Here’s how creative technology can save your sampling season.


Here’s the thing, you can have an opinion about which season is best, but if it isn’t summer, well then, you’re just wrong. It’s that simple. Summer is the best time of the year, and not just for the sundowners, beach time, upbeat soundtracks, and real tans, but also because it’s when the marketing world starts spinning massive campaigns, ranging from outdoor and broadcast media to sampling and experiential work – it’s a hectic, but rewarding, time for team Because.

We’ve got a soft spot for sampling. We’re not meant to have favourites among our marketing ‘children’, but we love this tried-and-tested winner. If you get it right, it can deliver incredible brand ROI for truly little cost. It’s a powerful persuasion tactic, one that can drive sales and new product adoption like nothing else. However, there are plenty of potential sampling sins, as too often brands rehash old, tired mass strategies like using attractive-but-uninspired youngsters in busy spaces to hand out free samples. Not only is it ineffective, but it leads to high wastage – a huge no-no for our sustainably focused business and our client’s budgets.

Sampling is now smarter and more sophisticated, thanks to sharper experiential marketing and a new, tricked-out toolbox of creative technology. You don’t simply hand out plastic sachets, you create a layered, science-backed interactive approach that offers unique entertainment, starts conversations, educates customers, and collects meaningful data. It includes choosing the right location (real or digital), and then crafting bespoke strategies using these new digital tools.

The secret sauce of sampling is targeting the elusive Moment of Truth, where we supply the customer with the right product for their needs at the exactly the right time.

These innovative technologies use data insights to disrupt the traditional path to purchase, sometimes even before the consumers make the shopping decision; and they all offer spectacular results. Best of all, they make experiences even more engaging, and crucially, Covid-safe too.

Here are five smarter sampling strategies, both digital and physical, for a super summer:

1. Drive trial to purchase at home with digital tokens

Virtual Atoms (VAs) are smart digital assets that integrate AR, geolocation, Artificial Intelligence (AI), blockchain, and gamification into one unique little pixel product. They enable brands to virtually engage a handful or millions of potential customers on a one-to-one basis, and without any direct human contact. They’re incredibly flexible, you can change the token to be anything you want it to be: an ATL campaign, a competition, a money-off coupon or free sample, or a treasure hunt. For our client, Jaffa Cakes, we connected the VA’s with their TV advert. After signing-up and watching the TV ad on the VA platform, consumers were asked to ‘drop a pin’ to show their location. Then, they could use their phone camera to view and collect these digital tokens in their homes. We integrated the redemption of these collected VAs using the platform across the four top UK grocer chains: Waitrose, Tesco, Sainsbury, and Asda. This enabled winners to take their digital tokens straight to the retailer to claim their prizes, driving both footfall and trial to purchase.


2. Ask Alexa to send personalized samples

Voice assistants are no longer just for weather or traffic reports, it’s now becoming a powerful marketing tool too. We’ve already used it to turn up brand volume and to tell better stories for our clients. Now you can use Alexa Skills, which are her built-in, voice-driven capabilities, to easily send samples directly to consumers’ homes. Coca Cola Australia used this brilliantly in the ‘Share A Coke’ campaign, as all users had to do to get a free, personalised Coke delivered to their doorstep was to simply say, “Alexa, let’s share a Coke.” They were then sent a text message and sent to a bespoke site to design their bottle. Coke expected around 2,000 bottles in total would be asked for during the campaign, but those only lasted 12 hours; in total there were more than 12,000 Alexa requests.

3. Collaborate with a delivery service

Lockdowns created a whole new meal delivery industry and ramped up business for companies like Uber Eats, Doordash, and Deliveroo. Companies like Grabox have launched to deliver targeted FMCG samples through food delivery platforms, and they work with brands like Unilever, Red Bull, Coca Cola, and Nestlé. Grabox Kitchens uses virtual ‘delivery-only’ brands that are generated by using analytics, AI, and machine-learning. Customers put in orders to these brands using online delivery platforms and these are then fulfilled by local businesses using their spare kitchen capacity. This is location specific, and it can be paired to the type of food being delivered, and it leverages the larger databases of the food delivery services. Here are two related, secondary options: using taxi services to offer samples to customers in transit, or partnering with home retailers and their large databases.

4. Add high-tech interactivity to traditional door drops

Door drops can drive huge sales uplifts and they can be targeted to certain locations and consumer types. These are perfect for more personal items, ones that aren’t easily shared in public spaces. We’re huge fans of Augmented Reality (AR), and this is where it can shine, as by using either QR codes or scanning a specific visual, you can unlock a whole new interactive experience for the consumer – one which tells a much richer brand story. This additional layer of tech also adds another benefit: much deeper data collection for your client.

5. Disrupt traditional shopping habits using science

One of the biggest benefits of using data-driven shopping insights is that it offers a much more targeted approach, higher conversion, and less wastage compared to mass sampling. This is where using audience research through companies such as Mosaic or Experian pays off, as you can craft sampling strategies and like-for-like product switching tactics with a higher conversion rate in the audience segments that truly matter. Case in point: for our client, Weet-bix, we recruited “Cholesterol Coaches” to engage, educate and empathise via in-store demos using a digital cholesterol quiz in the cereal aisles and fresh departments within specially targeted stores. This direct approach led to deep engagement right at POP (Point 0f Purchase). The results: 29,000 engagements, a 9% conversion to purchase, and 1,800 customer registrations.


Summer’s almost here, but it’s going to be different this year, and your sampling strategy or NPD (New Product Development) needs to be upgraded. Let us partner with you to drive much more effective trial and adoption using these new digital tools.

If you want a sample of our marketing magic, let us host a free masterclass for you, and we’ll share just how to make summer your favourite marketing season, too.             

Author bio


I’m a media and marketing all-rounder, with 15 years’ experience across a range of channels. I’m fascinated by the shop floor and ‘real world’ and love getting out in the field, experiencing the action first-hand, and gathering and sharing consumer insights and knowledge.