The Return of Sampling – 3 things to consider before you say yes! - Brand Activate - Field Marketing Agency

The Return of Sampling – 3 things to consider before you say yes!

May 12, 2021

There is no pivot for field marketing during a pandemic, almost every brand has sampling as a key part of their channel strategy for the adult beverage industry.  Beer, wine and spirits brands are anxious to start sampling programs again because no other execution has the same impact at point of purchase.  But before you start your retail or on-premise sampling programs you need to ask yourself:

  • The impact sampling has on brands, aka why it is a tool we need to bring back
  • The geography of compliance
  • Some tips to consider as you begin planning and executing

What impact does sampling have in retail?

The value of sampling is widely accepted.  We know it allows for one-on-one connection with a consumer at the point of purchase.  It increases product velocity; it offers a touchpoint and education and most of all it creates conversion at the point of purchase and drives sales.  At Brand Activate when we have compared similar retail stores that have and have not run promotions the velocity of sales was increased by over 100% in stores that ran repeat promotions, especially for challenger and innovation brands.

Can I sample in retail?

By the time you read this the guidelines will have already changed, but one thing we know is that they will be dictated by geography and that state, county and account’s policies.  So how do you plan for a sampling program?  Our clients have been focusing on states that have big impact and low centralized regulation such as Florida and Texas.  We have been advising that they expand execution dates to include summer, fall winter, and that they make the campaigns and POS evergreen so that if something changes, the items can be used a future date.  Here are some examples of what we are seeing in different states for retail sampling:

FL – open, no change to sampling

TX – samplers must wear a mask and gloves. All samples must be poured prior to the start of execution and all sampling cups must have lids on them

CO – hand sell only, no wet sampling unless otherwise directed

CA, NY, IL – not open to sampling yet

AZ – summer executions expected


Can I sample on-premise

As of today, 100% of the country is allowing in person dining or drinking, so yes, the country is ready for sampling.  With 66% of the country is expected to be 100% open by summer.   Accounts are expecting support and plan to support brands that support them, so it is essential that your teams are including field marketing in their channel strategy and creating POS that supports accounts, especially with over 130 new beverage alcohol laws at the state level. Here are some examples of what we are seeing in different states for sampling events.


5 Tips and Reminders for your next sampling program

  1. PPE: Know the regulations and required PPE for all the markets you offer the program to, include PPE in all your kits.
  2. TRAIN: Train your sampling brand ambassadors and test what you train them on. Ensure they understand the correct sampling protocols and that you have trained them to deal with difficult situations – all the what-if’s so that they are confident.  The new guidelines and compliance navigation can make a veteran sampling agent nervous.   We use a train & test LOS system that we created specifically for field marketing to ensure your staff is ready.
  3. Point of Sale: Global shortages of materials could mean that your POS may be more expensive, take longer to arrive, and will need to be evergreen incase programs gets pushed into later in the year.  We concept, procure, store and ship POS for all our clients and we are seeing increases, shortages and longer lead times.
  4. SUPPORT: Accounts are keeping score, they know who stepped up and who stepped away during these tough times, we are encouraging our clients to be creative and committed to supporting accounts if they expect the account to support them in the future.
  5. TEAMWORK: Bringing field marketing and event staffing back is a team effort, just like the accounts, if you don’t support the field marketing agencies that have supported you, they might not be around when you are ready to execute. Call your agency, check in with them, let them help you plan H2 2021.

Consumers are ready to get back to “normal”, it is our responsibility to work together to ensure that they meet your brand in a positive and safe way.

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