CHOOSING SAMPLING AS AN ADVERTISING ALLY: A LIVE SITUATION WITH A PRODUCT CAN BE THE IDEAL PARTNER FOR 2-D COMMUNICATION

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Many marketing professionals treat sampling as an afterthought -- that is, with almost no thought at all. This is a shame. A sampling program can and should be approached and analyzed in a creative, targeted manner and, above all, be thoroughly integrated with the other components of the marketing mix.

If this sounds familiar to advertising professionals, it's because advertising offers an ideal decision-making model for creating or selecting sampling opportunities and programs.

Sampling may seem a different animal than advertising, but only the terms are different -- a "live situation with actual product" vs."two-dimensional image accompanied by text."

The mission is the same blissfully simple one: Inspire people to buy the product.

SAMPLING VENUES

Sampling can take place in a variety of forums: at events where a marketer has been granted permission to offer its product; on the street; in airplanes or hotels; and -- in the best of all possible worlds -- at an event (or series of events) that a marketer has designed. In all of these contexts, advertising offers an apt decision-making template.

Here are some topics to think about when designing a sampling program, categorized according to advertising considerations.

nThe creative: In an advertisement, this is the visual image. For a sampling event, marketers should think three-dimensionally. (What is the perfect setting in which to enjoy the product? Who should be serving it and how should they be dressed? Should it be set during the day or in the evening?)

This aspect of an event actually offers a chance to go beyond advertising and create a virtual reality-like experience for the target consumer -- actually placing them in exactly the kind of moment an advertisement can only hint at.

TASTEMAKERS

For Remy Martin cognac, one target demographic is the young trendsetter. Appropriately, what was created for Remy was the Remy Martin Tastemaker Series, an events initiative that combines opportunities to taste Remy Martin cognac with independent film or theater -- exactly the kind of entertainment that attracts these cutting-edge individuals.

Held at popular bars, restaurants and lounges in New York, Chicago and other markets, Tastemaker events offer Remy Sidecars as well as the traditional neat cognac, while drawing celebrities, industry insiders and, of course, plenty of media attention.

For the Frappuccino coffee drink, the bottled version of Starbucks Coffee Co.'s popular in-store beverage, a sampling program that actually echoed the drink's point-of-sale material was devised. Depicting people enjoying a cold, bottled Frappuccino in various outdoor settings, the point-of-sale copy proclaimed, "This is a great place to open a Starbucks" -- a play on the notion of launching a new store and the company's reputation for ubiquity.

The bottled beverage, the ad cleverly hinted, allowed you to enjoy what the company refers to as a "Starbucks experience" in places where it was previously impossible to get a Frappuccino.

To keep the sampling program in line with this advertisement, sampling was done only at outdoor concerts, arts festivals and movie screenings -- where a cold Frappuccino (albeit a bottled one) would surprise consumers and make a lasting impression.

ADS BROUGHT TO LIFE

Campari's "A Brush With Red" performance art series brings to life the brand's popular outdoor print advertising campaign.

Campari is the biggest-selling aperitif in the world, but has a bittersweet taste American palates aren't accustomed to. The ad campaign, shot by fashion photographer Matthew Rolston, suggests mixing Campari with orange juice, which sweetens the aperitif. Mr. Rolston photographed nude models, body-painted Campari red, whose modesty is only protected by strategically placed orange peels. The tagline reads simply "Campari & Orange," and the only other element is a bottle shot next to a mixed Campari & Orange.

PAINTING FROM LIFE

The related sampling event, held in upscale restaurants, brings the campaign to life. A virtually nude model is body-painted Campari red, draped in larger-than-life orange peel, then paraded silently through the restaurant. The model ends her walk in the center of the restaurant, strikes a pose and then an original painting of her is created by an artist commissioned by Campari.

As this goes on, models in black cocktail dresses distribute samples of Campari & Orange.

* The copy: The text that accompanies an ad. In a sampling situation, this could be any number of things, from what the people who hand out, pour or distribute the product say to patrons to the text emblazoned on T-shirts given to guests.

SUBTLE REMINDER

In the Remy Tastemaker campaign, all waiters and bartenders are instructed to ask "How would you like your Remy?" a subtle way of teaching consumers there are other ways to enjoy cognac than straight up.

* The media buy: When deciding where (and when) to place an advertisement, the questions one asks are obvious. Does the publication/show on which I'm advertising reach my target consumer? How many consumers watch or read it every day/week/month?

In the case of sampling, variations on this theme apply as well. For Sprint PCS, cellular phone sampling kiosks were set up within a block or two of the company's New York retail locations. On busy avenues such as Broadway, where harried New Yorkers were unable to find an available (or working) pay phone, passersby were allowed to use the Sprint PCS cellular service to make their call, a dramatic demonstration of the utility of their product. If interested, consumers could be pointed to a store just a few yards away.

By looking at sampling decisions through the lens of advertising, one can reach an equally controlled and desirable audience and achieve the same results produced by the best conceived, and best placed, commercials.

Mr. Kratz is president and partner at marketing and PR company Kratz & Co., New York, which created sampling programs for Remy Amerique, Starbucks Coffee Co. and UDV North America, marketer of Campari.

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