Samples usually are one-way, unrequested offers from marketers, and online sampling mostly involves signing up to get freebies yourself. But an offer this cold-and-flu season for Kleenex that lets people send free packs of tissues to friends and family has scored big.
The Kimberly-Clark Corp. brand last week sent its millionth requested mini-box of tissues in North America. And the "Softness Worth Sharing" campaign, aimed at introducing a new softer version of the tissue, has lifted market share 1.7 points since October, said Kleenex Brand Director Craig Smith. Nielsen data from Sanford C. Bernstein show Kleenex share up 3.9 points to 49.9% for the four weeks ended Feb. 19 vs. the period before the campaign began.
The program let people send samples to friends and family via Kleenex.com and through signups at more than 900 participating retailers in the U.S. and Canada. They could also send virtual Kleenex tissues to Facebook friends, but the million were all actual tissue packs, said Amy Popp, Kleenex brand manager.
"We set out to retake softness superiority in the category," Mr. Smith said. "So we developed a program behind the claim that Kleenex is America's softest tissue. ... We essentially enabled 1 million consumers to become ambassadors for the brand."
People can track online how their samples inspire others to follow suit or how many samples have been sent or received by state or ZIP code. So far, 1.5 million people have done so, Ms. Popp said, and the longest "chain of sharing" so far has involved 34 cycles.
A mere 655 packs have been sent so far by folks in Neenah, Wis., where Kleenex marketers are based. That compares to 3,0260 from downtown Cincinnati, headquarters of rival Procter & Gamble Co., marketer of Puffs.
Kleenex promoted the social sampling via TV, print, digital and social media advertising from WPP's JWT andmedia shop Mindshare, both New York. TV and digital ads appeared to produce the most activity, Ms. Popp said.
While California jumped out to an early lead, Ontario has since edged all U.S. states in tissue sharing so far with 73,740 packages shared.
And it's been a good cold and flu season for sending tissues. While the H1N1 virus last year created a surge in business for Kleenex and some difficult comparisons early on, since around Nov. 15, cold and flu season in the U.S. has been tracking ahead of last year, Mr. Smith said.