Brands That Led the Way in Product Sampling

By: Kitty Hart
July 6, 2020

For many, it’s not a complete weekend morning without making the sample rounds at your local grocery, trying all the new dips, bars, crackers and, if you’re lucky, piping hot pizza squares! Well, rest assured, product sampling strategy is still alive and well through avenues other than in-store. If you want to dig into other ways to get your product into people’s hands while we wait out the return of in-store sampling, the team at Aha! Marketing has a myriad of solutions for you. But for today’s blog we have put together a little history lesson on this extremely powerful marketing strategy. You can share these fun facts at your next dinner party. 

Modern marketing began in the 1950s when people started using more than just print media to endorse a product. As television, and later the internet, entered households, marketers could conduct entire campaigns across multiple platforms. Today, there are dozens of places one can carry out a marketing campaign. And, there are hundreds of types of marketing strategies. Product sampling is a highly effective strategy and one of the many formats of experiential marketing. 

Experiential marketing strategies are effective because of their abilities to create memories through any number of senses. Any time a brand can provide something within an experience that the person can take with them, tangible or intangible, you have the ability to create a lasting impression. 

Brands have been using various forms of experiential marketing for a hundred years and product sampling actually goes all the way back to the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. It was here that brands like Wrigley’s, Pabst, and Cracker Jack debuted their brands and products to the world.

William Wrigley Jr. was on site handing out pieces of Juicy Fruit gum to attendees of the fair, in hopes of driving sales. Pabst and Cracker Jack did the same.

It was also at this World’s Fair that a gregarious and charismatic woman named Nancy Green conducted cooking demonstrations. Her attraction was so popular that it required extra security to keep the crowd moving. Nancy told stories, demonstrated, and handed out samples of a new ready-mix pancake. People couldn’t get enough.                 

The evolution of this experience? 

The Davis Milling Company was the creator of the pancake mix. They received over 50,000 orders as the result of Nancy’s product demonstrations and her ability to put the samples into people’s hands, and hearts. Nancy Green had been hired to perform, cook, and hand out samples at this World’s Fair attraction, but due to the success of this debut, she became the face of the brand that we know today as Aunt Jemima. Yes, this brand is undergoing name and visual changes currently. But, it is interesting to understand where and how these brands all engaged with their desired audiences for the first time and how effective the strategy was in launching such iconic brands. 

Marketing tactics have certainly changed over the past hundred years but one thing still rings true. Delivering samples to people in trusted and relevant environments creates high impact moments that are meaningful and memorable. When people are able to taste, touch, feel, and interact with a brand or product, the intimate experience creates a lasting impression. And, when people try something they love, they want to share it with the world!

Kitty Hart is brand strategist, marketing maven, and revenue generator living in Minneapolis, MN.

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