Sampling is the simplest way of experiential mktg: Dhruv Kalra

Sampling ensures trial and is a sure-shot way for a consumer to ‘experience’ the brand, says the Founder & Director, Go Try

e4m by Deepa Balasubramanian
Updated: Apr 20, 2013 8:11 PM
Sampling is the simplest way of experiential mktg: Dhruv Kalra

Dhruv Kalra, Founder & Director, Go Try Marketing has 12 years of experience in experiential marketing and event management industry. Of this, he has spent over eight years in conceptualising and executing innovative BTL marketing activations for some of the top brands of the country.

In conversation with exchange4media, Kalra speaks about evolution of the sampling process, increasing use of technology, five things that make sampling a hit and more…

What were the insights behind starting Go Try in India? How is the sampling platform as a business shaping up in India?
The founding team of Go Try comes from one of India’s leading experiential marketing companies, Vibgyor Brand Services. Having spent more than a decade closely associated with the BTL and event industry, we have conceptualised and executed various successful on-ground campaigns for leading players in the FMCG, food & beverage, beauty and cosmetic sectors. This includes creation of on-ground properties, mall activations, market activations, and college & school contact programmes to promote the brands to the relevant target group in an innovative manner.

Over the years we realised that one of the objectives of a lot of brands that we were working with invariably was large scale sampling of their new products/ variants. The sampling methods that they were using were very random and led to huge wastage and inefficiencies. Any on-ground sampling plans customised for the clients worked out to be very expensive and often financially unviable. We put together all these insights into creating a solution for targeted and efficient sampling mechanism, and hence Go Try.

Please highlight some key trends that you have seen in this business?
The trend till now was traditional sampling methods, where a company hires local manpower to sample their products at retail outlets, colleges, door to door, etc. So, washing powder samples may end up being handed out to children and other irrelevant demographics who have no interest in sampling it. And even when they reach the right people, there is no way of getting on-the-spot feedback or contacting them again. Not only is the pedagogy highly random, but offers no connection with consumers.

Brands feel happy and satisfied on having distributed samples to a large number of people and these consumers end up using the product once and forgetting about it. The sampling incurs huge costs for companies, but serves largely perfunctory and offers little or no measurable results.

What are the kinds of brands that are choosing sampling as a marketing initiative in their marketing mix?
Sampling is a preferred tool used by the FMCG and food & beverage sectors. These are the sectors that have always had new offerings in terms of innovative products or variants being launched frequently in a competitive market. Personal care, home care, beauty & cosmetics, and processed foods & beverages are the main categories that are relevant to Go Try. Go Try has been fortunate to be associated with top brands in these sectors such as HUL – Ponds, Lifebuoy, Comfort, Surf Excel, Pepsodent, Rin, L’Oreal, Dabur, Nivea, PepsiCo, Emami, J&J, Reckitt Benckiser, GSK, and Kraft Foods, among others.

What are the five things that make sampling as a major marketing strategy a hit?
We would talk about Go Try rather than generic sampling.
• Sampling is the simplest way of experiential marketing. Consumers get a chance engage with your product in the simplest and easiest possible manner before making a purchase decision
• It is a sure-shot way of putting your product in your consumer’s hands
• Sampling is a consumer-preferred method of marketing since it lets them try something new without having to invest any time or money in the purchase decision
• It lets you reach out to brand loyalists who would probably not even consider experimenting with a new product
• Precision sampling ensures no wastages and riff raff. A brand manager can  specify the exact TG they would want to reach out to and the samples would be handed out only to them

Could you elaborate on the marketing strategy for Go Try?
The strategic location of Go Try kiosks at high footfall malls in Delhi and Mumbai have been a deliberate marketing strategy. Moreover, our kiosks have been positioned close to big and popular department stores, which attract the maximum number of walk-ins. It is no accident that you will see the Go Try kiosk at the Inorbit Mall next to HyperCity and the GIP Mall right next to Lifestyle.

As for clients, we have taken the direct marketing route. For instance, we had set up a Go Try stall at the HUL POS Mela last month that gave people at HUL a chance to see for themselves how Go Try works. We also have a PR strategy targeting brand managers through web portals and select print publications. A good 15 per cent enquiries have come in through this route as well.

What are some of the new initiatives that we can expect from Go Try in 2013?
Now that we have covered Mumbai with kiosks at Oberoi Mall, Goregaon and Inorbit Mall, Vashi, and Delhi with GIP, Noida and Pacific Mall, Kaushambi, we are in a stage of aggressive expansion. There is another one coming up at MGF Metropolitan, Gurgaon this month. By the end of this year, we are aiming at kiosks across each of the top metros.

We are looking to offer services such as discount deals/ special offers from outlets present at the mall to be included in our services. We want to become an amalgamator of all samples and deals and would be able to offer them to our consumers in the most efficient way.

What are the factors that have worked in your favour?
The fact that we are a completely technology based model makes this process extremely intelligent. It makes us a one-of-its-kind precision sampling method. We ensure samples reach out exclusively to the right demographics and also have a streamlined process for getting feedback. The other big plus is that the model is agile and can be customised to include various products with specific needs.

What are the challenges that you have faced?
Since Go Try is a brand new concept of precision marketing not currently used in India, our immediate challenge is to meet as many people in the industry and make them aware of this unique model. Being the first movers, we want to leverage our position and our vision is to change the way traditional sampling happens in the industry. We would want Go Try to feature in the marketing mix of each brand manager.

With experiential marketing becoming the most sought after route for brands, what are your thoughts on brand building activities via sampling?
Sampling ensures trial and is a sure-shot way for a consumer to “experience” the brand. So, sampling is the simplest and purest form of experiential marketing. Not only does it help reach customers who would probably not buy a new brand otherwise, but also lets a brand break through the clutter of advertising and actually get to know a brand.

How do you see sampling as a major business evolve over the next couple of years?
With the fragmentation of media and questions being raised about the RoI of ATL activities, we see sampling as the future. Marketers are actively looking for better returns on their marketing investment and sampling does just that. With a targeted, precision sampling mechanism such as Go Try, we have also eliminated all apprehensions associated with random sampling to develop a smarter and more evolved method. We definitely see random sampling phasing out slowly, especially with FMCG and F&B based brands.

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