Innovative Sampling

“Try before you buy” is a common promotional tactic deployed by brands, particularly in FMCG. Often, regular ambient sampling is the route taken. But, as the work below shows, there are far more creative and enticing ways to get consumers onboard with your products. Understand how these pieces of work playfully hijacked communication channels, built curiosity and started national conversations.

Unilever, Marmite Gene Project 90”, adam&eveDDB London (2018)


Marmite has often taken a tongue-in-cheek approach to its divisive product. Long known for its slogan of “You either love it or hate it”, Marmite needed a strategy that delivered a compelling reason to try the brand. And so the Marmite Gene Project was born.

Employing real scientists, Marmite sought to align its brand DNA with actual human DNA. The brand sought to prove that your genetic make-up does, indeed, determine whether you are a marmite lover or hater. At-home Marmite Gene Test kits were made available for families to take the test. And a published scientific white paper generated heated debate among the scientific community which did the job of bolstering the work’s reach. Brand awareness rose from 4% to 12% and year-on-year sales were up 14% across all retailers. It was an exciting piece of work that got scientists talking and, most importantly, the nation sampling.

One Drop Bottle Pril, Henkel, TBWA Dubai (2016)


Pril has always claimed one-drop cleanliness power - long before other washing detergents were doing the same. However, it was losing out to other brands in the UAE with bigger media budgets. While many brands go super-size to gain attention, Pril took the opposite approach. It created tiny 1ml bottles to make the point that you only need a small amount of the detergent to cut through grease.

Pril handed out the mini exact replicas of the bottle at supermarkets across the nation, reaching their target customers at the moment of purchase. It was an effective and novel promotion that uplifted sales after trial. The brand saw a 12% sales increase at the moment of sampling, and a 23% increase the following week. A clean result all-round.

The Whopper Detour, Burger King, FCB USA (2019)


How do you get millennials to switch burger choice when McDonald’s owns the market two to one? You gamify the experience. In a creative-first, tech-enabled activation twist on “try before you buy”, Burger King turned McDonald’s into touchpoints and allowed consumers to buy a Whopper for 1cent that could only be claimed “at” McDonald’s.

The devil was in the detail with this piece of work. BK geofenced 14,000 McDonald’s stores nationwide. If a user was within 600 ft. of a McDonald’s, the BK App unlocked the promotion, and once the order was placed, the app then navigated them to the nearest BK for pickup. This nine-Day promotion saw 1.5 million downloads in the app, ranked #1 on both iOS and Google Play app stores for several days, and garnered $40 million in earned media. Perhaps the most valuable result was the 33% increase in BK’s mobile customer base, which will pay dividends for the company for years to come. Rather than follow the predictable voucher-code route with limited engagement, Burger King did it their own way and it worked a treat.

Magazine, Shogakukan, Dentsu Tokyo (2002)

In another clever media-vehicle hijack, a magazine publisher encouraged trial of a manga magazine by inserting mini manga editions inside cup noodle packaging in convenience stores. It was the perfect promotion for a difficult-to-reach audience of young males during the boring three-minute wait for their snacks.

Shogakukan focused on convenience stores – with large-scale implementation in over 95% of Japan’s 43,000 nationwide stores – the entire project was negotiated with zero media budget. The novelty of the project caught the media’s attention adding bonus coverage to drive reach. This was a novel, cheap and effective strategy built on challenger techniques that other brands could learn a lot from.

Tide Detergents, Procter & Gamble, Leo Burnett Mumbai (2009)

Tide Detergents recognised that the best way to demonstrate a product’s effectiveness is to get them to see the results. The “Stainbroidery” activation let consumers pull the Tide sample pack on dirty “clothes” to see the results, providing a giveaway free sachet for them to sample the product. The brand exceeded the sample target by 127% and became a talking point in the media earning additional brand awareness. A simple campaign with a high talkability factor.

Tampons and Information on Menstruation, O.B. Tampons, FCB Stockholm (2005)

Strategists honed in on the insight that girls learn about periods from their mothers. To provide a factual, long-lasting communication tool O.B. created two beautifully illustrated books for mothers and daughters, each with an appropriate tone and style relevant to the particular reader.

The book included a coupon and offered up a sample of the product. 56,000 mothers received the sample, with 50% giving the book to their daughter, and 87% reading it. What’s more, 94% of the daughters kept their book, and 70% of mothers too. It was a brave and inspired move which created a long-life piece of media for a category that often defaults conservatism or cliché.