At one point during the frantic, draining middle period of a pitch process I asked the team, digital experts all, what product sampling was in the digital age. Not simply enabling people to request product samples online, but the all important moment of truth of a person experiencing all of the sensorial aspects of a product and moving from ambivalence to love of a good product.
No one had the answer.
For all of the great experiences that digital marketing create, very few of them are truly, sensually sensory. Some excel at being visually immersive, others at wrapping the consumer in glorious sound. But few, if any, can create moments of touch, taste or smell or that magic of real product sampling.
And sometimes, it’s only in the tasting, smelling and touching that the selling can be done.
For example, close your eyes. Think about ice cream about beautifully made artisan ice cream. Bet it made you smile. Or at least made your mouth water. There are many conventions that rely on images (sight) to communicate the experience of taste, but nothing that becomes that experience of taste. Even the memory of taste can fire up the senses.
Now imagine that you’re being asked to create a digital campaign for Freggo, a brand of ice cream no one heard of, from a single shop in London that was down an alleyway and didn’t even look like an ice cream shop. Oh, and it’s expensive. No matter how many messaging or engagement tactics we explored it always came down to a single moment of truth – the tasting. But tasting, as mentioned, is difficult to do in digital. And using digital to promote tasting events wasn’t going to be enough to tempt trendy, urbane Londoners to hunt it down.
We had to turn tasting into something more.
We stayed within the world of the senses. For the first time, using digital media, we helped people SEE and remember how they experienced taste.
Everyone experiences taste in a different way. You might agree on the qualities of taste, but everyone will have their own sensory experience, their own unique combination of creaminess, iciness, sharpness, etc. Based on this, we created a taste test application that allowed people to score their unique experience of the taste of Freggo. We then took this data and enlisted a digital artist to turn it into a bespoke visual representation of their taste experience. In other words, a person would taste and score the ice cream and get their own piece of art that showed what their TASTE of Freggo looks like. Importantly, they could also share that experience with others.
But how to get them to a tasting event? As I mentioned earlier, it’s virtually impossible to get trendy, affluent Londoners to sampling events, but they’d likely turn up to a truly unique private viewing at a well known gallery.
On a summer’s night we attracted over 500 people to the Menier Gallery in South London where they could taste Freggo, capture that experience in a piece of digital art that was exhibited in the gallery and given to them to keep and share (which hundreds did, amplifying the tasting experience). On leaving, each guest received a flyer offering free ice cream for them and their friends, which led to a huge increase in footfall in their store and a 150% increase in sales.
Sales, created from a smart and brave mixing of the senses to drive results that simple product sampling on its own wouldn’t have been able to achieve. So successful that the tasting app is a permanent feature in the Freggo store in London and, we hope, anywhere they expand in the future.
Annette King is the Chief Executive of OgilvyOne UK.
Brian Jensen is the Head of Experience at Ogilvy in London.