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4 Pitfalls of Holiday Season Food Demo Marketing

Holiday Season Food Shopping

The atmosphere in the store is festive. Jingles are playing as shoppers navigate their carts through the crowded aisles. I am standing behind my demo table, full of great delicacies, some steeped in centuries of tradition and gastronomical delight, yet to be discovered by passing customers. When I invite them for a taste, they often turn to me with a mouth full of golf ball sized samples from the of pre-cut goodies put out by store staff (passive sampling). In many cases they have no idea what it was and their palate is compromised.

This makes me wonder - Why do so many brands choose to spend the lion's share of their experiential marketing budget for the least opportune time of the year. The time when Holiday Season stress and chaos prevents potential customers from experiencing the products more fully.

While it is common knowledge (or urban myth) that nearly 75% of retail sales are done during the last quarter of the year, people shop and eat every day. So why are producers, distributors, brokers, buyers and store staff so determined to cram so many demos into this period and largely ignore opportunities during other periods? Almost 3 times more demos take place in November and December than in other months. Producers spend 36% of their entire annual budget during the 4th Quarter while store staff, demo companies and coordinators are struggling to keep the many moving parts, involved in a successful demo, balanced in the air like a circus act, so that none of them come crashing down.

Would it surprise you to learn that these demos are not the most successful in terms of taste to sales conversion or raising brand awareness? The analysis of 10 years worth of data, collected from thousands of demo reports conducted for multiple brands, shows that the answer is a resounding NO.

Taste To Purchase Conversation Relative to Demo Budget

Some of the pitfalls of "peak season" demos are:

  • Very high traffic in stores is detrimental to successful exposure of your products to consumers. Conversion rates are much higher with fewer competing demos in the store, when you can engage with customers more fully. In many cases the story or history of a product creates the connection with the customer that entices them to take your products home. They simply do not have that kind of bandwidth to engage in a very crowded setting. Here is an example from one of our Brand Ambassadors' demo report "There were many other demos going on and many people seemed displeased by the smaller samples available on my table (Whole Foods had passive samples of large size) and wanted more than one, without being interested in actually purchasing. I was able however to find some people that were interested and engaged them, and was able to sell, but it was really difficult at this location especially with people wanting just to eat and not interested in what they were trying. Kira (store employee) also mentioned that it was one of their slowest days of the year and they were getting ready for a big rush before the end of the month."

  • Supply chains are stressed to the limits and your products may likely be in limited supply for your Brand Ambassadors to demo. In the Holiday season with the increased volume of demos there is a corresponding increase in the number of cracks between which your orders and details can easily fall through.

  • Store personnel are over tasked and too stressed, to be as supportive as in off peak times, to assist Brand Ambassadors in locating the best space for their tables and keep a steady supply of product and samples as they sell through.

  • Scheduling good days and time slots for demos is very challenging, as blacked out days and high demand for demo slots overwhelms store personnel responsible for allocation.

People come to buy food every day of every week of the year. Their experience with your product can be much more effective and lasting without the distractions and stress of the Holiday Season. Get more bang for your marketing buck during times of lower stress and higher consumer receptivity.

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