Last year PepsiCo's Lay's brand launched an interesting promotion in New York City. Over the course of two days, consumers logging into UberRUSH -- Uber's courier service -- could enter a special code provided by Lays, and in return have delivered, free, a picnic basket of sandwiches, water, fruit and, of course, bags of flavored Lays that represented finalists in the Lays "Do Us a Flavor" contest.
As reported, the Uber initiative was to be capped at 200 deliveries and was only available in Manhattan between 14th and 96th Streets.
I have no idea how successful the overall promotion was -- the Uber initiative, the pedicab sampling program that ran in other select cities using the @Lays Twitter handle, or the sampling via Amazon's #amazon cart program. I hope it went well and that together with the TV they developed (yes... TV), it was successful... after all, I still can't eat just one.
The reason I am so interested in this story, and the reason I have chosen to lead with it, is not to critique it -- far from it -- but to try to understand why it was billed as a program for the digital age, and just as importantly, try to understand just what "traditional" sampling is and why this was so breakthrough.
In my experience, sampling has always been an innovative activity. How do you intercept and interrupt consumers in relevant and powerful ways so that they pay attention to your new or new and improved products in ways that will make them want to buy their own.
Frankly, as this isn't a Ramble on sampling, I will leave it to you to follow the links and see what you can learn from some of the great efforts of the past -- from Trains, Planes and Automobiles to Street Corners to Restaurants to Homes to Hospitals to Gyms to Parks and Pools and Skate Rinks to Broadway Plays and Blockbuster Movies to Stores to Newspapers, Magazines and Mail -- there is no venue or delivery service that hasn't been cleverly used and exploited.
Sampling is about getting the product into the hands and usage patterns of the right consumer -- it's physical, real... not virtual or digital. And because in this use case, Uber was the delivery mechanism, that does not make it digital or teach anyone how to "adopt sampling to the digital age."
My readers know that I am a foe of digibabble. In my professional role as a marketer, little frustrates me more than those who still opine on "traditional" versus the newest whatever, or on digital first, or mobile first, or wearable or whatever first, as if the consumer no longer exists beyond their role in providing some data points to roll up into the Big Data play that will change the course and trajectory of the product or service in question (hopefully not down).
Frankly, I believe that the most successful brands in the future will be the ones who leave behind the self-consciousness of the digibabble age and move into the age of the consumer.
Therefore, I celebrate and share those brands that are not caught up in the need to prove their faux digital chops, but rather use digital tools in the digital exponential manner of adding value and power to their consumer engagement, and sometimes just plain understand that while digital is everything, not everything is digital.
I call your attention to Virgin America which has created a "wow customer experience" that, of course, uses technology, but begins by understanding that U.S. travelers, on domestic airlines, are subject to some of the worst experiences you can ever imagine, and that an app was not the answer, as in "Hey, let's launch an app"...it's about mapping every step in the consumer journey and making sure it is all WOW...
Read the article by Mike Sharkey, who writes:
Technology isn't the answer to building a great company...what I've learned from starting three tech companies...
And please don't miss Yoni Heisler's post: "Apple's secret weapon: Incredible customer service."
Listen to the late Steve Jobs:
Wouldn't it be great if when you went to buy a computer, or after you bought a computer, if you had any questions, you could ask a genius?
And we all know where that has taken their business and their stores...keep your eye on the Microsoft Stores, as this is the game to beat, not product...
What about Netflix?
Read Julia Greenberg, who writes that "Netflix Is So Hot Because It Gives Us What We Want: TV."
Imagine that! TV putting "the consumer first, giving them what they want, anytime they want it and on any device."
Pretty simple, nondigital proposition.
How about Zappos and Zipcar, which in the best tradition of the best practice of catalogers make sure that their phone numbers are prominent on every digital page they serve -- a point brought home to me as my wife just screamed with frustration trying to find the phone number of a well-known restaurant that was buried deep, deep down behind layers and layers of clicks.
And of course NIKE, whose CEO Mark Parker talks about what it takes to continuously build and support an innovative brand, because that's what NIKE is regardless of tech, "It's all about the athlete."
Let's be clear, there are some who think this is all old-fashioned, out of date -- that in the new world, the customer can be ignored and channeled in ways that make more profit.
On the other hand, Forrester reports that over half of online shoppers will abandon their purchase if they cannot get quick help and that 67% have had unsatisfactory online customer service interactions.
Bottom line: If you are of the school that believes using Uber to sample products is simply proof of digital prowess, then I imagine that Amazon opening a store is, too...along with restaurants rewarding customers to stay off their cell phones and couriers waiting for you to try on the clothes you just ordered, you are leaving your primary audience in the cold.
But if you take the real world seriously and believe that digital is everything, but not everything is digital, your customers, consumers, users, buyers will bless you... as do I!!!
Eric Schmidt, in a nontraditional Google moment, said: "We used to think that the enterprise was the hardest customer to satisfy, but we were wrong. It turns out, consumers are harder than the enterprise because the consumer will not give you a second chance."
I disagree -- as does all the research I have ever seen on the topic, as will all the companies that actually do get what it means to be in the age of the customer/consumer -- if they love you, if they see you love them, they will give you a second and third chance, and therein lies true and enduring success.
Next time you think that only an app driven by Big Data is what will impress your customers, remember this. Listen:
Your customer doesn't care how much you know until they know how much you care.
What do you think?