Trading Samples for ‘Likes’ on Facebook, Multiplying Reach

Written about in a few places last week, Pepsi recently launched a new vending machine that changes the game when it comes to free samples. Instead of hired hands simply handing out complimentary sodas, the new machine dispenses a cold beverage when the recipient ‘Likes’ the brand on Facebook.

When you think about it, it’s a genius transition that gets to the heart of the purpose of free samples.

Sampling, or handing out free samples of products, has been around since before we started talking about market share. The items given out are usually something we can consume, say @SmoothieKing handing out drinks at the Metro, @BenAndJerry’s handing out ice cream or the @WheatThins I was handed once going into a DC United game (some interesting targeting there). Whatever the give-away, the idea has always been “Let’s give folks a chance to try our product, let them see how good it is and hope they come back for more.”

Great underlying concept, but one that was always flawed.

With free samples, a brand could target an arena or specific spot in a city where they believed the clientele most likely to use their product would be. For coupons for free goods, they could do much the same, handing them out and then tracking results by where those specific coupons were returned. The problem being, as a brand/producer, they had no idea who you were as a customer other than the very 50K foot targeting in place.

Pepsi’s model changes that paradigm entirely.

By asking folks to interact with one of their social media identities, especially Facebook, Pepsi’s traded product for real actionable data. Yes, they put these vending machines in places where they believe their clientele will be, but no longer is it just a one-way conversation – a “try this and we hope to see you again” interaction without any real way to follow-up.

Now, Pepsi knows exactly who that person is, what they like, their tendencies on Facebook and a whole host of other data that that person makes available. The company can then group these users together and target them accordingly with any number of promotions. Pepsi, being a huge multinational with a slew of products in their portfolio, can promote on food, events, soda and more.

Advocacy Angle
What’s the application in the advocacy world? I’m looking at it from two different angles.

  • Pepsi Model + Advocacy
    For those that produce perishable products, a similar model to Pepsi’s would open a huge store of data to you and your marketing team. This would apply to those that could purchase your products, but also those that would support your cause should it come under fire.

    Let’s look specifically at the DC Food Truck industry.

    Note: I’m not coming out for or against the food trucks here, simply highlighting how they might take this paradigm shift and run with it.

    What’s to stop Food Trucks from doing something similar? Why not go with a simple line such as “For a sample of our product, please Like us on Facebook.” The operator can even keep it low-tech, having the user show the food truck operator the interaction on their smartphone without the need for a wonder-machine like Pepsi’s. In the end, the food truck is now able to target these folks once they walk away. More importantly, they’re able to alert these folks when regulations that could drive them out of business are being discussed.

    Using this model, rather than prodding folks to follow them on Facebook or Twitter and hoping that they do, they can actively see that interaction happening and track the results. The hundreds of lawyers, staffers, lobbyists and more that eat their food and interact daily on social media are now a prime target for an advocacy effort – especially because they know exactly what they’ll be missing should the regulations change.

    In short, it’s straightforward – take the Pepsi model and immediately include an advocacy aspect.

  • Microtargeting
    As we’ve discussed before, being able to effectively message a select group of your users is key to success. Tracking the demographics and tailoring your message accordingly has proven time and again to be the most successful way to build, sustain and grow your advocacy effort.

    With trading product for social media interaction, we’re increasing our reach not just to those who actually liked the product but to their friends as well. Pulling in folks we may never have had access to before, learning about them and finally being able to target all new “leads” as we look to increase our influence.

Whatever the angle, the result is a whole new set of data for Pepsi that they never had access to previously. It’s a new way to target, a new reach into communities – trading a can of soda for access to hundreds if not thousands of new potential leads both for product and advocacy.