KIND Snacks Founder Daniel Lubetzky: "I wish I had understood the benefits of product sampling"

In a rare opportunity to learn from the founder of a now-successful CPG brand, Daniel Lubetzky, founder and CEO of KIND Snacks, shares lessons and regrets growing his company in a Fast Company article ahead of the release of his new book, Do the KIND Thing (released March 31, 2015). 

A lesson Daniel shared is a typical marketing mistake we often see:

"I wish I had understood the benefits of product sampling. In the early days, sampling was a missing piece of my strategy because I viewed it as an expense rather than an investment. Around 2009, I finally realized that, given our products’ high quality and taste, letting people try KIND bars was the best way to build awareness. We expanded our sampling budget and the brand has grown fast and furiously since then."

What does sampling do better than other channels?

  • Generosity & Reciprocity: Receiving a samples as a gift, especially when it is unsolicited, elicits a tendency to want to pay back the favor. Delighted consumers purchase products and share you with others. 
  • Getting Personal: The ability to try something for free is more powerful than any advertising. If your brand can say, "when they try it, they'll buy it," enabling these experiences is the most direct path to purchase. Other channels try to drive consumers to real-life interactions; with sampling, you're already there.
  • Cut the Marketing Funnel: Unlike digital marketing, sampling provides awareness, trial, and a call-to-action (coupon, email opt-in, or invitation to engage) all at the same time. Remove any doubt about liking your product in one touch.

As a consumer, I can personally testify to the success of Daniel's sampling strategy.  I first tried a KIND bar at a 1 Million Cups event in San Diego in 2014 (startup founders are prime targets for convenient, healthy foods). KIND Snacks had shipped a generous amount of bars for attendees. I grabbed one for breakfast, and within hours I had ordered a boxful on Amazon.com. Once that arrived my kids dug in, and our home is never without KIND bars in the cupboard.

Having spoken to friends who have discovered their own favorite products through sampling, this is a pretty typical result. Sampling is such a simple concept, yet a misunderstood strategy, that KIND Snacks thankfully embraced in time. The question every CPG marketer should be asking is: How are we generously inviting people to try our products and want to help us grow?

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Are Fall Festivals & Back-to-School Events the Key to Increasing Holiday Sales?

Keep Your Products Within Easy Mental and Physical Reach of Consumers This Season 

Gift Bag Contents of a Recent Luncheon

Gift Bag Contents of a Recent Luncheon

We all know children have short attention spans and (admit it) so do we adults. No matter how badly kids want something they see on TV or at the store, out of sight almost always means out of mind. This makes it (usually) easy to divert their attention from parent-unwanted purchases, but it also means the treat or toy they wanted in March isn't likely on their minds as the holidays approach--unless brands can trigger that desire again between September to December.

There are two predominant seasons for school and charity events--Spring and Fall--both very popular for galas, community festivals, and races. Fall events are timed perfectly for products to capture the attention of hundreds, even thousands, of eager participants in one place while they are deciding which companies are worthy of their dollars during the holidays. As a parent I have to prepare myself for back-to-back celebrations for Halloween, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah/Christmas/Kwanzaa, and New Year's and will be buying, in larger-than-usual quantities, products I've tasted myself to be used as snacks, beverages, and gifts for party guests, hosts, friends, and family. How does a brand attract my attention and AFFORDABLY put product samples into the hands of the 150 million U.S. parents, a.k.a. potential customers, like me? Reach us en masse at back-to-school events, festivals, races, and other festive community gatherings this Fall.

What you'll be doing right:

  1. The "Delight Factor." Gifts and freebies are fun to receive. Intrusive ads are not. Investing in our audience and sending products for us all to try without commitment is an act of generosity we will remember. 
  2. Creating fans in the community. Whether I am at my child's school festival, a pediatric cancer nonprofit walk, or a humane society gala, I like to see brands that are driven just as much by their social impact as they are business profits. And I'm far from alone--according to the Cone Communications/Echo Global CSR Study, 2013“...91% of global consumers are likely to switch brands to one associated with a good cause, given comparable price and quality.”

If families like what they try (and especially if you compel them with a coupon to buy more), chances are you'll be on their shopping lists for a long time. Clif Kidz, KIND, Mamma Chia, and SUJA Juice are some brands in my kitchen that did just that, on which our household alone has spent hundreds of dollars per brand, and we're just one of 100 million. Thousands of events like the Parent Connection's Fall Festival are happening soon, and we can't wait to taste and discover more products there!