In a break from traditional product sampling, sweetener brand Splenda is sending Facebook fans samples of its new Splenda Mist product to test reactions from consumers. Creating a Facebook following specifically to form a sample group is a new approach that allowed Splenda to gather personal information as well as all-important demographic data. So far, the experiment has been successful, with Splenda passing out more than 16,000 samples of the new prototype product in just 2 weeks.
Where most brands pass out sample products to gather data, Splenda invited potential focus group members to request samples of the Splenda Mist spray sweetener by becoming fans of its Facebook Page. This allowed the company to better target their key demographic of women 25 and older by using their Facebook profiles.
Once Facebook users land on the Splenda Mist page, a custom application invites them to become fans of the new product to receive a sample. That is then posted in users’ feeds, so friends are exposed to the campaign. With word of the campaign spreading going viral, Splenda was able to surpass their hopes of distributing 10,000 samples in 12 weeks, instead doling out 16,000 samples in just 2 weeks.
“Facebook offered us the opportunity not only to advertise with a brand message and a product message but also the opportunity to solicit feedback and to have our target raise their hand and say, ‘I want to sample this product,'” said Ivy Brown, group product director for Splenda.
We should see more brands embracing this method of forming a focus group, as it can be an easier and cheaper way to find a sample group that’s comprised of targeted demographics. Most of the prerequisite information that brands want is readily available in users’ profile information, and adding information to participants’ friend feeds gets the brand name in front of a much larger group of potential customers should the product go to market. It’s always great to create a buzz about a new product before its release, and Facebook has significant potential to do just that.