Make Sampling Sell

Get Beyond Free Sips and Create Experiences that Ensure Repeat Business for Your Bar or Club

Brand promotions in bars and nightclubs are nothing new. For the brand, promotions are important to reach a specific audience as well as expose consumers to the product. For the venue, promotions create a value-add for their clientele. But what do the events actually do for a bar’s business?

Too many brand promotions involve a generic sampling event — you know, attractive women and men handing out free drinks. In truth, offering free drinks alone accomplishes next to nothing. Pushing free drinks can irritate the customers because they get the sense they are having product pushed on them. Remember, they’re in your establishment to have a good time, not to be “sold” to. For the brand, only providing free drinks does little because after the event is over, consumers will just move on to the next “free” brand promotion.

To remedy this problem, owners and managers need to work with their brand reps and marketers to create lifestyle experiences — something the customer can relate to, that will invoke a positive experience and that delivers a multi-sensory and memorable interaction with a brand. The key is a strong call to action — one that, yes, has customers drinking the product but also encourages them to come back through your doors again and again.

There’s no true or valuable experience in just handing out free product, and in order to build customer loyalty, you need that positive, authentic experience — one that is tied to your bar or nightclub. Brand managers need to realize that giving away product lowers the consumer’s belief in the product. Thus, if it is free, there is zero value, but an experience, especially one connected to the venue, has value to both brands.
Does sampling work? Sure, but only to a certain degree and rarely if it’s the only thing offered. Yes, everyone loves free drinks, but do you really think people will remember your bar if there was no experience? On the other hand, a great experience creates top-of-mind awareness for the customer about your venue, getting them to return.

From green screen photos and sweepstakes to touch-screens and fun games, the options are limitless in ensuring a positive consumer experience. No matter the size of the bar or club, the promotion must use various tools within the integrated marketing spectrum while actively engaging customers. Whatever promotion you or your local sales rep determine, try to capture most, if not all, of these elements:
• Make the experience immersive, and allow for tasteful merchandising.
• Involve the bartenders — brands should create specific and engaging bartender training and perhaps include an incentive or contest to spark their creativity.
• Create reasons for customers to purchase the product instead of just drinking free samples, such as a cocktail created by one of your bartenders for that event.
• Involve the customer in the experience through interactive elements like trivia contests that relate to the brand’s story, its origins, ingredients or “mystique.”

Once the promotion is determined, be sure to get the word out through traditional media placement, both paid and unpaid, and non-traditional tools like Facebook and Twitter. Another quick tip: Start the experience early by building the buzz beforehand.
Today’s brand promotions aren’t your grandfather’s brand promotions. Once customers are within your walls, a tremendous opportunity exists to develop a long-lasting relationship, but that opportunity is wasted if you simply hand out free drinks. Your job is to create such an engaging and intriguing experience that when the promotion is over, consumers will think you’re the only bar or nightclub in town worth visiting. NCB


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