Blog: The art of listening to experiential marketing

Hannah Campbell, operations director at sampling firm The Work Perk, discusses the importance of listening to what consumers actually want.

Campbell discusses the potential benefits of Pret's veggie pop-up
Campbell discusses the potential benefits of Pret's veggie pop-up

Last month, Pret A Manger announced the launch of its first meat-free pop up restaurant, which is open in Soho throughout June. However, far from being designed to cater to the needs of the vegetarian community, Pret A Manger’s ‘Little Veggie Pop Up’ is in fact targeted towards meat eaters.

The concept is part of a wider campaign to challenge traditional perceptions around vegetarian dishes and promote a new breed of consumer: the flexitarian.

Flexitarianism is, in essence, semi-vegetarianism. It consists of a primarily plant-based diet with the occasional inclusion of meat products, and it’s all the rage. Having already experienced a surge in the popularity of its meat-free menu items, Pret A Manger has sought to embrace this consumer trend with open arms, however, not without first consulting its customers.

Pret A Manger’s CMO, Mark Palmer, revealed that rather than becoming a permanent fixture, the veggie pop-up would simply provide an opportunity to sample different vegetarian items with consumers before rolling them out across the store portfolio.

He stated that far too often marketers find it hard to listen to what their customers actually want as they "already have their minds made up", and went on to suggest that brands instead waste money on above-the-line advertising to push new propositions that lack any consumer engagement.

With consumer attitudes towards health and nutrition changing at an ever-increasing pace, perhaps more food brands should take a leaf out of Pret A Manger’s book and use sampling activity as a test bed for new concepts.

9Bar, did this to good effect earlier this year with its super seed snack bar. The company called upon us to deliver complimentary samples of its three flavours, Carob Hit Original, Original Lift Peanut and Breakfast Boost Peanut & Raisin, directly to the desks of 50,000 office workers in London and Birmingham.

Aside from being able to give their feedback via an online questionnaire on whether they enjoyed the different flavours and if they would buy 9Bar in future, recipients also offered their opinion on everything from what they look for in a breakfast bar generally, to what nutritional statements they find most appealing.

This information provided 9Bar with invaluable consumer insight that could be used to help the brand tailor its products and marketing strategy around the super seed bar.

As demonstrated by Pret A Manger and 9Bar, reaching out to consumers via tangible marketing techniques is as much about listening to consumers as it is about promotion. Consumer trends come and go so it’s important to ensure new propositions will resonate with customers and have longevity.

What’s more, consumers appreciate their voices being heard and will connect with companies that take time to listen - and act - on their views. As summed up by Pret A Manger’s CMO, Mark Palmer, "If customers want to be part of your brand, you need to take them seriously". Wise words, indeed. 

More: In pics: Superhereos take over London train stations with 9Bar.

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