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Marketing made hard: A quick case study

Though my relationship with marketing myself and my own projects is an ambivalent one, I have no shortage of ideas about what works and what doesn’t as a participant-observed in the age of hyperactive, always evolving brand development and marketing.

Here’s an anecdote from the what doesn’t work department:

The Company:

Samba99 Antioxidant SuperFruit Bars

The Scenario:

Samba99 sets up a table at a live samba music event in New York City. It also has staff circulating in the crowd.

The Fail:

Samba99 is not, as it first appears, handing out samples of its product. Instead, it is handing out glorified business cards, a bifold glossy listing several steps that must be taken in order to get a free sample.


People love free stuff, even when the wait or the inconvenience of receiving it exceeds the satisfaction of the object/experience. By luring potential customers in its target market with the free hook, then letting them down, Samba99 loses.

But it’s a double fail because they’ve set up so many obstacles to receiving the free product that the number of people who will follow through is likely to be very low.

Why make it so hard? Why spend money on the cards, which are likely to be thrown out, and on snail mailing the bars when they could have capitalized on the moment with a readymade audience eager to try the product?

Application to Writers:

Ask yourself:    What do you do to make it difficult for people to get to you?

Then, knock those barriers out of the way.


3 responses »

  1. Interesting analysis, but it might help to do your homework. I am the owner of Samba99, and we fully intended to distribute samples at the Samba event at lincoln Center. The problem was, and still is, my bars are sitting in customs at JFK airport. I had those cards printed in a day, as I had to have something to hand out. Also, we did have some samples at the table for most of the event. I hope to have them cleared and delivered next week, and I will be ‘sampling’ at another event at Lincoln Center in the next week or two. Let me know if you want some samples!!!

    Cheers- Robert Flam
    Founder/CEO so Fruits International

    • Hi, Robert-

      Mea culpa- I acknowledge that I’ve done the thing I hate the most in others: written about something that I didn’t do due diligence on. My apologies as well as my empathy for having products stuck in customs; I’ve had that experience before and it’s not a fun one. I still think, though, that there were way too many steps for people to take if they wanted to get a sample. In retrospect, do you think there was a way to shorten that chain?

      • Hi, and thanks for the correction. To answer your question, “was there a way to shorten the chain?”, the answer is no, not in that situation. You should know that we were back at lincoln center 10 days later in the same location, and gave away more than 3,000 samples. In addition, I sent 600 samples to people who responded to the free sample offer. While my samples at Lincoln Center were small tastes, I mailed 2 Samba99 bars to respondents (retail cost $5.98) + $1.88 postage = $7.86 per request. This does not include the time and money I had to pay my employee to process, pack and ship the samples. All in all, one expensive promotion!

        I’m happy to tell you that since I received the shipment, it’s been smooth sailing. In fact, you can buy a box or two for yourself at the site or at! Good luck, and keep an eye out for Samba99 at a store near you.

        Cheers- Robert Flam

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