- Normally for New, Not Existing, Product Introductions: As already stated, product sampling normally accompanies the introduction of a new product to increase brand awareness and consumer trial. So why is General Mills sending out sample boxes of WHEATIES Fuel now? This tells me that sales must be extremely weak. It also indicates that, given the tremendous marketing investment to date in the brand extension, the company is desperately attempting to boost sales to justify these large expenditures. The New York Times references a multi-million dollar marketing campaign behind the product, not to mention expensive endorsement deals with five prominent athletes, including St. Louis Cardinals first baseman and three-time National League MVP Albert Pujols and Indianapolis Colts quarterback and four-time NFL MVP Peyton Manning.
- Expensive: Product sampling like this is extremely expensive. However, it does put the product directly in the hands of consumers, but there is no definitive way to ensure consumers actually USE or EAT it once it arrives. A better tactic is to distribute prepared product samples in stores, as is often seen at Costco and Sam's Club, where representatives can physically see shoppers' reactions to a product when it is consumed.
- Difficult to Track Actual Trial: As alluded to above, another con of product sampling is that it is difficult to track actual consumer consumption. Honestly, most consumers will simply toss the product in the trash can. The best General Mills can hope for is that consumers will redeem the coupon that came with the sample, and this will temporarily boost sales. This is far easier for the company to monitor since the coupon carries a unique bar code associated with the promotion, and that code is scanned when redeemed.
- Immediate Impact Unknown: Like with many other consumer marketing activities, it will be some time before General Mills sees definitive return on its product sampling investment. To generate immediate impact, consumer brands typically prefer to use coupons, contests, and other in-store vehicles to drive sell-through. Although a coupon was present in this case, it is the sample box of cereal that is most significant, meaning that General Mills wants people to physically try the product before buying.
In the final analysis, WHEATIES Fuel will most likely be successful, particularly since the product is targeted at men, and because of its professional athlete endorsements. And honestly, it's a solid product with an appealing, pleasant taste and excellent nutritional benefits. But General Mills' consumer marketing approach is flawed, as evidenced by this latest sample drop in newspapers. I think the sampling would be much more effective if distributed in stores, at NFL stadiums, and at experiential football fairs and fan fests.