The summer of no sampling

Lillie Cooper, Senior New Business & Marketing Manager at Haygarth on a campaign for La Roche-Posay that captured the power of sampling, even in the midst of the coronavirus crisis.

Lillie Cooper, Haygarth

Senior New Business & Marketing Manager


Summer’s normally the sweet spot for big, beautiful brand activations. Given the soaring popularity of exclusive, immersive brand experiences in recent years, 2020 felt like the perfect time for bigger and better.

Amidst all the shutdowns and lockdowns, sampling faced a similar fate. No more brand in hand, discounts, messaging or surprise & delights. Our clients, along with countless others, lost their reliable connection to consumers: the ability to sample products.

As part of a marketing campaign, sampling is a leading tactic for driving meaningful & memorable brand awareness. From vouchers to minis to full size products, the activity provides a personable way to engage with consumers and deliver key brand messaging. For many brands, it also means scale. We have delivered sampling campaigns of just about every shape and size, from the Coca-Cola Christmas Truck Tour to bespoke Stella McCartney perfume handouts to highly targeted Larabar brand launch activity.

And we believe in the power of sampling.

People do still crave human interaction and brands can continue to play a role in this space.

Lillie Cooper

Reconnecting with the brand’s audience

COVID meant our team had to ‘pivot’ like everyone else to suit the dreaded ‘new normal’ of endless webinars and virtual activations. We were desperate to create something genuinely engaging, that was in tune with the public’s appetite to enjoy some semblance of normality, and that was of course COVID secure. Together with our La Roche-Posay clients, we created the ‘Safe Sun Care Sampling Station’, a chance for the brand to re-connect with its audience, and for personable, knowledgeable Brand Ambassadors to interact with the public and share La Roche-Posay’s unique skincare expertise.

Given the change in consumer behaviour and endless uncertainty, we had to create an experience that was simple but delivered genuine value for both consumers and brand. Given the huge increase in people spending time outdoors, we brought our bespoke eye-catching La Roche-Posay trike to them, visiting parks across London and offering a socially distant, sanitised sampling experience with a range of LRP hero sun cream products.

Brilliant staff are arguably the most important part of a street activation. So, we changed up our process. In addition to brand training, our masked-up safety ambassadors now each go through a bespoke COVID training programme, online of course, and are briefed daily with local updates to ensure they are knowledgeable of all local safety guidelines, no matter how quickly they might change!

As part of another campaign, we helped London Designer Outlet re-open their retail park by assisting with queue management and entertainment and on-site customer service.

The new reality

And this is our new reality. Heightened safety considerations, more training and clear guidelines, as well as constant contact with our ambassadors that instil confidence both in the public and in our clients.

Delivering our brand experience campaigns, from beauty sampling to retail reopening to tech launches, has become even more nerve-wracking. Not only are we running through our all-eventualities possibly too many times, but there’s an underlying feeling of ‘are we about to get COVID-shamed?’

But as activity has gone live and even wrapped, not only were our targets reached, but consumer feedback has been incredibly positive. In an exit survey that engaged 91 people and was conducted by our activation staff, 100% of people enjoyed the experience and said they were happy to see a brand activating in this way. Brand ambassadors easily overdelivered on sampling targets due to the popularity of the seven events and received genuine appreciation for activating then and there.

Our activation confirmed our own suspicions; yes, people do still crave human interaction and brands can continue to play a role in this space.

Guest Author

Lillie Cooper, Haygarth

Senior New Business & Marketing Manager,


A New Biz whiz, Lillie manages Haygarth’s marketing output, social content and new business opportunities.