Let’s talk about “Content”.

But don’t switch off yet, because we know and agree that it is the most overused word in marketing over the past few years. A word that risks being just a metaphor for noise unless it is partnered consistently with its underused yet strategically critical partner, “Context.”

‘Content’ can be a shorthand approach to comms that can easily miss the mark on getting people to care about your brand. But finding the relevant reason for creating that content and making it resonant, shareable and memorable beyond the moment is when we can start to nod sagely, contributing as it can to building brand trust. And trust as we all increasingly know is the number one challenge for brands to crack in our millennial driven era.

The content/context axis is a combination that needs to be at the core of all communications and while social media and editorial are the obvious homes in which this mission should live, it increasingly needs to touch on the sometimes more prosaic arena of sampling too.

And as such it’s been a summer of experiential love for Wild Card teams and clients this year.  Whilst elsewhere we have seen high levels of direct brand in hand sampling out and about on a daily basis, the value of diving deeper and putting storytelling at the heart of an experience has never had more value, as our 40 + event executions in the last few months attest to.

It has to be about more than a moment, or we are stuck in the content only zone (at best).

We’ve built New York style bagel shops, set up and run a “Ricetaurant” (where the clue is in the name), delivered vegetarian cooking masterclasses, and fuelled fitness and vitamin workshops to showcase a breakthrough new direction product for a well-established brand name .

And in every case the talkability and the noise around the brands at the heart of the story has been significant because of what has been built around the product trial.

We recognise the headline benefits of traditional sampling in terms of reach and awareness, and almost everyday we are picking up new products, old favourites, and seasonal varieties being handed out. But while trial has strong numbers based value, sampling can suffer from a lack of place, energy or that key word, context. It can be a bit grab and go when people increasingly want to like brands and what they stand for beyond just the products themselves. The risk is tried today, forgotten tomorrow.

But if sampling is upgraded into something more experiential then we get to hit home on messaging, buzz and a richer story.

Which means the ‘Ricetaurant’ we ran had a genuine reason for being, based as it was on the food trend of less recipe reliance,  and more what’s in the fridge free styling cooking (with the relevance from Tilda around delivering the base on which to creatively build freestyle). Rounded theatre, a news trend and a strong visual execution for media to write about, and social influencer ‘I tried this because …’ currency. As well as of course, direct consumer sampling.

It means when we built a bagel shop, it’s not just about product trial (although that was a key part) but about a New York Bakery Co challenge to families to see how they can reboot boring and standard breakfasts with a mix and match sharing table. The context is in giving fresh impetus to the third main meal of the day which loses out heavily in meal planning share of mind at the moment.

And it means for Ginsters, in bringing the Cornish essence of the brand to life through a multi-sensory ‘BIG picnic’, co-hosted by the company MD and the acclaimed chef behind its NPD innovations, and fed by the sounds of the sea delivered through personal headsets – we were showcasing pride, passion and provenance as well as getting the product tried, sampled and discussed.

Sampling and attendees aside, the integrated model pulled in almost 200 media guests for the days we were open, fed social conversation, and partnered with spot on brand digital influencers as integrated sparks in the story.

So if you want hearts and minds as well as hands and stomachs – plus retail partner awareness of your brands in action – it’s essential to recast sampling and trial as part of something more engaging.

The audience you want to talk to increasingly  turn to ad blockers to cut out unwanted online conversation (that isn’t actually conversation of course) and emotional connections with consumers are increasingly built around experiences. Sampling ‘+’, bonding, new introductions or re-energising moments. And for those not reached directly, reading about or watching the story of the experience they missed still delivers deeper value than a one dimensional touchpoint.

See the big picture context above the number of samples given out, and the power and relevance of experiential becomes a must have in the armoury, with measurability that starts to score on a range of scales beyond a one figure trial.

And if we recognise the way Millennial minded audiences think and react, the reality of experiential is that this is almost their demand from a brand. Less about pure physical, and more about the story that is shareable. All of course in a relevant context