Since 2012, we have been measuring the impact of a long-term experiential marketing program for a brand of pasta and sauce. In the summer of 2013, we discovered a peculiar trend with sauce. Even though consumers were sampling both pasta and sauce at store events, their likelihood to purchase sauce the next time they’re grocery shopping was consistently below that of pasta.
We decided to dig into past survey results to uncover any data trends. We discovered that in three different phases of the program, 70%, 73%, and 74% of consumers said they were likely to purchase pasta on their next grocery trip, compared to 57%, 54%, and 45% likely to purchase sauce, respectively.
Why just pasta? Why not pasta and sauce together?
The next step was to figure out why.
We speculated amongst ourselves for a while. What if the teams are reaching people who just recently purchased sauce, so they’re not planning to buy on their next grocery trip?
If that were the case, we would probably see more peaks and valleys, rather than a steady decline in purchase intent. There had to be reasons hidden between the numbers to account for consumers not buying pasta and sauce together on their next trip to the store.
How the survey addressed the issue
We decided to add a few questions to the survey to uncover those reasons.
We asked current and former customers which products they have purchased before. 49% of consumers purchased both pasta and sauce, while 44% have purchased only pasta and 7% purchased only sauce.
The key discovery was that 44% had purchased only pasta. Why did they not purchase sauce to go with it?
Insights into sauce
We followed up by asking consumers why they had not purchased sauce.
The two reasons that stood out the most were:
- 46% had not tried the sauce prior to their experience
- 34% preferred homemade sauce
Now we have some insights into sauce. Easy solution, right? Not exactly.
How sauce insights informed marketing strategy
The 46% of consumers who were new to the sauce prior to their sampling experience now had a first impression. Continuing to sample consumers will help reduce that barrier to purchase.
The 34% of consumers who prefer homemade sauce is trickier to overcome. Many consumers, myself included, grew up on homemade pasta sauce, so it’s difficult for those individuals to shed the stigma of buying sauce at a store.
The recommended strategy was to market the sauce to be just like a homemade recipe to appeal to people like me who come from a family with lots of family recipes passed down through generations.
The advantage of long-running experiential programs like this is the ability to see how the marketing data trends over time.
Hopefully, we’ll start to see a rise in purchase intent for sauce. That would be a nice recipe for success.
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