Last month, a thoughtful colleague of mine notified me of five hundred extra clown noses laying around the MRY warehouse, and asked if I’d like them before they were let go. What kind of question is that? OF COURSE I would like five hundred clown noses! Low and behold, several days later two very large boxes full of clown noses were delivered to the office.
Serious question: What would you do with 500 clown noses?
I decided to do what any other social anthropology, Gladwell, Lehrer, Ariely, behavioral economics inspired marketeer would do, and devised a social experiment - with a clown nose at the core.
I set out to explore how the delivery method and group dynamic would impact one’s likelihood to accept a clown nose, when offered.
After years of front-line street team hand-to-hand engagement, I’ve always had theories on how body language, product presentation, and social pressures effected people’s interest in a product sample. Now I could put them to the test! So I spent the weekend distributing clown noses to hundreds of people, excitedly jotting down the various ways I pitched the product, my approach, the group dynamic of the recipient (individual, couple, group of friends), and any thoughts on the interaction.
Here are the three most important things that I learned:
It’s all about the individual.
At the end of the day, individuals were the most receptive, appreciative, and all around happiest to receive a clown nose. As opposed to couples or larger groups when social pressures are at play, individuals make the decision based solely on personal preference. When I offered a clown nose to groups of two or more, the “blink” moment where they decide if they’ll accept factored in not only what they wanted, but what they perceived other members of the group would expect them to do. What will my friends think of me for accepting this clown nose? Would they accept the clown nose? How does the clown nose fit with my perceived personal brand. Individuals were free of social pressures and therefore, practically every time, smiled, received the clown nose, and thanked me.
“Here, this is for you.”
Most street teams sample by asking “Would you like this product?” and waiting for a response. After trying countless approaches (the funniest being complete silence with simply a hand gesture), there is no question that the most powerful method of sampling is by stating, in a light but confident tone, “Here, this is for you.” You’re activating completely different parts of the brain, triggering excitement and surprise associated with receiving a gift, below the level of conscious thought. In fact, I’d assert that asking if someone wants a product sample - or a clown nose - is the worst way to deliver it! The whole idea of a product sample is to drive new trial. If someone hasn’t had your product yet, how would they know to want it? When you ask a question, you’re triggering a level of conscious evaluation and analysis that doesn’t need to be present! Simply hand someone a sample with a smile, and they’ll almost always take it. We’re programed to accept nice gestures, it’s the polite thing to do.
Baahhhh. We are all sheep.
Probably the most interesting and entertaining observation from street teaming is that people’s decision to accept or turn down a product relies, most heavily, on the actions of people directly in front of them. If the first person in a large group excitedly accepts the sample, everyone in the group will follow suit. If that same person loudly rejects, everyone who see’s that rejection will decline. This takes place wether the group knows each other or not, but is amplified among friends. There is an unspoken assumed similarity between friends - A social common denominator, if you will - that makes us feel comfortable and accepted. Going against the grain may ruffle subconscious feathers. So in the blink of an eye, you decide as if you really decided, to follow the leader.
In conducting this experiment, I thought of using the CNAR (clown nose acceptance rate) - 94% or 470 out of 500 to be exact - as a baseline for product sampling. After all, a clown nose serves no practical purpose. Nobody would ever expect or crave it. There are presumably no preconceived notions or recent experiences with it, besides for people who are scared of clowns, of course. Ultimately, it is a completely neutral item - the perfect baseline for comparison.
Is your product more likeable than a clown nose? Try giving out 100 and see for yourself.
Written by David Yarus, Marketing Manager