September 12, 2011
As promised last Friday, here’s my experience getting my food product in front of the stars:
Several years ago, not long after I had started my company, it got some press from what was considered a trendspotter at the time (how that came about it another story entirely). The press brought in a few orders but the real response I received was from a number of award gifting companies. While I had heard of these before – the companies that put together the grab bags or red carpet rooms for the stars at the various award shows – I had no idea how that whole world worked.
So I was, naturally, pretty flattered when these companies contacted me and asked about including my products in some of the upcoming awards gift bags. While they never promised that my product would be pictured with a photographer and grace the pages of one of the weekly entertainment magazines, they did provide me with a number of instances of where that had happened and how that had shot the associated products into the stratosphere.
All of which left me intrigued. Despite the fact that I’m not personally a followerer of the comings and goings of the Hollywood set, I know plenty of people who are and know that the Hollywood crowd – the US version of royalty – can make or break trends quicker than just about anyone else. I ultimately decided that it was worthwhile giving it a shot for the upcoming Emmys if for no other reason than to see what would happen.
It should come as no surprise that this obviously means that your company has to provide samples for the celebrity gift bags, but what I hadn’t known in advance was that you also had to pay for this priviledge. As I’ve since learned, the gift bag companies make their money off of the businesses they place in the bags so in addition to the money you lose on giving away sample product, you also have to pay to place it. In many cases you also have the option to come and have a space at the award show – usually behind-the-scenes in the VIP area – where you can hand out items personally as you hobnob and interact with the royals.
Unfortunately the cost for the later was well outside my budget (ten thousand+ dollars in addition to all the samples you’d have to be willing to hand out) not to mention I was a little worried that my lack of knowing who’s who in Hollywood might trip me up and cause a faux pas. I did pay to have my product included in the gift bag though (if I remember correctly, this cost me $2000 plus 500 samples and the cost to ship those samples to LA) and had special notes printed up to go inside each treat box alerting the celebs where they could find out more about my company.
I’ve always been a big believer in looking at the return-on-investment for every marketing expenditure so I was eager with anticipation to see how this new marketing avenue would pan out. Would the phone start ringing? Would the website go wild with orders? Would my product make it into the pages of OK! magazine?
No. No. And no. None of that happened. My $2000 expenditure brought back exactly $0 in sales or PR value. That being said, I’m glad I gave it a shot. There are some products where this type of marketing would work and I’m a firm believer in trying different marketing techniques knowing full well that some will be successful and others won’t. However, it’s hard to know what the sweet spot is for your company unless you’re willing to try things out. That’s one of the best parts of running your own small food business – the flexibility you have to make decisions quickly and be nimble. It doesn’t mean those decisions will always be the best ones but it’s something you’ll learn from as you go forward. Paying to be featured in a celebrity gift bag is not something I’ll ever do again but I do enjoy being able to say that my product was featured at the Emmys!