A marketing tip from my Italian grandma: Sampling starts something contagious

Picture_7 No doubt you look at my last name and say Italian?  But rest assured, on my mom’s side I’m your amico!  Like all Italians, I had an Italian grandma.  And like all Italian grandmas, she had an opinion about everything and wasn’t afraid to share it or the life lessons she had collected along her colorful life. What she didn’t realize is that she also taught me some great marketing tips that in her honor, I’d like to share with you.

One of my grandma’s claims to fame were her pizzalles.  If you’ve never had one…wow, are you missing out.  They’re a traditional Italian waffle cookie  and can be hard and crisp or soft and chewy depending on the ingredients and method of preparation.

They require a special pizzalle iron (like a waffle iron) and were always a big treat in my family.  My grandma lived a plane ride away and I vividly remember being a kid, waiting for her at the gate (way before 9/11).  She was old and didn’t move all that quickly, so it wasn’t a surprise to see  streams of other people getting off the plane first.

But what was a surprise is that many of them were coming off the plane, munching on a pizzalle.  As my grandma slowly appeared out of the jetway… the other passengers, with  big powdered sugar-faced grins, were waving at her and telling her to enjoy her visit as though they were old friends.  On my grandma’s arm was a big metal tin, like a picnic basket.

Well, you can deduce the rest of the story.  The batch of pizzalles she had made and brought for us were gone, but lots of people on flight 427 had a great treat!

It started simply enough.  She had a high quality and unique product.  No doubt, she mentioned the tin and its contents to her seat mate and offered a sample.  Pretty soon, there were samples flying everywhere.  I guarantee you that my grandma and her tin of pizzalles were the talk of many a passenger’s ride home that day or call home that night.  Had she been in the business of online pizzalle sales, she’d have scored big that week!

At McLellan Marketing Group, we are firm believers in sampling.  Since 1999, we’ve produced a short e-newsletter called, as you might have guessed, the Marketing Minute.  Every week, a few thousand people get to sample our marketing and branding expertise.  This blog is big old tin of how we think.

Sampling creates word of mouth buzz.  Sampling creates familiarity and a sense of already knowing you.  Sampling creates demand and sales.  Sampling creates the confidence to buy.

20070223tin What’s in your pizzalle tin?  And where are you sharing its contents?

(photo — one of my favorite possessions.  The infamous pizzalle tin)

Several people have asked for my grandma’s pizzalles recipe — I’m very happy to share it!

Here’s the entire Marketing Tips from My Italian Grandma series, for your enjoyment:

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