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Tillamook's Triple Scoop
To generate awareness for a new ice-cream product, the Tillamook County Creamery Association launches a three-pronged product-sampling campaign. Reaching consumers, retailers, and influencers, the program dishes out 72,700 samples, a whopping 45 percent more than anticipated. By Linda Armstrong
Product Launch
Company: Tillamook County Creamery Association
Event: Super Premium Ice Cream Product Launch
Objective: Generate awareness for a new product.
Strategy: Develop on-brand sampling activations to reach three target audiences.
Tactics: Execute a mobile campaign targeting consumers, retailers, and key influencers. Deliver on-brand experiences that create a lasting impression.
Results: Distributed 72,700 samples and 8 percent more coupons than projected. Spent an average of 90 seconds with each guest, three times the goal.
Creative/Production Agency: Henry V Events, www.henryvevents.com
Creative Agencies: 72andSunny, www.72andsunny.com; Hello Design LLC, www.hellodesign.com; Sandstrom Partners, www.sandstrompartners.com; Soda Pop Public Relations LLC, www.sodapop-pr.com
Budget: $750,000 – $999,000
When it comes to cheese, the Tillamook County Creamery Association is kind of a big deal. In fact, the farmer-owned co-op in Tillamook, OR, has been churning out cheese since 1909, ultimately earning upwards of $654 million in annual sales. While Tillamook also produces yogurt, sour cream, and butter, cheese has taken the spotlight almost since the company's inception. Starting in 2016, however, the company hoped to squeeze another product into that limelight: super premium ice cream in a handheld size.

In early 2014, Tillamook had identified ice cream as a viable option to diversify its offerings. "Tillamook already had a line of family-size, 1.75-quart ice-cream products," says Katja Asaro, managing director at Henry V Events, Tillamook's longtime event-marketing agency. "But based on market research as well as favorable feedback and product-expansion ideas from its online community, it saw an opportunity in the 15.5-ounce size of super premium ice cream. In 2016, then, it planned to roll out 14 unique flavors in this convenient, handheld size with a marketing initiative focused on the western half of the United States, where the brand already had a stronghold."

For Tillamook, the most effective way to introduce its new product was via sampling experiences that allowed consumers to taste the ice cream – and to experience the difference between it and less-premium brands. "We know events not only put samples in mouths but also deliver a memorable brand experience," says Gillian Kennedy, marketing manager at Tillamook. "That unique Tillamook experience helps build long-term relationships with our fans."

Sampling was clearly the way to go, but tired, old, grocery-store events wouldn't cut the mustard. Kennedy and her team expected each experience to bring the essence of the Tillamook brand to life. According to Asaro, Tillamook prides itself on being authentic, straightforward, and true to its farmer-owner roots. Yet its activations almost always involve a sort of "wink" delivered through clever, memorable messaging or tongue-in-cheek activities that weave authenticity into every crevice of the campaign. "We needed a program that would deliver results and stay on brand but that would never seem over-the-top or too in-your-face," she says.

So to tackle Tillamook's challenge, Henry V devised three different yet "udderly" on-brand activations: the Super Premium Tour to target consumers via pop-up events; the Headquarters Tour aimed at retail buyers; and various stand-alone activations targeting consumers and influencers at events at which Tillamook already had a presence.

Rocky Road Show
At its core, the Super Premium Tour comprised consumer sampling events. But these experiences weren't your garden variety ice-cream socials. From beginning to end, they were strategic marketing and branding endeavors.

"Our overall goals for the campaign were to generate awareness, distribute product samples, and foster brand loyalty," Asaro says. "We planned to lure in people via an eye-catching and memorable experience, to educate them about the product, and to offer them samples. Plus, we'd give them a way to further engage with the brand via coupons, giveaways, etc." But under the full-campaign umbrella, each of the three event types had its own set of ancillary expectations. For the Super Premium Tour, Tillamook wanted to offer sampling at on-trend, authentic venues that were culturally relevant to its target audience. Popping up in these places would create an element of surprise and delight, reasoned Tillamook and Henry V, that would then carry down to both the brand and the product.

For example, if Tillamook wanted to pursue San Francisco consumers, marketers considered what locales and prescheduled events might draw the target market (namely moms with families, Millennials that value real food over faux food, and die-hard foodies). They also analyzed the culture surrounding each event or locale. For instance, rather than setting up outside a chain restaurant, marketers typically opted for one-off shops with a decidedly local flair and fan base.

The Super Premium Tour, then, visited four cities in 54 days with each experience lasting an average of five hours, an optimal window of time during which to surprise and delight without the risk of going stale. Promotion was limited to email blasts sent to Tillamook's online community (an opt-in fan base comprising real-food proponents). Using zip codes to target community members in specific tour-stop locations, the blasts directed recipients to a landing page (crafted by Culver City, CA-based marketing firm Hello Design) where they could view the entire Super Premium Tour schedule.

"The point was to pop up without a ton of advance notice," Asaro says. "So we purposefully didn't promote via social media." To secure permission to "pop," Tillamook simply contacted the nearby businesses or events associated with the real estate upon which it hoped to execute its tour stop. All locations happily agreed to host the experiences, as the tour would generate increased foot traffic and thus a win for all involved.

So between June 15 and Aug. 22, 2016, near locales such as All Good Pizza (which boasts made-from-scratch pizza, organic salads, and a 7,000-square-foot beer garden) and Black Sands Brewery (an authentic San Francisco bar, brewery, and brewery-supply store), consumers happened upon a total of 69 unique marketing events, where their eyes quickly locked on Tillamook's Yum Bus.

Built from a 1966 VW panel van, the 13.5-foot Yum Bus featured a flip-open roof that exposed a built-in ice-cream shop. Large enough to house two scooper-wielding brand ambassadors, the bus offered a fold-down counter across which staff distributed the day's flavors. The roof also acted as a messaging medium, as the front side included a chalkboard menu promoting the available flavors while the back displayed the words "Smile – You're about to eat Tillamook Ice Cream." Meanwhile, the entire vehicle was coated in a creamy yellow, ice-cream-cone-inspired hue interrupted only by the Tillamook logo and minimal branding messages.

To complement the Yum Bus, marketers secured a branded umbrella under which staffers positioned two wooden crates filled with a display of the 14 flavors (minus the temperature-sensitive ice cream of course). Chalkboard signage invited visitors to register online for a chance to win all 14 flavors delivered to their doors. After each event, Tillamook selected one lucky winner from those that registered.

When visitors approached the Yum Bus, staffers who'd previously completed a one- to two-week training session offered a friendly greeting. Dressed in Tillamook-branded hats and dark jeans, they wore T-shirts bearing the words "Let's Spoon." (The shirts and associated collateral were inspired by creative agency 72andSunny's "Let's Spoon" campaign, which was the focus of Tillamook's 2016 traditional media messaging.) As attendees neared the counter, staff opened conversations with simple brand-awareness queries along the lines of "Do you know Tillamook?" The unscripted conversations then ambled on easily from there, as staff offered info on the new ice cream, ultimately inviting visitors to choose a sample flavor.

In 2016, the Tillamook County Creamery Association planned to roll out 14 flavors of its new handheld size of super premium ice cream. To generate awareness and mass-sampling opportunities, Tillamook devised three different on-brand activations. Super Premium Tour
Covering four major cities in 54 days, the Super Premium Tour comprised pop-up consumer sampling events featuring the iconic Tillamook Yum Bus at on-trend venues. Headquarters Tour
Featuring components similar to those in the Super Premium Tour, the Headquarters Tour targeted grocery-store retail buyers via a lunch buffet at their corporate offices. Stand-Alone Events
Additional product-sampling experiences targeted consumers and industry influencers via events such as the Winter Fancy Food Show and various Portland Timbers games. Takeaways
Before guests departed the various events, staff offered takeaways including temperature-triggered, color-changing spoons; postcards bearing the "Let's Spoon" logo; branded "koozies;" and more.
Before samplers departed, staffers offered them a variety of takeaways, including buttons bearing the "Let's Spoon" logo; temperature-triggered, color-changing mood spoons; $1 product coupons; and "Let's Spoon" postcards featuring tour-related messaging as well as locale-specific imagery. In addition, Tillamook handed out "koozies" that recipients could later wrap around Tillamook's 15.5-ounce containers. Graphics on the foam koozies included the words "Dig In," "Game of Spoons," or "Farmacy," the latter of which resembled a prescription label, suggesting that ice cream is the ultimate medicine. At the end of each tour experience, visitors walked away with not only a delicious sample and a means to remember the experience, but also a good taste in their mouths for the brand.

Retail á la Mode
While the Headquarters Tour featured similar components to those found in the Super Premium Tour – such as a Yum Bus (albeit a shorter, 9.5-foot customized version) and a sampling experience – it targeted an entirely different market, offered an enhanced experience, and endeavored to meet different goals. The Headquarters Tour was essentially a sales tool to woo large grocery and specialty retailers such as Fred Meyer Inc., Safeway Inc., and Albertsons LLC.

"We created an expanded sampling experience at various retail-headquarter offices and invited the whole company to join in the fun," says Jasmine Fritsch, account manager at Henry V. "Each two- or three-hour experience included a catered lunch, music, and activities. But the objective was to create another touchpoint for Tillamook salespeople, who hoped to convince these retailers to stock Tillamook products – or more of them."

This additional touchpoint is critical given the nature of the retail industry. Traditionally, Tillamook salespeople only have one 15- to 20-minute shot each year to pitch products to major retailers. So by bringing a sampling experience to both the retail buyers and the entire company surrounding them, marketers carved out more time for salespeople to soft sell retail buyers. As a bonus, the program generated increased awareness and brand affinity across the board, prompting even those employees who are not involved in purchasing to exert subtle, overt, or perhaps unconscious pressure on their companies' buyers to stock Tillamook products.

At its core, the Super Premium Tour comprised consumer sampling events. But these experiences weren't your garden-variety ice-cream socials. From beginning to end, they were strategic marketing and branding endeavors.
In addition, each lunch menu was geared specifically to its respective retail destination and the assigned salesperson's objectives. "Every stop promoted the new ice cream," Fritsch says. "But if a salesperson really wanted to sell more yogurt, sour cream, and butter to this particular retailer, for example, those ingredients were prominently featured in the menu at that specific tour stop."

After obtaining permission to host the event at various retail headquarters, Tillamook promoted the experience to each firm's human-resources rep. Marketers also provided flyers announcing the upcoming event and suggested retailers post them in break areas and lunchrooms. Aside from these simple tools, though, promotion was kept to the bare minimum – and for good reason.

"Every one of these activations had a clear purpose, and that was to turn product sampling into a live, memorable, and brand-appropriate event."
Tillamook carefully selected the tour destinations based on its sales goals and projected outcomes. As such, not every food retailer in the West was included among the tour stops. To prevent any bad feelings, Tillamook purposefully didn't promote the events on social media and instead helped retailer representatives announce the tour to their employees. Despite the minimal pre-event marketing, the sight of the Yum Bus positioned front and center in the parking lot was enough to pique employees' curiosity and draw a crowd.

Held inside or out, depending on the locale and the weather, each Headquarters Tour experience featured a buffet-style lunch in a festival-like atmosphere. While event components varied by location and lunch offerings, every one featured a Yum Bus and a branded ice-cream cart for product sampling. Other branded elements included pull-up banners, outdoor canopies, and tablecloths; plus, accoutrements such as freshly cut flowers and mason-jar cutlery containers added a farm-style flair.

To round out the midday experience, Tillamook also provided corn-hole games, a sound system for music, and a photo station, the latter of which allowed participants to pose in front of a Tillamook-branded step-and-repeat-style screen while holding humorous props. At the end of the experience, employees walked away with the same takeaways provided at Super Premium Tour events.

All told, between July 28 and Oct. 12, the Headquarters Tour traveled to 13 cities with stops at 22 corporate offices. However, given normal business hours, these activations could only be held Monday through Friday. That meant the Yum Bus was all gassed up with nowhere to go on the weekends. So Tillamook added nine additional weekend events to the timeline. Similar to the pop-up experiences in the Super Premium Tour, these events featured the Yum Bus, takeaways, and product sampling at community-based fairs and events close to the headquarter locales. "Adding these events allowed us to leverage our spend," Kennedy says. "In fact, these nine events helped us generate awareness with almost 2,000 consumers and distribute more than 1,600 samples."

Stand-Alone Sundaes
Just as Tillamook made the most of its free weekends, the company also capitalized on its spend with a series of product-sampling experiences the marketing team called stand-alone events. Targeting consumers and industry influencers, most of these experiences piggybacked off existing festivals and trade shows at which Tillamook had already planned to promote its other products. The company then added its Yum Bus sampling experiences to these endeavors, thereby generating additional awareness with minimal cost.

For example, Tillamook incorporated its Yum Bus and associated paraphernalia into its exhibiting endeavors at the Winter Fancy Food Show and the Oregon Ag Fest. In addition, it brought the experience to its sponsored events with the Portland Timbers and Portland Thorns, the city's professional men's and women's soccer teams, respectively. For instance, at a sponsored Portland Timbers game, Tillamook positioned the Yum Bus in a highly visible stadium locale and offered additional product sampling stations near both entrances. Plus, its ice cream was used to create beer floats in collaboration with Portland-based Widmer Brothers Brewing Co., and the frothy concoction was served in arena suites and on club-membership levels.

Feast Your Eyes on This
Drawing 16,000 attendees to more than 40 events, Feast Portland is the ultimate foodie paradise. As such, it was a no-brainer locale at which to launch the Tillamook County Creamery Association's 15.5-ounce super premium ice cream. With creative provided by brand-design firm Sandstrom Partners, Tillamook's Feast activations promoted its cheese products, targeted key audience members, and gave a special nod to the company's newest dairy darling. Courting the Press
Members of the media could sign up for a tour of the Oregon Coast, which included a stop at the Tillamook Cheese Factory. Plus, Tillamook distributed super premium products to the media and VIPs via media kits at Feast's Hospitality Lounge. But the crème de la crème was a late-night delight for select media reps, VIPs, and influencers. Tillamook worked with hotel staff to place a custom cowbell inside each targeted guest's room. Text on the bell invited the recipient to phone room service for a special surprise: a personal ice-cream kit including Tillamook super premium ice cream, spoons, and a customized napkin. Feeding the Masses
Tillamook wove ice-cream sampling into myriad sponsored events, including the Fun-Size Events series, Night Market, and Pork of Ages, Feast's first after-party of the weekend. During Night Market, the "Tilla-Bar" was open for business, offering fun and frothy Tillamook beer floats featuring beer provided by De Garde Brewing. Smoking the Competition
As the headlining sponsor of Smoked, Feast's largest event, Tillamook invited attendees into a camping-inspired environment where they could cozy up in human "koozies" (picture outdoor-appropriate "Slankets") and enjoy smoked-meringue deconstructed tartes made by Chef William Warner from Craftsman & Wolves. Tillamook also distributed full-sized ice-cream products in branded foam koozies.
The company honed in on foodie insiders at Feast, a Portland food-and-drink extravaganza. To reach members of the media at these special events, Tillamook ratcheted up the promotion by enlisting Soda Pop Public Relations LLC to provide media and key-target outreach, ensuring that VIPs knew about the new product and the various activities.

Finally, in an effort to align itself with similar yet burgeoning brands – and to foster relationships with existing partners – Tillamook offered sampling experiences at destinations such as Stumptown Coffee Roasters (a Portland roaster and retailer that partnered with Tillamook to create the latter's Stumptown Cold Brew Extra Creamy Ice Cream flavor) and Dave's Killer Bread in Milwaukie, OR (a longtime Tillamook partner whose organic bread has been used in the firm's grilled-cheese-related tasting events).

Sweet Success
According to Corporate Event Awards judges, Tillamook's campaign was able to accomplish the unexpected: It married product sampling with a clever live experience. "Every one of these activations had a clear purpose, and that was to turn product sampling into a live, memorable, and brand-appropriate event," one judge said. "The execution was spot on, and Tillamook took product sampling to a whole new level."

Not only did the program impress the judges; it also surpassed Tillamook's own expectations. On top of distributing almost 8 percent more coupons than projected, the campaign beat its sample-distribution goal by more than 45 percent, as approximately 72,700 people partook of the dairy delectable. Those stats alone speak to the program's ability to boost awareness and distribute samples. In addition, the campaign produced substantial face time with event visitors, a factor that no doubt furthered awareness and promoted brand recognition and loyalty. Tillamook hoped to spend roughly 30 seconds with each visitor, but post-event metrics revealed that sampling interactions averaged 90 seconds – three times Tillamook's goal.

For Tillamook, however, success is nothing new. In addition to taking home the top honor in this year's competition, the coveted Judges' Choice Award, Tillamook scored Corporate Event Awards in 2011 and 2014 as well. Like the relationship between cheese and ice cream, all of the events were unique, each with their own special texture and flavor. But at their core, they all employed smart strategies and clever executions to earn their accolades. So hats off to Tillamook. When it comes to corporate events, the once-little dairy creamery has again risen to the top. E

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