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September 3, 2020

Product Sampling During COVID-19: Real Time Example

By Laurel Kazanjian


Can you remember the last LIVE event you were onsite at before COVID-19? 


For me, it was a rainy Saturday back in Feb — kidding!   I was on-site just a few weeks ago!  If you’ve been following our social posts, you probably have seen our Back to College event happening all over the U.S. I had the opportunity to be onsite for our Bozeman, Montana activation celebrating the return to campus for Montana State University students.


Although I have adjusted to working remotely and have been loving the opportunity to work anywhere, within reason of course because you know- COVID-19. When I had the chance to work at an event, I jumped at it!  Working in experiential marketing, especially on the staffing side of things, I think it should be a requirement to work an event, be in the field, spend some time in the shoes that our staff wears. In fact, one of my favorite parts of the job is being onsite however, I wasn’t really sure what to expect considering we’re in the middle of a pandemic.  I’ve listened to event partners, read articles, put together specific safety protocols but I wasn’t really sure what an event onsite would look like. Thankfully, this event looked pretty similar to a lot of the events we know and love!!


No, this wasn’t the Super Bowl or a live concert, but we were able to surprise and delight Target’s guests with the major focus on students heading back to college! Yes, we did have some new onsite safety protocols added and our check-in photos from staff now look a tad different.  But consumers are still just as excited to receive complimentary goodies and see something different happening in the store!



I was working as the team lead for the weekend and had my first day onsite as a 4-hour admin day. I was responsible for checking the inventory of the event materials, breaking down boxes, prepping set up for the weekend, and meeting the onsite team. The only few differences that I found was that I held back from a handshake when meeting the instore team, I wore a mask while working, along with all other employees, and our inventory included a COVID-19 safety kit that included alcohol wipes, hand sanitizer, gloves and branded masks for my team.


Our event was a two-day activation over the weekend, and it was similar to any other event with an added step- I checked my temperature before leaving for work but the rest remains the same. I arrived on-site in uniform, checked in with my client, set up for the day, and greeted my Brand Ambassador who would be working with me at a 6-foot distance. It would be easy to say the rest of the day was over before you know it but, there were some challenges.


On Saturday, we had some learnings. Masks are a new adjustment to our industry and similar to any other uniform piece, not all masks are one size fits all.  We as humans have different face structures.  Masks are bound to fit each staff member differently, but we learn to adjust- if we couldn’t, we wouldn’t be working in events. On Sunday, similar to Saturday, a temperature check was sent, I arrived on site, prepped our space, and off we went. The activation was going pretty smoothly until we had a guest approach our table without a mask on. However, it was for good reason. They were interested in what we were doing but they were hard of hearing and couldn’t fully hear why we were there or what we were sampling. They also didn’t understand much American Sign Language, so we were stumped for a minute or so, but I quickly learned they relied on reading lips. My Target Drive Up team member removed her mask, all while remaining distant from others, and spoke to our guest. After a brief interaction, they were also able to receive a complimentary tote and continued on with their day. The learning here is to for our brand ambassador staff to stick within the safety protocols we’ve set and let the retailer (or venue staff) decide how to resolve a situation, may it arise.


At the end of the weekend, the activation was a great success! From my point of view, events can happen. And they can happen safely. They’re going to look different but it’s not a bad thing. Getting back to the roots of experiential marketing with the simplicity of surprising and delighting consumers will never be a bad thing.  I got my feet wet again working an event, all 750 samples were handed out and students and guests were surprised and excited.  I count that as a win!


We know the events world looks different, but it doesn’t mean events aren’t happening. If you’re struggling with how to get started or the best approach with staffing, reach out to us! We’re happy to help!