Cantel used high-traffic malls for Amigo trials

In the summer of 1982, e.t. phoned home, and the little extraterrestrial became a household name.This summer, thousands of people called home from local malls on Cantel's new Amigo cellular phones and brought what was once an alien, high-tech product into...

In the summer of 1982, e.t. phoned home, and the little extraterrestrial became a household name.

This summer, thousands of people called home from local malls on Cantel’s new Amigo cellular phones and brought what was once an alien, high-tech product into the home of the average consumer.

175,000 consumers

From Vancouver’s Pacific Centre to MicMac Mall in Halifax, demonstration teams put Amigo phones into the hands of more than 175,000 consumers through a mall sampling program organized by Richmond Hill, Ont.-based Instore Focus.

Instore Focus, a company specializing in in-store and mall sampling and demonstration programs, brought Cantel’s Amigo Safety Service and Amigo Personal Service cellular phones into demonstration booths at 35 Canadian malls through June, July and August.

The Amigo Safety and Amigo Personal are Cantel’s first cellular phone packages for the consumer market.

Lower price point

Unlike traditionally high-priced cellular phones, the Amigo Safety retails for $19.95 a month and the Personal for $29.95.

The Safety is a transferable phone that plugs into a car’s cigarette lighter.

The Personal is portable and operates on batteries.

The price for each includes phone rental and the service, with per-minute user fees of less than one dollar.

The Amigos are targetted at a middle-income, 18-49 year old market, and shopping malls are an ideal venue for reaching large numbers of people in this group who are in the mood to spend money, says George Evans, president of Instore Focus.

‘All of the malls we chose for Cantel have weekly traffic of more than 100,000,’ Evans says. ‘Even if we intercept half of them, sampling in this environment creates tremendous exposure.

Mass market advertising for Cantel includes tv, print, freestanding inserts, and outdoor.

Adding sampling to the mix helps to close the sale for the Amigos because cellular phones are a product people are more comfortable buying after they have seen how it works, says Kevin Nullmeyer, marketing consultant for Cantel.

‘People see print and tv advertising for the Amigo cellular phones, but then they want to touch them and try and make a call, and ask questions like, `Is it really that light?,’ or `Aren’t there hidden costs?’ ‘ Nullmeyer says.

‘The people in the booth at the mall can answer those questions,’ he says.

The three- or four-person demonstration teams, set up in brightly colored booths at several places in the mall during peak shopping periods, would explain how the phone works and then hand the phone over to the potential customer and encourage him or her to make a call.

Nullmeyer says this excited people.

‘They loved a freebie’

‘They loved making a free call, saying, `Hey, Mom, I’m calling you from the mall on the Cantel cellular phone!’ ‘ he says. ‘It sounds dumb, but it works.’

Equally important to the success of Cantel’s mall sampling program was the fact that Amigo phones were not actually sold in the booths.

Nullmeyer says not selling the cellular phones at the point of information created an unintimidating atmosphere in which consumers – who may have shied away for fear of being given the hard-sell – felt comfortable approaching the booth.

Information source

He says the demonstration people acted as an information source instead of a salesforce, and consumers felt free to show interest and ask questions.

After the demonstration, customers were directed to retail outlets in the mall that sold the Amigo phones.

Evans says that although Cantel Amigo retail distributors such as Eaton’s, Radio Shack, and The Bay did not actively participate in the demonstration, some retailers set up major in-store displays, while others simply made sure they had enough stock on hand to satisfy the demand.

He says the demonstration teams made an effort to assemble booths near a retailer that sold Amigos, so the consumer would not have far to walk to make the purchase.

He says in addition to generating exposure and awareness for the Amigo phones, the mall sampling program improved Cantel’s relationship with its retailers.

‘At least two or three mall retailers stocked the phone, and our reps would direct people to the retailer to make the purchase,’ Evans says.

Everyone’s happy

‘So the retailers are happy – they’re making sales. And the client is happy because he’s generating sales and supporting his retailers. The program works on a personal level, and there was reach. It went off really, really well.’

Nullmeyer concurs, saying that results of the program were gauged by comparing sales at individual retailers the week before the sampling with sales the week the program ran.

Although he declined to provide Amigo sales figures for the sampling period, Nullmeyer did say that based on the success of the program, Cantel is considering supporting the mall sampling program again this fall.

The Amigo phones are the first Cantel product to be marketed through mall sampling.

Mall demonstrations and sampling would work for other products that need ‘touch it, feel it’ programs, says Nullmeyer.