Barilla sends in the experiential troops

The pasta brand is coming out of its shell (so to speak) after years of high conversion rates as a result of sampling, and has upped its presence at events.
Beaches Jazz Festival (1)[7]

When Barilla first launched in Canada in 2009, the marketing team went door-to-door dishing out samples of the Italian pasta to new customers. The brand quickly found it had potential in the market. It turned out that  87% of the people the brand visited said that they would seriously consider purchasing the pasta at their local grocery store.

The pasta brand’s high conversion rate led it to focus on trial packs and sampling, which it has done over the years in store. But this year, Barilla decided to step it up a notch and move its efforts outdoors with the launch of an experiential sampling series at Toronto events to convince Canadians to “Bring Italy’s choice to your table.” (Barilla is said to be the leading pasta maker in Italy, while it’s second behind competitor Catelli in Canada).

Four major events in the GTA were given the Barilla treatment, with the brand and its experiential agency Launch! (with promotion by Spider Marketing) bringing sampling trucks with Barilla banners and signage to the Beaches Jazz Festival, Taste of Kingsway Festival, Fall Home Show and the National Women’s Show. At the events, consumers are given coupons and invited to try Barilla PLUS (the brand’s healthy alternative product, with its high fibre and protein content), as well as have their photo taken at a branded photo booth, with the pictures posted to the brand’s Facebook page after each event.

In-store, the brand will have POS signage to promote the Barilla PLUS line, starting in September and running until December. There is also a contest, which provides Canadians the chance to win a one week, all-expenses paid trip for two to attend the Academia Barilla cooking school in Parma, Italy (the home of Barilla pasta). To enter, consumers’ knowledge of pasta is tested, with visitors to the brand’s website or Facebook page answering one of a series of questions pertaining to the Italian food.

“Prior to 2009, Barilla didn’t market too much in Canada. And from 2009, we utilized global marketing to promote the product in Canada,” says Martin Kuev, director of marketing at Barilla.

“[Now], experiential is a new pillar for us in 2014 and something we’re looking into for 2015,” he adds. “We have dedicated management that supports experiential, and [that's] a new effort that we’re taking within our marketing department.”

“From a marketing point of view, we didn’t want to make this just an in-store program, we wanted to make it a 360-degree approach, from merchandising to in-store to targeted email blasts to experiential,” says Kuev. “We wanted to let [consumers] connect and engage with us on many levels.”

“Pasta and Italian food is pretty much loved universally, people of all ages and demographics love pasta. I think the main point of differentiation that we have is the better for you [PLUS] line, which allows us to target consumers who want to eat pasta without sacrificing the taste and texture.”