Category Archives: Thought Process

My Life . . . In Little Itty Bitty Cups

You’ve seen them. You know, those people at the store. Hell, you may even look forward to seeing them . . . people giving out samples.

In January we took on a special marketing job for two mainland clients sampling their products in Kmart and Sam’s Club. In broad terms we were going to be the face of our clients in the marketplace since they could not be here themselves. Believe it or not, this is a fairly common practice since I hear that stores that do provide this type of service to vendors tend to charge a lot of money for the store to do it. Enter Isle Concierge.

Before I get any further let me tell you a little about the products we were sampling:

The first was mix1 (@mix1), a protein and anti-oxidant drink that comes in five different flavors and is packaged in brightly colored bottles. For those that may not know, it’s protein based so it has it’s own distinct taste if you haven’t had protein based products. This is something you would drink as a meal on the go or would be good to drink after work outs. The second product was Bora Bora (@BoraBoraFoods) bars which are nutritional bars made up of all organic ingredients such as dried fruits, nuts, and grains. While they come in seven different varieties, we were only going to be sampling two types: Exotic Coconut Almond and Wild Pomegranate Pecan.

Believe it or not putting on a sampling, or ‘roadshow’ as it is sometimes called, takes more work than you would think.

Prep Work Involved:

  1. Knowledge :: Since this wasn’t our product we had to learn about it and even try the product before we could go into stores and sample it. There’s no worse situation to be in than being out on the floor when someone comes up to you and asks you a question that you don’t know the answer to. Sometimes we are fortunate enough to have the company that we’re sampling for provide us with information, brochures, handouts, or talking points for us to go over. Sometimes we don’t have this luxury and have to do research about a product on the company’s website. Whatever the case may be, knowing about the product being sampled is probably the most essential component of the whole operation.
  2. Logistics :: This involves knowing how much product you are going to have on hand to sample, knowing who store contacts are, knowing what kind of manpower you have, knowing what the timeline and dates for sampling are, supplies you are going to need on hand, and everything that goes with planning an event is all taken into account to make sure things run smoothly. Ideally you would like to just show up when required, pass out samples, and call it a day when done–no muss, no fuss.
  3. Presentation/Decor :: Perhaps you didn’t notice it at the time, but everything has a look. Any brand or product worth a grain of salt has a way that they want their product to be portrayed. Whether it’s a big tent or banners with the product’s name on it or, just the way the table is dressed, how the product is presented can sometimes be just as important as the product itself. Having whatever you need to present your product can be key to sampling.

Table presentation for Bora Bora was pretty extensive with having to convey a tropical feel at the table, hence the skirt, tropical table cloth, and faux lei.

Then we have the actual sampling itself. Now in my humble opinion, the goal of a sampling isn’t so much to sell the product to people (although that is a very important secondary goal) as it is to educate people about the product. Let’s face it, aside from those impulse buys near the checkout stand, how many of us actually buy food that we’ve never tried before? That is why samplings are so important–if you can have someone try out the product before buying it, and they like it, it’s not going to be a stretch for a customer to pick it up and throw it in their cart.

Prime location near the front of Sam's Club Ke‘eaumoku.

Of course the thing that will make or break any sampling is same as in real estate: location, location, location. A good location will give you two things: 1) high traffic and 2) high visibility. Near the store entrance, high traffic aisles, and near the registers are the preferred sampling spots. The further away you get from these kinds of areas, the longer your day is going to be.

Not so great table location in Kmart--far away from the front of the store.

Now just because you put food out in little cups for people take, doesn’t mean your job is over. It’s anything but. Here’s a list of people you need to be aware of when you’re behind that sampling table:

  1. The Average Customer :: The average customer is willing to stop at your table, try out the sample, possibly ask a question or two, and continue on their merry way. Let it be known I like average customers. Why? They’re bold enough to come up to the table and be open minded enough to at least try the product. Boldness + Open Mind = GOOD.
  2. The Strong Silent Type :: These customers are the ones that pass you by without looking at you or acknowledging you. It’s not that they’re mean, in fact they might be perfectly hospitable under other circumstances, but on the battlefield in store aisles–it’s war. The key is acknowledging them and inviting them over. Just offer up the courtesy ‘Hello, good morning/afternoon. Would you like to try some _____,’ is sometimes all you need. You might get them to open up, you might not, but anything stronger than this and you’ll lose every time.
  3. The Inquisitive Customer :: You’ll know these customers when you start to get a barrage of questions about the product. These customers could just be really curious or have legitimate health concerns about the product. Whatever the case may be, this is when knowing the product as well as being able to think quickly on your feet is essential. What happens when there’s a question that we can’t answer? That’s impossible because we have an answer for every question. Seriously though, when we are posed a question that we do not know the specific answer to, the follow up answer is generally ‘I’m not sure about that, but you can probably get the answer (here). ‘Here,’ in this case meaning a company website about the product, consulting with a doctor or nutritionist, or some other avenue where a customer can find out that answer. You never want to end with a simple ‘I don’t know.’
  4. Children :: Kids provide their own unique challenges during sampling. Most of the time they tend not to care what they’re trying, they’ll go through multiple samples, and the worst part–they don’t have purchasing power. I always suggest erring on the side of caution when children want to try samples by asking them if it’s ok with their parents (or whoever they’re with) if they can try the samples.
  5. Sample Pirates :: I’m not talking Captain Jack Sparrow here. These customers are the ones that raid your table, but it’s not gold or treasure their after, it’s booty of a different kind . . . in those little cups! It may come in the form of showing up and eating/taking more than two or three samples and continuing on, stopping and pretending to talk with you while they eat multiple cups, or trying to disguise their raid by coming around several times to make it seem like they haven’t taken that many (or even a combination of these tactics). Whatever the case may be, rest assured that they will relieve you of samples. The most you can do is remain vigilant and be aware of them. A good tactic to slow things down is to just to let the samples run out and wait till they move on before restocking.

In any case, giving out samples in little itty bitty cups isn’t something for the faint of heart. It takes time, careful planning, and some comfortable insoles. Remember that next time you go to the store.


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Tis the Season–Right Now

Life comes at you pretty fast, especially this time of year when there’s parties and celebrations of all types to go to, family gatherings, and don’t forget the Christmas shopping while you’re at it. December has to be the busiest time of year for us here at Isle. This week alone we have three rather large parties that we’re coordinating. Add to that a few meetings, a bump in deliveries, two markets and you have a perfect storm. Don’t believe me? Here’s what we have on our palate for the rest of our week:

If I hadn’t erased Monday and Tuesday already (I was so excited we survived I wanted to ERASE the memory<–see what I did there) there'd be a lot more dry erase ink on our boards. Suffice it to say, I think we might rival Jolly Old St. Nick.

So how do we do it? That is truly where the magic happens. It really comes down to two things: scheduling and manpower. Our scheduling is crucial in making sure everything in our day is possible. Things like a simple delivery to making baskets–everything gets logged somewhere on our calendar. From there, tasks are assigned but most of the time our staff pretty much knows who is responsible for what. Then there's the manpower. Luckily with UH in finals week, most of our part time staff is available to work extra hours.

Here's a few glimpses from the past week and what's been keeping us busy:

Set up from yesterday's tenant appreciation celebration at the Bank of Hawaii Waikiki Center

Our 50 basket pick up from Kapuakea today.

And here are all the Angel Tree donations we've been collecting at Waterfront Plaza as well as gift basket orders.

Of course I could go on . . . but I hear the prancing and pawing of little hoofs.

Happy holidays everyone!

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November Nom Noms

Oh November… I’m so excited you’re here. Though Hawaii locals don’t feel the seasons, I always know when the Holidays are nearing. It’s not the overcast skies or the sun setting sooner, it’s food. For some reason, once Halloween is over I feel like I start to consume more food… Maybe it’s just me?

I think it’s because we know the biggest food fare of all is upon us this month… yes, Thanksgiving.

*happy dance*

In honor of November and the feasts to come, let me get your appetites going with my 2 favorite foodie sites…. WARNING: proceeding past this point will make you hungry. If you are on a diet, please close your window. Thank you. &

Tastespotting Screen Shot

I discovered in the Fall of 2007 while I was hungry 🙂 The site was stunning. Beautifully composed pictures of culinary treats that made me wish I could 1) cook something so delicious and 2) take such beautiful photos. This is one of those great accomplishments of the social media! It has brought together people from all over the world who love food and photography and given them a platform to display their works of art. The even better part is’s tagline… “A Community Driven Visual Potluck”. Snaps to you Tastespotting…. that was a good one.

Tastespotting is addicting… Thus, in June of 2008 when a note was put up on their site saying it would be shut down, the online foodie community died a little inside. People were shocked, others were extremely sad… I personally was going through withdrawals. Where were we going to get our fix?

Food Gawker Screen Shot

A day later was born. Foodgawker is an almost exact replica of Tastespotting… delicious looking food photographed like supermodels (or as other bloggers have put it “Food Porn”). Our foodie lives were saved and the community returned to its contributions of foodie pics, and people like me visually feasted. Everything started to feel normal again, but then another surprise!! Tastespotting was resurrected a few weeks later! *sigh* Long story short, we now have two equally fabulous foodie sites allowing everyday people to share their beautiful food with fans of all culinary creations. Do I have a favorite? Not really. I don’t discriminate when it comes to food 🙂

So if you feel yourself having a case of the Mondays, don’t fret… stroll on over to Tastespotting or Foodgawker and take a visual bite. You’re bound to stumble across something that will lift your spirits and get you through the work week. Something like this…

Food Gawker Doggie Shaped Cookies

Have a great week!

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Filed under Chit Chat, Foodie, Thought Process

Back to School

This week UH started it’s fall session. While I’m sure the first thing many of us thought was, “oh great, more traffic,” for us here at Isle Concierge it means that scheduling our workers becomes a bit trickier. To begin with we are already a small company with nine employees. Needless to say, when five of us had to go back to school this week our company definitely felt the impact of heading back to school.

The past three months we’ve enjoyed having a full staff available in the office to handle anything and everything that’s been thrown at us. From events, to deliveries, and everything in between we did it all. Now with our part timers going back to school, the balancing act that is being a concierge is a bit tricker.

What does this mean for our clients? Not much. Isle Concierge will still maintain the high quality of excellence to those that we service. Where it’s really felt is behind the scenes. Scheduling deliveries and events will take a little work to make sure we have the appropriate staffing to cover everything. Ultimately though, it’s the faces we’ll miss seeing on a regular basis. Staff that we’ve worked with daily or 3-4 times a week for the past couple of months, we won’t see on a daily basis anymore and may only see them once or twice a week.

However, this is a sacrifice that Isle Concierge gladly accepts. We only want the best for our employees so if it means we have to juggle things a little bit then so be it. In the long run, it’ll all be worth it.

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Healthy Extravaganza!

The 2nd Waterfront Plaza Health & Community Fair was this past Friday, August 7 and it was met with a warm reception by the organizations that participated as well as those that attended.

Attendees standing in line at the Kaiser Permanente booth for pedometers.

Attendees standing in line at the Kaiser Permanente booth for pedometers.

In all, twenty-seven organizations participated in this year’s event and were out letting people know more about the services and products they provide. It was great to see a lot of people turning out for the event, having a good time at the different tables, spining the prize wheels, engaging with vendors, and collecting information.

The courtyard was filled with the sounds of Hawaiian KINE 105.

The courtyard was filled with the sounds of Hawaiian KINE 105.

Organizations were spread throughout Restaurant Row at Waterfront Plaza and attendees had to do some traveling if they wanted to see it all. It actually ended up being a good thing as people that racked up 1000 steps on their Kaiser Permanente pedometers were eligible to win an iPod nano! The grand prize giveaway at the event was a trip to Kaua’i on Hawaiian Airlines from Hawaiian 105 KINE, but it didn’t stop there. Attendees walked away with Riatea Helm Concert Tickets, t-shirts and samples from Mix1, and prize packs from Susan G Komen Race for the cure & HMSA. It was a swag-fest!

WFP tenant Bristol Hospice - Hawaii LLC talking about their services.

WFP tenant Bristol Hospice - Hawaii LLC talking about their services.

At times we jokingly say ” . . . well, at least you have your health.” To these people your health and well being is their top priority. That’s what I like most about this event… we get to work with a number of great people and organizations from Hawaii’s community. That’s what’s most important in this economic climate. Working closely with people and organizations in our community towards a successful and thriving Hawaii.

The logistics of it all . . .

My chicken scratches denote the intense planning that was involved.

Of course what would any good event be without it’s share of hiccups? Originally I wanted to do a “pre-health fair” post on the logistics of planning the event . . . and then Thursday snuck up on us. We were literally mapping out booth assignments until the last moment as there was a last minute drop out and add-ins that caused some reshuffling. All in all though it was a great event, and I can’t wait to do this again in 2010!

If you’d like to check out all the pictures from this year’s event, click on the photos in our Snapshot sidebar or click here.

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The Banner Plays

To be blunt there’s a lot of boring banners that I see out there on my way to work. Most recently we needed to have two banners created and I vowed not to fall into the trap of having a plain and boring banner for our clients. I wanted our banners to not just be noticeable, but also creative and eye-catching. Believe it or not there’s actually a science to not just making these things, but putting them up as well. Two things to consider when designing and putting up a banner:

  1. Audience :: Who are you targeting to view this thing? Your design will be affected by who you’re trying to target.
  2. Location :: The physical location that you place your banner will also impact it’s perception. Like they say in real estate, it’s all about location, location, location.

Now let’s take a look at a few examples from my drive in to work.

Example 1 – The usual


Here we have  your average common banner. Is it serving it’s purpose? Yes. It has big bold lettering that let’s us know when the event is. Is it enticing or eye catching? I’d have to say no. Now, I just want it to be known that this banner is not bad. You never know if people don’t have the resources such as a graphic designer or the proper amount of funds to create a high quality banner so let’s not dwell on that.

Examples 2 & 3 – A little bit better


Now we’re getting somewhere. Here we have better use of color, good variation with fonts, and a few small graphics. But, it’s still predominantly your average banner with bold lettering.

Examples 4 & 5 – Too much


Here we have examples that go over to the opposite end of the spectrum. These banners just have too much going on and can make it hard for people driving by to read what’s going on. Multiple font colors, an image not large enough, outlined type, and a ghosted background image all contribute to making these banners hard to read. Now you might be asking yourself, “are there any good banners out there?” The answer is yes, there are . . .

Examples 6 & 7 – Just right


In these examples the first thing that you notice is the big bold type, but they are crafted in such a way that differs from our previous examples. Both make use of color in creative ways. For Outback, what makes it a good efficient banner is that their message comes across first, and then you see that they have more going on in the background. Meanwhile for First Assembly they use minimal colors to their advantage.

Example 8 – Striking a Balance?


So this was our most recent job for one of our clients. Taking all things into account the first thing that should jump out at you is the event title, “Lunch on the Lawn” and the secondary information about the event comes next. While the background is very colorful, it’s not overpowering and adds to the entire banner. Not too shabby if I do say so myself.

If you want to check out this banner in person, come down to Lunch on the Lawn this Friday from 10a to 1p at the corner of Kawaiaha’o & Cooke Streets. Or for more info, click on the “Market” link at the top of the page.

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