Talking Rain’s Sparkling Ice brand started 2020 with what was supposed to be a seven-month sampling tour. The plan involved visits to music and food festivals in 18 different markets along with retail demos, guerilla sampling and smaller community events.
“When the pandemic hit, both our Sparkling Ice consumer and shopper behavior changed drastically,” says Ellie Kohl, regional field marketing manager at Talking Rain. “In-person gatherings and events were coming to a halt while we were facing the challenge of keeping up with the in-store demand.”
To keep Sparkling Ice at the forefront of the sparkling water category, Talking Rain pivoted with the help of St. Louis-based agency Switch. The partners decided to take the field and sampling teams and focus on a merchandising program alongside the brand’s retail partners.
The merchandising program encompassed more than 15 sales markets with a six-week run in each market, Kohl says. The goal was to restock in-line shelves and any secondary merchandising with Sparkling Ice and Sparkling Ice + Caffeine to ensure the products were available for shoppers to purchase.
Although there was no corresponding digital activity specific to the merchandising program, Talking Rain continued to post on its social media accounts and run sales promotions as scheduled, Kohl says.
“With the help of our internal team and Switch, we were able to keep our merchandisers’ health and safety top priority, equipping them with the necessary PPE [personal protective equipment] and sending weekly reminders on best practices and recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,” she explains.
In all, the merchandising program resulted in tens of thousands of product cases stocked. Talking Rain will review that total, the number of store visits and sales data from each store to measure the success of the program, Kohl says. The company will assess any significant variation between markets and factor in any store-specific promotions within markets that were under government-issued stay-at-home orders.
The company also worked with Los Angeles-based Ascent Talent, Model, Promotion Ltd. to help recruit the teams as well as its distributors and retail partners in each market.