A Great Place for Marketing

Target marketing is about to take on a whole new meaning thanks to Lawrence Griffith and his company, Samplesaint. The Chicago-based mobile media firm provides consumer packaged goods companies, retailers, and ad agencies with a mobile and Internet platform for delivering multimedia messages and coupon offers to consumers.

Essentially, consumers can receive push notifications from a brand when they physically enter geographic locations designated as useful for that brand. Since Samplesaint provides business-to-business solutions, its proprietary technology is integrated into each brand’s own mobile app. For example, Samplesaint says that this summer it will launch a geolocation mobile app for Select Brand’s Mumbo Sauce, a 63-year-old barbecue sauce sold throughout the country. Those who opt in to the app will receive recipes, coupons, and video about Mumbo Sauce as soon as they enter a defined trigger point–like the vicinity around and within parks, beaches, and grocery stores.

“You just have to drive by and walk up to it, and boom–it will hit your phone,” says Griffith, who says trigger points can be as tiny as five meters or as big as a football field. “We can put a trigger point at your front door. It’s experiential marketing at its best.”

This concept is called geo-fencing, and ABI Research estimates that geo-fencing will enable multibillion-dollar markets by 2018.

Projects such as the Mumbo Sauce campaign can last three to six months, and costs can start at $25,000 for mobile strategy, program planning, and development. Geo-fencing solutions can range between $170,000 and $500,000 for a flat licensing fee or begin at $2 per impression for incremental fees. Samplesaint earns from $1 million to $5 million annually.)

Samplesaint’s competitors, Foursquare and shopkick, add an extra barrier that affects their ability to scale, says Griffith, who used winnings from the 2004 MillerCoors Urban Entrepreneurs Series business plan competition as startup capital for his company.

Foursquare doesn’t automatically alert a user to deals within the vicinity, and shopkick depends on installation of additional hardware within retail stores for its messaging to be distributed to users’ apps. On the other hand, Samplesaint connects remote servers through satellites to GPS-enabled mobile applications in a way that does not drain the user’s battery.

Targeting consumer product goods companies isn’t Griffith’s first walk around the park. In 2009, Samplesaint was the first to develop mobile scanable barcodes in the U.S. for Unilever, and one of the first to develop an app that used near-field communication (NFC) in the U.S. for Nokia. Dove, Burrell Communications, Lipton, Breyers, and Hellman’s are a few of the brands that have utilized mobile couponing technology through Samplesaint.

Samplesaint’s investors are some of America’s most experienced consumer packaged goods executives, including Edwin Rigaud, the former vice president of Food & Beverage products for Procter & Gamble, and Charles Cooper, the former chief operating officer of Helene Curtis.

Griffith credits the company’s head start in geo-fencing technology to his investors and to having defendable intellectual property that is scalable across multiple handset brands.

“Because we didn’t get $150 million [in venture capital] like Groupon or Foursquare, we had to make sure we won on innovation,” says Griffith. “Not having a lot of working capital forces you to put all your efforts into having better technology.”