Product sampling marketing campaigns provide immediate value and have a long-lasting impact on sales compared to other sales promotion techniques.

While Expensive, Sampling is Very Effective for Targeting and Gaining Trial

While Expensive, Sampling is Very Effective for Targeting and Gaining Trial

The value of a free sample delivery campaign may be tracked for a year or longer, while a value-added coupon’s impact may be tracked for two to four months. Sampling gives the consumer the experience of the product’s quality and its value to them to make a conscious decision about its attributes. Product sampling may be the most effective sales promotion technique to get a consumer to try a new product, however, it is among the most expensive. Producing sample sized product and paying for the sample distribution process can be costly. Carefully planning, executing and measuring your sampling campaign will either justify or cause you to reject the promotions long-term goals and results.


What is your objective?

Sampling stimulates trial. It works best for a new or improved product. The technique is also effective when introducing a different use for an established product or to reach new geographic areas. As the tail end of the marketing plan, product availability should be wide-spread and easy to access by your target before embarking on a sampling campaign. If you are reaching the right consumer, they will seek your product out and be turned off it is not immediately available to purchase.


The Importance of Psychographics

Identifying the ideal customer and the best way to deliver your sample are important first step in deciding your sampling approach.

Understand Customer Psychographics

Understand Customer Psychographics

The term psychographics is used to identify the demographic group that buy a product and the things that influence their behavior to make them want a product.

Looking into the potential consumer’s psyche, the conscience and unconscious reasons for using your product, the best sampling channels, locations or venues can be determined to find the optimum environment and message for your sample delivery. When sourcing sampling companies or agencies for a sampling campaign, provide them with the psychographic profiles of your target consumer segments. This will assist them in recommending a strategy for your sampling campaign and help identify tracking systems to establish metrics for trial and conversion.


 Sampling Techniques

Sample delivery methods include: special events, consumer intercept in-store or near store, newspaper or magazine inserts and direct mail.

On Pack Samples Get Attention

On Pack Samples Get Attention

Samples may also be delivered as on-pack promotions, such as a sample of toothpaste fastened to a mouthwash brand, or as near-pack promotions, the free sample of laundry detergent that comes with a new washing machine purchase. Sample distribution through a related industry partner is also affective and cost-efficient. Recently I received a free sample of a new moisturizing cream from the receptionist at the dermatologist office along with a coupon for repurchase. This is a great example of getting the product into the hands of a consumer who has a need and is in the frame of mind to appreciate its value.



Focusing on the Target

The expense of getting your product into the hands of your ideal customer is correlated to the directness of the approach. Hiring a team of people to hand deliver a sample at a special event will be more expensive than delivering the sample in a direct mail campaign.  The distribution method will depend on the type of product being sampled and the consumer psychographics.

Over 80% of consumers would try a product sample received in the mail

Over 80% of consumers would try a product sample received in the mail

US Post Office sponsored research indicates that 81% of consumers said they would try a product after receiving it and an equal amount would respond to a post card free sample offer by going online to register for it. Direct mail is among the most efficient ways to deliver a free sample  Establishing metrics  for direct mail campaigns allow you to test demographic lists, their response to different marketing copy and the results of subsequent direct mail or other promotional offers.



On the opposite end of the spectrum, event or special venue sampling is a way to make a great first impression.

Special Event Sampling Creates Positive Brand Associations

Special Event Sampling Creates Positive Brand Associations

The delivery expense of this approach is often offset by the impact you can make with your presentation. Reaching your target at a ski resort, a festival, a conference or any other venue that ties into your brand’s image, creates a positive brand association that impacts future purchase and word-of-mouth (WOM) advertising. It is estimated that people that receive a product at an event tell four more people about the product.  Smart marketers have also been using the WOM effect of social media.  Identifying target customers who are social media influencers and providing them with product samples to experience, is a great way to organically grow WOM when influencers share the experience with their networks.

Enter Analytics and Technology

Marketing Analytics has become more prevalent in measuring sales promotion activities across the spectrum. This is holds true for product sampling, as well. Measuring increases in store or market sales has been the standard. Overlaying consumer data on top of sales data may give some broad direction about who your customer is and why they purchased.

New technologies are being launched in the retail and special event environments that specifically track the consumer that received the product sample, and overlay sales and demographic data immediately.

Freeosk product sampling kiosks have been installed in over 600 Sam’s Club stores. Consumers simply scan their membership card to receive their free sample. Immediately the Sam’s Club marketing team knows who received the sample and their purchases over time.

Wine Sampling Kiosks that samples 60 varieties of red and white wines from every price range and taste are being used in wine retailers. Consumers enter a card that connects their customer data with product’s sampled and purchased.

Product Sampling apps are a growing trend. Consumers sign on through a major publications and social networks by offering their demographic profile. Sampling campaigns are targeted to a specific consumer segment and measurement is focused on samples received.  Product samplers may have access to the data to reach-out to the consumer and/or track purchase action.

As the retail world shifts to these types of technologies, data and analytics become a bigger part of the product sampling equation.

These techniques work for many brands. Having a person-to person interaction may be better way to create a brand experience, depending on your product and sampling program objective.

Kevin Danaher

Kevin’s career spans over 30 years where he worked for New York Sales Promotion and Advertising agencies such as Ventura Associates, and BBDO developing promotional campaigns for some of the world’s leading brands including VISA, General Electric, Kraft/General Foods, Fidelity Investments, and Chrysler. Read More