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First Impressions

By: Sara Mason
Posted: October 14, 2008, from the May 2006 issue of GCI Magazine.

Cosmetics play a vital role in today’s society. Color can personify a mood or, most important, make a statement. It can hide a blemish, give new life to pale cheeks, or draw attention to sultry lips or puppy-dog eyes. Yet, for consumers to realize the potential of a product, they might just have to try it first. Many women have a tote full of barely used cosmetics that didn’t quite meet expectations once they were brought home. Cosmetic products can be expensive, and the average consumer is not willing to take another expensive risk without first knowing whether she’ll like it, especially considering the array of product to choose from.

The cosmetics market is far too competitive to expect consumers to make purchases without a brand experience on which to base their decisions. “Given the many shopping options available to today’s sophisticated consumer and the ever-increasing number of brands vying for attention, it’s more important than ever to set one’s brand apart in order to capture the consumer’s interest,” said Dale Beal, vice president, marketing, Orlandi, Inc.

Sampling allows consumers to try before they buy. It’s a powerful tool to motivate consumers and generate brand loyalty because what consumers experience tends to be far more memorable than what they see or hear. “Traditional media cannot convey the brand’s consistency, texture, color and effectiveness the way a product sample can,” explained Cindy Johnson, founder, Sampling Effectiveness Advisors. “If samples are not available in-store or have not been made available to her elsewhere, she likely will purchase what she has purchased in the past.” In response, spending by marketers on sampling programs increased more than 20% in 2004, according to Schaumburg, IL-based PromoWorks. From high-end department store brands to value-priced cosmetic brands at big-box retailers, especially in Europe, many samples are already being made available to consumers. However, not all such programs yield positive ROI for their brands. The key is using samples to convey the benefits, attributes and value of the brand experience using innovative packaging.

Package Purity

Product-on-paper, miniatures or trial sizes, and sachets or packettes are commonly used samples that have been successful in presenting the actual color and texture of the product. Yet, new innovations on basic technologies can revolutionize the way brands package their samples—allowing the accurate representation of the brand experience and increasing a product’s ability to sell.

Vendors agree that the sample should be as similar to the full-size product as possible to communicate everything the brand stands for, because sampling is an integral part of brand identity. “Brand isn’t just about what you say it is—it’s the totality of what the consumer experiences,” explained Don Hopta, sales and marketing manager, USA, The Klocke Group. “While sampling can be accomplished in many forms, those samples that provide the consumer the purest product identical to retail and duplicate the retail package are the most effective.”