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Effective Sampling Strengthens Brands
Posted: September 3, 2008, from the September 2006 issue of GCI Magazine.
When purchasing new products, many consumers wonder how effectively the product will meet their needs. According to the Promotion Marketing Association’s Sampling and Demonstration Council, 83% of consumers agreed that experiencing a product or seeing it demonstrated live increases their comfort level when purchasing. In May, GCI magazine explored sampling as a valuable tool in the marketing arsenal of a brand. Using innovative packaging, a brand can provide consumers with a positive product experience, motivating them to purchase while encouraging brand loyalty. The brand should focus on sample quality and packaging that resembles the full-size product. Creating a sampling program with clearly defined objectives is the first step.
Objectives of a Sampling Program
A sampling program can achieve a variety of objectives while inducing trial. Consumers receive as many as 3,000 advertising messages a day; a sampling program can help a brand stand out in the crowd, particularly on the mass market level. Sampling exposes users of a competitive brand, as well as new consumers, to the product. These two groups can diversify a brand’s consumer base while encouraging brand loyalty, particularly if the consumer had a positive sampling experience. “If a consumer tries the sample and subsequently purchases the brand as a result, there’s no reason to believe the consumer wouldn’t buy the product again since the experience would be the same,” said Cindy Johnson, corporate sampling programs manager, Sampling Effectiveness Advisors (SEA).
Over time, brands may need to be repositioned in the market. For example, a sampling program for an aging brand may be designed targeting younger users to overcome an unfavorable impression of being a brand for older women only. Consumers may see price as a barrier with prestige brands. Sampling is a path to surmounting that barrier. According to market SKUs, if consumers visit stores where trial samples are available, they are far more likely to spend $50 on just the right personal care product.
Sampling also works well when introducing a system experience to consumers, such as combinations of a skin care line or two complementary hair care products. Additionally, a brand can tailor a sampling program to help customers trade-up to a premium product within a line and increase loyalty.
In order to achieve any of these objectives, however, sampling needs strategic planning. A product or system must be chosen as the focus of a sampling program. Then decisions must be made—including such details as where samples will be distributed in order to increase trial; the product availability to consumers after the initial sampling; packaging and sample size; and brand information to be included within the sample. Additionally, no sampling program would be complete without quality return on investment (ROI) measurement.