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Effective Sampling Strengthens Brands

Posted: September 3, 2008, from the September 2006 issue of GCI Magazine.

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For a brand, choosing the target is critical to effective sampling. “The item to be sampled will dictate the target,” said Johnson. While defining the target, the brand owner should be thinking about the best way to gain trial. “It’s far better to reach secondary targets when or where they are likely to try the sample than it is to reach primary targets at a time when they are not considering product choices or where they are not likely to try the sample,” said Johnson in GCI’s May 2006 issue.

While the product may dictate the target, the brand should dictate the product with an eye toward a large target base. “The product chosen should be a likeable, high-performance product because you are spending money to get your trial to lead to purchase,” said Joni Rae Russell, president, Joni Rae and Associates, a promotional and marketing firm.

For a company deciding to sample, lack of experience can decrease the effectiveness of the trial. “The brand should go through the exercise of finding out whether a trial will result in purchase and, if so, if sampling should be part of the marketing plan,” said Johnson. “We recommend testing a program to find out if it does build business. If the research comes back that the program will provide a positive ROI, then the program can be expanded to a broader audience.”

Strategic point-of-use planning will result in a better trial, better consumer trial results and effective control over costs. “How do we develop a program that will provide adequate sample controls and will deliver one sample per consumer? This is the biggest waste issue with sampling—poor sampling control,” said Johnson. To avoid this waste, a brand owner must focus on optimizing samples. In pursuit of the perfect target, the sampling program may lead to poor sample control and low consumer trial. Events may provide a target-rich environment, but, to be effective, team members should be trained to execute each event the same way, thus tying inventory quantities with the number of customers reached at each event. “Realistically, brands should not expect to reach more than 25–50% of female consumers at any one event; otherwise re-sampling is more likely to occur,” said Johnson.

Educate and Inform

A sampling program should include educating the consumer on the use of the product, particularly if the proper application is critical to consumer satisfaction, explained Johnson. Smaller cosmetic and fragrance samples can include additional printed materials that detail product use and brand information. At the same time, care should be taken to avoid overwhelming the consumer. Instead, allow the sample to speak for itself.