Written by Jeff Lynch on June 27, 2013
in Brand Strategy

Sampling is a popular tactic within the marketing mix, specifically in the consumer-packaged-goods (CPG) world, where I spend my time. It’s a very obvious way to drive trial. It exposes consumers to a product, to a brand. It can introduce innovation. It can change perception. But it must be done effectively to be successful.

“How many samples do we need to get rid of?” It’s a question that makes me shiver. I know what it means, yet we must learn to rephrase it. It’s not about how many samples we distribute (or, get rid of), it’s about how we can effectively distribute our samples. See the difference?

Here are a few factors that drive effectiveness for sampling:

  • Brand experience. Like everything, your sampling activity must be an extension of your brand’s story. It’s not just about the product, it’s about the brand. Always. Ensure the execution is aligned with your brand mission or campaign in location, creative and execution.
  • Distribution. Consider who is distributing your samples. These people become an extension of your brand and will affect consumer perception. Would you rather receive a toothbrush from the receptionist at your dental office, or from your dentist?
  • Relevance and utility. Very simply, ensure samples are distributed in a relevant environment, or one in which your sample can actually be used. Avoid sampling to consumers whose next stop is a waste basket. Sample cookies in a milk bar, not a pub.
  • Reach. In the paraphrased words of thought-leader Jonathan MacDonald, it’s time to stop counting the people we reach, and start reaching the people that count. Ensure your samples get into the right hands if you want to drive conversion, rather than waste.
  • Lastly, and this one is tough yet tempting: Do not let budget dictate sampling. Pairing a small budget with a large amount of samples will almost always sacrifice one or more of the above factors.

Positive awareness is not achieved by spending on a poorly tested TV spot. Likewise, trial is not effective by getting rid of mass amounts of samples. Avoid inefficiencies no matter how big or small the budget. Budget your samples and the investment accordingly, and let the factors above lead the way.

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