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Product Sampling – a key marketing tool

A key marketing tool – but what makes product sampling so effective. Freebies have been given out for a long time – a fourteenth century poem by William Langland called Piers Plowman describes innkeepers offering free samples of their wares to people passing by. Back in the nineteenth century, a soap manufacturer called Benjamin Babbitt made a name for himself giving out samples to encourage purchases.

What’s the science behind sampling?

Understanding the psychology behind sampling is key to seeing how it can be a very successful marketing tool. Sampling projects are ways of increasing sales and launching new products by influencing purchasing behaviour on an instant basis,

Sampling changes perceptions

A study in the Journal of Retailing 2004, highlighted the impact of product sampling on user brand perception. People who sampled before buying regarded the brand more positively and ranked its quality higher than competitive brands.

In 2007, a conference paper by Ben Amor & Francis Guilbert highlighted the success of a Tunis based product sampling campaign. 500 women were given samples of perfume, skin care and make up. The brand image was measured before and after the sampling campaign. It was found that the brand immediately ranked higher in consumer perception after sampling.

Memory – Studies have shown that consumers are more likely to remember products that they have sampled. As a result, consumers are more likely to recognise the brand.

Zero risk – It is human nature to reduce risk, especially when it comes to buying products. Free samples mean consumers can try out new brands without any risk or commitment. It also reinforces the impression that the brand is confident about its value. Since we automatically place more value on things that we own and like, by providing access to free samples, companies are stressing that it places value on its product. It is a feeling that can convince people to make a purchase.

Building on psychology for campaigns

Psychological research has shown that utilising these perceptions and attitudes can make a major difference to brand sampling campaigns.

Encouraging sales

Sampling encourages people to change their attitudes, and can be a key reason why they chose one product over another. Studies have shown that up to 24% of people believed sampling was the reason that they changed their mind over the product they were going to buy. Trying a product makes people feel more confident and trusting of a brand and product compared to something that they have not tried before.

Brand loyalty

Using sampling psychology in a marketing programme substantially increases the possibility that people will purchase your brand after sampling it. Providing free samples have been shown to encourage positive consumer attitudes towards a brand up to twelve months after the campaign has ended. Consumers are more likely to regard your brand favourably. Positive brand perceptions are much higher.

The Feel good factor

Having tried a product and liked it, people are more likely to feel good about that product, brand and company. They feel more secure and there is a greater sense of reliability and credibility surrounding the brand. People who have tried and liked a product are more likely to tell others about it.

To complete the effect, make sure you are using well trained sampling staff who know how to encourage customers to try an item, and can provide the information that will encourage them to go on and buy it.

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