'Telling' Her Doesn't Cut It Anymore; Let Her Sample Your Product

No matter how you try to spin it, the marketing industry recognizes that traditional advertising has lost much of its effect on mothers. And, as a marketing professional myself, I don't like the way that sounds. But who can blame moms? They've seen a lot of misleading and manipulative messaging, they've been mistreated by salespeople and they've learned that it's just safer not to believe.

Mothers are still buying products, of course. So, who do they trust when they make purchase decisions? What do they find convincing? To start, they believe in themselves. Experience with a product firsthand is most effective. If the labels says it is plush, moms will want to touch it. If it says it tastes good, they'll want to eat it. If it claims it will get the stain out, they'll want to see that happen in their washing machines.

Moms also make purchasing decisions based on recommendations from other moms. Moms pay attention to other moms. In general, people find that a "person like me" is the most trusted source for information about a company or a product. For mothers, word of mouth is even more powerful.



For those reasons, many marketing professionals are choosing product sampling as a means to drive sales and attract new customers. It is a way to cut through the clutter and engage moms in a manner which requires their attention. Tupperware and other home-party concept companies understand and practice this strategy.

As much as those are social events with peer pressure, they are opportunities to touch and experience products as well. HouseParty, Inc. has built its business on this premise and brought its service to a diverse set of brands.

Sampling is especially effective in a pinched economy. Mothers are looking to test products before investing in them. When brands offer sample trials, they are providing moms with the opportunity to feel more confident about a purchasing decision.

Some sites offer an approach that combines sampling and word-of-mouth marketing. A mom tries a free product, and if she likes it, she can have one sent to a friend. Moms then get the satisfaction of sending their friends something that they enjoyed themselves.

Sampling has become the new targeted media strategy. Starbucks, McDonald's and Dunkin' Donuts have integrated sampling into their coffee marketing efforts, often through sites like Facebook and Twitter, which further encourage moms to tell one another about a product.

Brands are eagerly adopting the sampling strategy as it allows them to connect directly with moms and capture their attention. Moms, in turn, are embracing this form of marketing because it enables better purchase decisions and community interaction -- both of which they often enjoy.

8 comments about "'Telling' Her Doesn't Cut It Anymore; Let Her Sample Your Product".
Check to receive email when comments are posted.
  1. Timothy Warbington from Citadel Media, May 26, 2010 at 11:31 a.m.

    Hmmm. Or radio personalities who are female and also moms...who use products and sample them can do a pretty good job of spreading that word of mouth message to mom's who are listening on a broadcast media level. A mom with an audience of mom's can make or break a product. Traditional media is traditional because traditionally it works if used correctly.

  2. Maria Bailey from BSM Media, May 26, 2010 at 11:58 a.m.

    Good post Kevin. Where some brands get it right is that they are seeking out moms who have influence offline as well as online and getting samples into thier hands. Did you know that in a recent poll of 3000 bloggers, 65% of them said they influence as many moms offline as they do online? That means if you giving her samples to use for online sweepstakes, contest and blog posts, you should also be giving her enough to share offline at class meetings, sports events and business meetings. There's lots of unique ways to sample. And I'd be remissed if I didn't also point to as another sampling/party type service. To think we were sampling a decade ago together.

  3. Maryanne Conlin from RedRopes Digital/4GreenPs, May 26, 2010 at 12:56 p.m.

    Great post Kevin,

    I think part of the point to be understood here is that the days of sending off an email to a mom blogger and expecting her to write about your product are over - even mid-level bloggers get 25-50 pitches a week.

    What's very interesting about this is that sampling is more a promotional tool than a PR tool, used by brand mktg departments and Promotions agencies which raises the questions again- who should handle your social media strategy. (I think it should be integrated across agencies & departments.)

    I also wonder about the impact on traditional in-store sampling programs run by merchandising companies for retailers or by retailers internally. Do we start to see online components?

  4. Esti Berkowitz from Primetime Parenting, May 26, 2010 at 12:59 p.m.

    I am glad that you wrote this post and more and more moms are looking to the influencers in their network (both offline and online) as their first choice in looking for anything from strollers to travel deals. I have been on both sides of the brand engagement and I can honestly say that the brands get so much more than an ad that claims to be x,y, and z. Most recently, I was at an event for an online network/blog, and FUZE and PowerAde was an exhibitor. They gave me samples to try and when I came home and spoke to my network of friends and moms, I was able to share this product with them in person and a recent Ladie's Night Out in the community (120 moms attended) and now they are talking about the product. It feels so nice to be able to try something before us moms invest, as we are constantly revamping our budgets to make ends meet. Thanks again for putting this out there and giving moms the credit they deserve. Thank you to the brands who have jumped on the new media "brandscape" and talke with us, not to us.

  5. Nicole Brady from, May 26, 2010 at 10:31 p.m.

    Thank you, Kevin, for the great post!

    It's not necessarily about feeling mislead, manipulated or mistreated. A lot of it is simply economics coupled with traditional word of mouth. Years ago, coupons were good enough to make the price of a product enticing enough to try. That isn't the case so much now - while a coupon for makeup may be $1-$2, it barely dents the $10-$15 shelf price. I'm fearful that I'll hate it so I stick with what I know, what I've tried or what friends have promised me I would love. Supermarkets have used the sampling tactic for years - even Mr. Whipple had it figured out. Touching, feeling, testing, sampling - whatever you want to call it - makes a huge difference in whether (I'm) willing to spend my money on a product.

    In 2003, I discovered BzzAgent and became fascinated with using WoM as a marketing process. I lived it and loved it. People who knew me, even if just an acquaintance at the gym, would stop me and ask "What samples do you have for us today, Nicole?" It blossomed and became the launching pad for my blogs.

    Now, I'm thrilled to work with companies like BSM Media (/e wave at Maria), BzzAgent, HouseParty and SheSpeaks (to name a few) that grasp the concept of providing a product to sample plus others to share with friends. General Mills has become proactive with their trifecta of Pssst (individuals), MyBlogSpark (Blogs) and MyGetTogether (home parties). Sample-based programs are popping up everywhere. Makes me giddy.

    It's great seeing companies migrate their thinking and their strategies. It's totally win/win.

  6. Michael Cornette from Bonten Media, May 27, 2010 at 12:24 a.m.

    I hate to be the one that doesn't agree with you, but that is going to be the case.

    The issue isn't with traditional advertising. The true issue lies with the apporach to traditional advertising. You are blaming the messenger and not the message.

    Think about the creative often geared towards mom's for a moment. It could be argued that much of this creative, while testing well, failed miserably in truly reaching mom's and addressing their needs, in turn, becoming part of the clutter that now is proclaimed to pervade the media landscape. You want to hold a mom's attention. Tell them why your product or brand is important to them.

    Brands have become tepid in their marketing efforts. If your brand truly feels you are the most plush, most succulent, tell the world and let them be the judge. The truth will wash out in the results.

    Sampling, while still a powerful strategy, is the most submissive form of marketing there is. You bow before the consumer, offer your product for no charge, (establishing a value benchmark), and hope the consumer will continue to use your product. Then, because there is so much faith in the brand, additional incentives are offered to the consumer to buy the product, once again, reinforcing a reduced value benchmark for the second time. Congratulations, your product has now firmly established itself in the world of discount retail.

    Mom's haven't lost faith in tradional advertising. They became insulted as to how advertisers were trying to talk to them to sell their products. Consumers are empowered and aren't afraid to raise their voices. Marketers can't be afriad to shout back.

  7. Kevin Burke from WholesomeOne, May 27, 2010 at 2:31 p.m.

    Michael, I don't mind you disagreeing. I respect you defending traditional advertising. But sorry, marketers 'shouting back' isn't the approach that is going to win the hearts or dollars of mothers.

  8. Michael Cornette from Bonten Media, May 28, 2010 at 1:07 p.m.

    Kevin, I never said shout "at" them in the traditional tv advertising sense of the word. I believe that one of the biggest issues facing marketers today is there is an underlying fear to aggressively position their product against the competition. It is called a competitive advantage for a reason and unless a product is willing to draw a line in the sand and say this is why we are better, they are missing a golden opportunity.

Next story loading loading..