Trial Or Error? How To Avoid 3 Major Sampling Mistakes

Product trial or sampling is easy, right? People try your product, and if they like it, they buy it. Sadly, this view has led to trial becoming an afterthought in a brand’s marketing strategy. However, if carried out strategically, trial can be highly effective and drive a positive return on investment.

If your product is good, and you’re sampling to the right audience, the chances are they will like it and put it on their shopping list. They’ll also tell their friends, and 92% of customers believe suggestions from friends and family more than they do advertising, according to Nielsen’s classic study. The 2018 Word of Mouth Report also found 41% of people trust a recommendation from someone they know more than one via social media.

Mass trial is most effective for low-investment CPG products. Sampling works best when there are memorable or “sticky” assets for people to associate with the product.

A recent report in The Grocer revealed that big global brands are fighting high growth challenger rivals by focusing on innovation rather than discounts and promotions. However, often little thought is put into sampling as part of an innovation launch, yet it can be the spark that brings a campaign to life.



There are three key mistakes to avoid when trialing:

Under-thinking the work. Often, trial isn’t thought through properly. For example, a recent campaign involved whole tubs of butter being given to London commuters, a strategy with several shortcomings: Sampling a whole product that lasts for weeks in the fridge isn’t going to incentivise anyone to buy it quickly, and people don’t purchase it often enough to merit getting the entire pack for free. Plus, by the time consumers have used up the sample, they’ll have forgotten about the new brand.

Spend time carefully thinking through a sampling strategy upfront, and you’ll realize the benefits later.

Paying too much to drive trial. A dog treat brand may be tempted to run a sampling campaign targeting dog owners at a dog show. But the high fixed cost involved in sampling at such an event reduces the number of samples you can afford to give away.

The cost will be far less if you target high-traffic locations, while the exercise will be self-filtering, as only dog owners will take a sample, making wastage negligible. Cost per sample would be drastically reduced, while the number of treats getting into pooches’ mouths would be maximized.

Over-engineering the creative. With trial, put the product first. Any creative approach should let the product talk. You don’t need a 10-minute audience interaction to get the message across, so the creative need not be complex.

In fact, a three-second rule should apply, after which time even a dis-engaged audience should know the product name, when they should be using it and why.

The core focus of the recent launch of an energy drink was sampling. The product was literally everywhere and the message was easily received, communicating its benefits and personality, while keeping the product front of mind. The product wasn't blurred by an overly clever creative. The key sticky assets included distinctive branding, which was consistent across all channels. The result? Well, those little blue cans popped up in hands across the U.K., getting everyone talking about the brand.

So if you’re thinking about your next new product launch, give trial the credit it deserves. Apply the same strategic thought process that you do to your other marketing activity and you’ll reap the rewards.

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