Product trial is good, but why not take sampling programs a step further?

We see it all the time.

Brand street teams in matching t-shirts pass out product samples willy-nilly on street corners and at special events to anyone who will extend their hand to take it. Often times, consumers don’t even know what they’ve grabbed, only to realize they don’t want it, then toss it into the next available trash can.

I'm curious. When that occurs, does it count toward the program's goal for consumer reach? Unfortunately, it probably does.

If you’re launching a new brand or product that has no zero awareness, these types of street/brand activations have some merit to drive awareness and trial, but what happens after the sample literally walks away?

In these situations, brands rarely know to whom they gave their product or if they even liked it – much less if they’d ever buy it. Sure, there are ways to track area supermarket sales following brand activations, but if your program hasn’t captured any meaningful consumer data (most don’t), how do you get a real handle on ROI?

That’s the part I struggle with when I see many thousands of dollars being spent on products sampling programs relying on the comfortable, but questionable approaches that can be deemed random, at best. With all the tools at marketers’ disposal to target consumers with a laser-like focus, why is this scattershot approach still being taken?

I challenge CPG brands to start re-thinking things.