It Doesn't Have to be Difficult

It’s easy for CPG brands to offer free samples, whether in stores, supermarkets at public events or on street corners. People love getting free stuff, and will grab almost anything you hand them...then go on about their business.

There's the rub. Why invest the time, money, product costs and other resources to make that initial touchpoint with consumers, to then get virtually nothing in return, particularly when endearing your brand to consumers is often a goal of product sampling and trial.

It’s a question I ask in nearly every conversation with brands that handle product sampling this way, and often get the same response: “It's working.”

Is it really? And if you believe so, you might be measuring the wrong thing.

Handing out hundreds or even thousands of samples during brand activations has its place in generating awareness for new brands and jumpstarting product trial. But something many brands fail to consider (or perhaps choose to ignore) is what happens after total strangers walk away with your sample, and you've learned nothing?

I'll tell you what happens -- usually nothing, which means you've missed a huge opportunity to connect with -- and earn the trust of -- prospective customers. Trust is hard to earn and takes time to nurture. Consumers need time to figure out who you are and what you stand for before they're even coming close to becoming one of your champions, much less start talking about you.

Even if you have the luxury of a fleeting interaction with consumers during in-person sampling, chances are their attention is elsewhere, because you've interrupted them on their way to do something else. Creating brand connections requires a level of focus, calling for consumers to make an effort to think about what they think.

Circumstance and environment are important components of earning customer loyalty and trust, and consumers need more than a few seconds experiencing what you've worked hard to create, for it to start sinking in.

It's understandable why consumer brands believe getting meaningful consumer feedback tied to product sampling is hard, time consuming and expensive.

And while that may have once been the case, times have changed.