Generosity might be the key to lasting, long performing sales. It’s not a give-something-to-get-something mentality though. Generous offers such as free product samples are all about delivering good value to your customer and strengthening your value proposition. Well-targeted freebies are good business.
When the gift is relevant, useful and given without expectations, it can be a very effective sales tool and help build an industry leading brand. Generosity is persuasive.
Generosity is Instinctive
Have you seen how young children share freely with other children? I believe giving is instinctive. It is perhaps the best part of our human spirit. Unfortunately, our inability to give arises out of our competitive, dog eat dog, resources-are-scarce, cultural values. When giving stops or can’t be initiated, it undermines sharing and participation. That applies to marketing too.
Generosity is the cure for fear, doubt, and lack of faith, and manufacturers and retailers would be wise to reconsider giveaways to re-energize their consumer market. Would it cannibalize sales? Perhaps for a while, but the brand goodwill lasts much longer – creating even more powerful brand value. If your goal is good branding, then how could free samples be a loss?
One psychologist suggests the reason giveaways are effective is due to guilt, that the recipient feels compelled to reciprocate. That isn’t correct. People reciprocate because the transaction meant something to them. They received value in a positive manner. They choose to reciprocate because the product is relevant and now they feel better about purchasing it. Guilt doesn’t provide long term value.
Yet another writer says Free has no value and that consumers won’t pay for something they once got free. If it has value, they will pay for it and probably will expect that at some point, they’ll get some more for free. Classical conditioning.
FREE is a great way to give extra value and eliminate risk. The value of generosity implies commitment, loyalty, caring, and a desire to help. Generosity creates reciprocity. Those are values that are difficult to ignore. It isn’t the free gift that a person is responding to; it’s the belief the consumer now has that you want to improve their lives. They’re looking for signals that are “out of the ordinary” which show you’re a brand that cares and isn’t in it just to do business or make a profit.
Sincerity is Important even in Marketing
Unfortunately, today, the generosity model is being abused with too many “freemiums” that are more about gauging the consumer at a later time. The contracts serve to erode trust. I’m almost afraid to use the word Goodwill anymore because it’s been abused. And price discounts, although a type of generosity, don’t really count because they imply your product just isn’t selling well, and you’re forced into a price break. Is Walmart’s price drop an example of giving? And unloading inventory is usually transparent to customers. None of these build brand value.
Free samples are used effectively by a few organizations such as Tim Horton’s, McDonalds, Proctor & Gamble, and lots of supermarkets where shoppers might receive a free coffee or piece of pastry to sample. Does a free coffee taste better than a paid one? Some companies still believe free has value, if done right.
Tim Horton’s is a good example of what consumer’s perceive as heartfelt giving. They support summer camps for disadvantaged kids and come out looking like a business with a heart. Look up at the wall inside a Tim Horton’s and you’ll see the framed poster highlighting their continuous support of this charity. Tim Horton’s understands generosity.
|Have you used free samples or free complimentary gifts in any of your POP campaigns? Did the strategy work? How did consumers react to the gift? Did it cannibalize sales afterward? How did sales performance fare for the next 12 months?|
Unwise – Giving to the Wrong Target
About 2 years ago, consumer product companies began leaving product samples on my home door handle and everyone else in the neighbourhood. It’s unusual to find free food sample to left on a door handle, but I don’t know if the campaign was a success or not. Did it boost brand awareness? Yes, it was a known brand and they were trying harder. I can’t remember the brand now, but some images are still there in my memory.
Of all the free samples that were dropped off, I don’t think I used any of them because I wasn’t interested in the products (snacks, breakfast cereal). There were many homes with children who would have enjoyed the snack samples no doubt. I was tempted. For the right targeted consumer, it made them aware of the brand and perhaps they pressured good ole’ Mom to buy that product again. Perhaps it will be a different flavour this time and the big pack.
“Free is a great promotion, but limit it to a day,” he says. “The problem with free is when you extend it over time. … You have a lot of customers coming to your place just because it’s free.”
– Rafi Mohammed, author of The Art of Pricing
(customers coming to the restaurant only for free food, means these are poorly targeted customers)
The key is: Is the consumer correctly targeted and will the one-time free pack change their buying preferences? At first, you’d say no, however, what if the promotional packaging and copy was persuasive, well targeted, and made the consumer re-evaluate their brand preference? Let’s say it was a sample of laundry detergent, but one that has plenty of soap in it (not the little ones sold in the Laundromat). What if the packaging was specially designed to pit the qualities it offers versus Proctor & Gamble’s market leading soap – Tide?
Free Samples – Free Product and Great Packaging Make an Impression
If small to medium power brands never find a way to change consumer’s brand preference, how will they ever win?
There is one product I’m very loyal to. It would be very difficult to change my preference for Crest toothpaste. Yet it could be done by any company that makes toothpaste. Think of the sales potential of a product that took away even 5% of Crest’s marketshare? The promotional messaging would have to convince me the product is as good as Crest, in making the teeth feel clean and reducing cavities. It would be a head to head comparison with Crest toothpaste and it could lead to a persuasive video on a website. The comparative promise would be visible on the packaging and a contest on the package would help build interest. That free sample could lead to a big success.
The new brand’s competitive response: “Don’t think a product can beat Crest? Crest Copycat is an advanced toothpaste that offers the benefits you want most – teeth that feel good and have fewer cavities.”
Generosity (and free sample products) is Disruptive
Generosity definitely is disruptive. It always makes an impression. It is innovative when it’s done correctly and strategically – unique packaging suited to the task.
Consumers need to be guided and educated when receiving your free gift. That’s where your uniquely designed packaging comes in. Your slogan/tagline and copy have to get the primary message across (e.g., same benefits as Crest, but better price). Don’t forget to mention “Why doesn’t Crest give you a Free sample?” It’s marketing, and you have to get the point home.
If a freebie product strategy doesn’t work, then it wasn’t done well.
My point here is that if you’re going to be generous and change buying behaviour with a free gift, it has to meet specific objectives:
- It must be useful to the recipient consumer
- It must be substantial enough to impress them
- It must be packaged uniquely to make them pay attention
- It must be better than expected
- The product benefits must be crystal clear and compellingly presented on the packaging
- There must be a next step for the call to action to work
- It has to be all about the key benefits (e.g., clean teeth and no cavities)
- No purchase is demanded – your free gift is a gift
When cynicism and cost cutting reign in the markets, it takes some courage to be generous, but what better time is there to make an impression from generosity?
How can you be more generous while not breaking the bank and disturbing cash flow too much? What product sample or related item can you give away? How can it be packaged (as a separate item gift with purchase, bundled pack in inexpensive clamshell packs?).
Is POP display a good choice for your marketing campaign? Read up on the latest Point of Purchase research before allocating next year’s budget. Did your last POP campaign fail? Learn about ways to be disruptive and using engaging POP and see what research has to say about product launches.