Sample of one – and a tale of two samples

Samples Over the summer I was given a blister pack of Shaving oil by the King of Shaves. With printed instructions for its use – shaving with oil is a rather different exprience to foam or gel. The bottle seemed to last for ever which amazed me because it really is tiny – you only need a few drops of oil.  When it was gone I went on a mission into London to find some more – needlessly because distribution is actually pretty good. But somehow I got the impression that it was rare, a much superior product to gel and foam and I really had no idea how much I needed to pay for it. However the longevity of the sample convinced me that it was worth buying for almost any price. So… by my calculation my unit spend on shaving has probably doubles. Great job King of Shaves..

I turn to the second sample in our picture. Which was handed to me at Oxford Circus with 2 police in attendance. Mitchum Endurance 48 hours. There are no instructions. Or to be more accurate the can is covered in tiny illegible print. I remember taking it to look at later because genuinely I had no idea what it was for. It looks like a small aerosol. But are you supposed to spray it in your mouth, your armpit or your bicycle chain?  I therefore tried hard to find out what it did before using it in case I did something dangerous to myself. It says Ice fresh for men. Its also new and improved – but doesn't say how. So while it is probably a deoderant it could still also conceivably be a breath freshener.

The key benefit is that it lasts 48 hours. An odd benefit on the face of it – probably not a breath freshener then – but do I really look the kind of person who uses a deoderant only 3 times a week? (don't answer that!) Is sealing in my sweat for 48 hours a healthy thing to do?

Being an aerosol its is highly flammable – there was a visible warning on the back of the tin. So with 2 police in attendance somebody had been handing out hundreds of flame throwers in the centre of London at least half of which would find their way straight into the underground system.  Dunno why they make such a fuss at airports.

I've made a bit of a meal of this one but you can see from my account that one sample experience made me fanatically loyal and the other.. well I have no intention of buying Mitchells whoever they are even if I do ever see them on the shelf of a pharmacy.  Sampling is a tricky art. The point of sampling is to get people used to using the product. Its an expensive thing to do but ought to be very effective. These 2 examples give you some good pointers about how to go about it (and how not). The easiest way to sample is to give a real product away – not just a miniature. But the risk of giving away the real thing is that if your existing customers get it then there's no reason for them to buy any more.

So a small taster then. But if you're going to take this tack then make it abundantly clear what your product is – as Mitchell lamentably failed to do. That's a risk of going small. And consider that giving a small quantity away may not deliver the entire experience. Offering an alternative deoderant ought to have been an easy sell – it still astounds me that Mitchells managed to botch it up so spectacularly. On the other hand King of Shaves actually made a virtue of being small. I would actually have bought the sample becuase it was so portable. The product was genuinely effective in that small quantity. And crucially the fact that effectiveness came in such a small package meant that my perecptions of value were seriously disrupted. I genuinely didn't know how much the product was worth so paid what ever they asked for.  

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