Why 2021 Will Usher in a New Wave of Product Sampling Investment

Pass the 'moment and manner' test

Driving relevance means driving growth. Join global brands and industry thought leaders at Brandweek, Sept. 11–14 in Miami, for actionable takeaways to better your marketing. 50% off passes ends April 10.

As spring 2021 arrives, marketers are preparing to unleash spending in anticipation of unprecedented consumer demand. They’re so confident, that some CMOs are planning their biggest marketing initiatives in history. The CMO Council found that a whopping 65% of members recently surveyed expect to increase marketing spend this year to make up for lost revenue and profit in 2020. 

Research over the past 30 years has shown that product sampling works best in times where the consumer is changing habits. Over the past 12 months, consumers have shifted habits and their mindset considerably and unquestionably. Statistica reported that more than half of all new product launches were delayed during the pandemic. Consumers will be excited to try new items after defaulting to “saved” online grocery shopping lists for the past 12 months.  

How to optimize ROI

The great shifts of preference, mindset and expectations will have a significant impact on the product sampling industry and how brands adapt to utilizing this proven marketing strategy. According to Euromonitor, many of those behaviors are “here to stay and have manifested for the long term.”   

This shift has a strong basis in psychology as safety needs rise to the top when studying human needs research. And while safety is a need that marketers often keep top of mind with respect to television and online advertising strategies, it is often overlooked when developing product sampling strategies.

One of these shifts is a demand for “hygiene transparency.” Consumers want to know items they touch and engage with are safe and secure. As an example, consumers have already started to dramatically change their behavior while traveling. Expectations around boarding a plane and receiving antibacterial wipes, airline executives say, are here to stay. Pre-Covid, one would see a few travelers wiping down tray tables and armrests, but now the behavior has become so common that airlines have instituted a new process for flight attendants to collect used wipes prior to takeoff.  

Sample delivery is critical

With respect to product sampling strategies, marketers need to be mindful of the “moment and manner” of distribution to ensure maximum trial. A sample that is distributed and not tried, on an ROI basis, consistently ranks among the most dominant negative variables in marketing mix regression analyses.

Consider a flight attendant, wearing gloves—someone of authority on an aircraft—hands a passenger boarding a plane a Purell antibacterial wipe. This is an intelligent strategy that obviously passes the “moment and manner” test. However, a brand ambassador handing a consumer a beauty, cosmetic, OTC, food or confection sample while attending an event or festival doesn’t meet the test with respect to the marketer being mindful of the “moment and manner” of distribution.

The best marketers put themselves in the shoes of the consumer. When doing this, and keeping in mind the demand for hygiene transparency, a sample distributed at the wrong moment and in the wrong manner could produce a negative ROI and worse, a disenchanted consumer. 

So how can your brand prepare?       

Prepare your sampling strategy now. Think about your distribution venue and keep in mind the “moment and manner.” There are many different options available: Link your brand to positive moments. The previous 12 months have been unprecedented. Consumers are looking for fun, connection, enjoyment and craving things they love. So much so that a study by Marriott reports that 80% of U.S. consumers are planning one or more vacations in 2021. 

By associating your brand to the pleasure of the moment, product sample trial, purchase conversation and ROI increase. Plan sampling effectiveness research to measure ROI.

Now is the optimal time to increase investment in product sampling in 2021 and beyond.