Give your product away for free
Mental Model #3: free sampling and forced trials break consumer resistance and create more usage and loyalty over time
Concepts: free trials, sampling, forced trials, deep usage
My hair mascara story
My first job was as a sales officer with L’Oréal. A senior sales officer, AP, was training me. In my first week, our assignment was related to a new product launch, L’Oréal Hair Mascara, that was not performing well. We had to assuage retailers so they would give the product another shot, or if they refused, we had to take back the stock.
[Note: Hair Mascara was temporary (Wash-off) hair color that came in 8 luminous colors. Targeted to youth and teens, it was ‘make-up’ for the hair. One could add streaks of funky color for parties or to look special any day of the week.]
Shop after shop, retailers refused to place orders for other products and complained bitterly about how Hair Mascara was not selling. They complained that their investment was stuck because consumers did not know how to use this ‘new fangled’ product.
In a last ditch attempt to convince one retailer to keep the stock for some more time, AP took a lock of my hair and with grand flourish, smeared hair mascara on it. Startled, I snapped, “oh, don’t spoil my hair!”. The retailer won that round and we had to take his stock back the same day.
This was my first corporate lesson. If we don’t understand, use, and believe in the products we sell, we won’t do a great job. But I digress.
From hair mascara rejecter to heavy hair products user
The main point of this story is that in that moment, I had reacted as a consumer, not as a sales officer. Like most Indians, I also believed that using hair color, hair dryers, or chemicals caused irreversible harm to hair. In L’Oréal parlance, I had ‘virgin’ hair — hair that had never been treated with color, or chemicals (for straightening or perming) before. So when color touched my hair, I panicked because I thought my hair health was doomed! Ironically, I went on to become the Product Executive for the Excellence Hair Color Brand.
The second time I tried hair color was a year later, when we were launching Excellence Hair Color in shades of red. We needed to test the new shades on Indian hair and I became a reluctant guinea pig. My hair looked great and I realized how much of a confidence booster great looking hair is. Since my hair did not fall off or get damaged, I knew that my fears had been unfounded.
Two ‘forced’ sampling of hair color later, I never looked back. I have since, experimented with my hair numerous times. Straightened it, colored it to cover grays, got streaks in, cut it short, used leave-in conditioner, I own at least 15 hair care products, plus a Phillips hair straightening iron AND a straightening brush. From a complete non-user, I became a heavy user of not just hair color, but also adjacent hair product categories.
And therein are the golden rules for marketers:-
Lessons for marketers
- The distance between non triers and repeat purchase is free sampling and forced trials: Nothing leads to repeat purchase better than free samples. When I experienced the product, my resistance evaporated. Sampling is especially relevant for new categories and even for expensive products.
- With exposure, usage gets deeper and more frequent: Once consumers try a product, and IF the product is good, their barriers fade over time. They buy more of the product and even start exploring adjacent categories.
- More than one trial might be needed to break through: oftentimes, more than one free trial is needed for conversion. This is where consistency compounds. Salesforce reports that it takes 6–8 marketing contacts to convert to sale.
- Food and beverage brands build free samples into their P&L as essential marketing cost. Even established brands like Pepsi Cola and Coke still continue to sample their products to refresh desire and to target new consumers each year.
- Demonstrations in Public places like malls — are common for white goods brands like Samsung or X-Box
- Demonstrations at home — expensive products like Dyson offer free demos at home. When we see how effectively the vacuum sucks out dust, we can’t help but want the product
- Free sachets — all personal care brands give free sachets and small bottles with one purchase, to get the same consumer to buy adjacent products
- Exclusive invitations — services like Gmail launched with exclusive invitations, once people tried the email service, they liked the product and got their friends and family members in
Originally published at https://performonks.com on January 12, 2022.
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