Expert's Opinion

Product Sampling In a Pinched Economy

By Kevin Burke, Lucid Marketing | February 23, 2010

Trials that allow moms to test before they invest can pay off, says Kevin Burke.

Traditional advertising has lost much of its effect on mothers. First, even if a mom has the time to notice an ad, she's most likely also busy doing something else. As a result, she’s able to give the ad only limited attention. Also, like other consumers, moms are skeptical about what the ad says. According to consumer research firm Yankelovich, more than 75% of people believe that companies don't tell the truth in advertising. Additionally, many moms believe that the advertising they see isn't intended for them. Yikes!

No matter how you slice it, these aren't good signs for traditional advertising. And, as a marketing professional myself, I don't like the way any of that sounds. But who can blame moms? Like other consumers, they've seen a lot of misleading and manipulative messaging, they’ve been mistreated by salespeople and they’ve learned that it's better not to believe.

Mothers are still buying products, of course. So, whom do they trust when they make these purchasing decisions? What do they find convincing? Gaining experience with something firsthand is most effective. If the product feels plush, moms will need to touch it. If it tastes good, they'll need to eat it. If it gets the stain out, they’ll need to see that happen in their washing machine.

Moms also make purchasing decisions based on recommendations from other moms. Moms pay attention to other moms. In general, people find that a "person like me" is the most trusted source for information about a company or a product. For mothers, word of mouth is even more powerful. About 70% of moms purchase products based on another mom’s recommendation. Moms trust other moms above others in most categories not only because of the overall mistrust of advertising but because moms identify best with other moms. Motherhood is a unique, demanding and rewarding experience, and moms can best appreciate what this role entails.

Traditional advertising’s declining effectiveness coupled with moms who seek firsthand experience or the opinion of other moms before making most purchasing decisions are leading many marketing professionals to choose product sampling as a means to drive sales and attract new customers. It is a way to cut through the clutter and engage moms in a manner that requires their attention. Tupperware and other home-party concept companies understand and practice this strategy. As much as those are social events with peer pressure, they are opportunities to touch and experience products as well.

Sampling is especially effective in a pinched economy. Mothers are looking to test products before investing in them. When brands offer sample trials, they are providing moms with the opportunity to feel more confident about a purchasing decision. Engaging moms through trial sampling allows brands to make a solid connection with these consumers, which leads to a higher likelihood of a positive purchase decision.

Web sites like offer an approach that combines sampling and word-of-mouth marketing. A mom tries a free product, and if she likes it, she can have a new one sent to a friend who she thinks would like it, too. Moms referring the products get the satisfaction of sending their friends something that they enjoyed themselves.

Sampling has become the new targeted media strategy. Starbucks, McDonald’s and Dunkin’ Donuts have integrated sampling into their coffee marketing efforts, often through sites like Facebook and Twitter, which further encourage moms to tell each other about a product.

Brands are eagerly adopting the sampling strategy as it allows them to connect directly with moms and capture their attention. Moms, in turn, are embracing this form of marketing because it allows for better purchasing decisions and community interaction, both of which moms appreciate.

About the Author:

Kevin Burke founded Lucid Marketing to help brand marketers create and implement marketing programs that connect with moms and MomsWhoBlog, a news journal about mothers active in social media.

Through these endeavors, Kevin has worked with Disney, AOL, eHarmony, Boiron and others to build millions of lasting relationships with their customers. He has spoken at the Marketing to Moms Conference, Parent Publishers of America, KidScreen Summit, Word of Mouth Marketing Association, Association of Interactive Marketers, Association of National Advertisers, Association of Advertising Agencies, and Couture Jewelry Collection. Follow him on Twitter @kb33.

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