Product sampling and the power of reciprocity

By October 26, 2017General

In this article, we’re going to look at marketing psychology and examine exactly why product sampling is such an effective advertising strategy for FMCG companies.

The science behind marketing is pretty solid. Which is just as well, because who would want to give away their product for free? It sounds crazy, right?

Well, when we strip away all the unnecessary information, achieving a sale mainly about achieving two things. The first is tapping into a desire (either conscious or sub-conscious) for something. The second is about overcoming the prospective customer’s hurdles.

Initially, you can create a desire from something by presenting your product in an interesting, timely and tactically efficient manner. That’s where the planning pays off.

And because it’s a free sample, the rest is easy – the nature of sampling removes all risk for your audience. But there’s more to it than that.

As human’s we’re creatures of habit. When we use a product that we like, we tend to stick with it. Whether you sell a detergent, drink or sandwich, it’s hard to just get random people to buy it. And that’s why we use product sampling – to disrupt the norm.

Once you’re conquered these two stages that really is the hard work done. Because once someone has tried a free sample of your product, they instantly become more likely to buy it and recommend it to someone else.

Why? It’s all thanks to the power of reciprocity and the way that we operate. This is the concept that, if someone does something nice for you, you’re much more inclined to do something nice for him or her too.

We’re not always aware of it, but it happens. The most common form of reciprocity is free delivery. Maybe you’re thinking of buying something and you’re on the fence, but if it had free shipping you’re more likely to make an impulse purchase.

In summary, product sampling works, both in terms of logic, science and human nature. It’s a marketing technique that appeals to our senses, removes some of the common issues that we have with new products and also encourages us to become repeat buyers.

Hotcow is a non-traditional creative agency that specialises in experiential marketing that goes viral. Our campaigns generate buzz through crowd participation, PR and content sharing. Contact us on 0207 5030442 or email us on