Visit any Sam’s Club on a Saturday morning and you will see two things: enormous crowds and sampling stations. In my local warehouse store, there must a dozen representatives from CPG1 Nation there to offer me a small sample of the goodness waiting in the box, bag or bottle they are promoting. This is certainly a form of Free that we recognize.
Sampling is an incredibly powerful method of marketing. The “new customer consultation” allows the prospect to experience what it will be like if they change dentists. The Dixie cup of pineapple-pomegranate juice from a smiling attendant lets the prospect taste the product while standing arms reach from the 128 ounce jar (“…and today’s we are offering a coupon for two dollars off.”)
Robert Cialdini tells us that this form of free has an incredible power over us. He believes we are programmed to always return a favor. “Many people find it difficult to accept a sample from the always-smiling attendant, return the toothpick, and walk away. Instead, they buy some of the product, even if they might not have liked it.2”
1 – Consumer Packaged Goods
2 – from Page 27 of Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion.