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June 11, 2011

Freebies galore (Sampling) - cherry picking, Eenadu, Cine Blitz, Cookie queen, Super Markets sampling

A free sample or "freebie" is a portion of food or other product (could be a beauty product) given to consumers in shopping malls, supermarkets, retail stores, or other venues. Sometimes samples of non-perishable items are included in direct marketing mailings. The purpose of a free sample is to acquaint the consumer with a new product. The customer is able to try out a product before purchasing it.

Many consumer product companies now offer free samples through their websites to encourage consumers to regularly use the products, Paint chips are samples of paint colors that are sometimes offered as free samples.

It is also possible to purchase products in small "trial size" containers. This is common with toiletries such as shampoo which are useful for vacations or other travel where large bottles or other containers would be impractical .These are also often provided in hotel rooms free of cost for the guests.

One of the best sampling that I witnessed happened in the California bay area. We had driven down to a huge cherry orchid. The orchid was full of trees with ripe cherries. Coming from India where cherries are never eaten fresh it was a very pleasant sight. The cherries were fresh and they were hanging from the trees. The visitors could eat as many cherries as they liked. But cherries that are plucked and placed in basket will have to be bought at 2 US dollars a kg. I had never eaten so many cherries in my life. A very good way of getting the customers to try your product!.

Eenadu the popular Telugu daily and one of the leading newspapers in India had a humble and quiet beginning in  the seventies. Eenadu’s promotion was very unique. The paper was delivered free of cost to the readers for a month. And Eenadu was delivered promptly at 0530 hours in the morning. Ramoji Rao the owner of Eenadu hit two birds with one stone. He made the readers sample his product and also demonstrated his efficient distribution chain.

Cine Blitz the popular Hindi film magazine had a very unique sampling technique. In the eighties Cine Blitz was priced around 30 rupees and it offered a Hindi film song cassette free with every magazine. At that time the cassettes used to cost 50 rupees and the readers lapped up the unique scheme. It was win-win for all concerned - Cine Blitz improved its circulation, the readers got a free cassette and the movie makers whose songs were in the cassettes got free pre release publicity.

Unfortunately Cine Blitz made a critical mistake. They did not understand the value proposition. Were the readers buying Cine Blitz for the cassette or the cassette for the magazine? Finally Cine Blitz dropped the idea of a free film cassette and the sales of the magazine dropped too.

The writing on the wall was very clear. The readers were buying the magazine for the cassette. They perceived value for the cassette and not for the magazine. Good lesson for companies to clearly think  out their strategy and not jump into any promotional activity in a haste.

Cookie Queen. That’s the example that jumps into the mind when we talk about free sampling. Cookie queen was a gusty American Entrepreneur who handed out free cookies for many years before they became popular. Now her range of cookies are world famous. She writes in her book about her experiences in dealing with the Japanese. For the hygiene conscious Japanese accepting even free samples were a taboo. But the plucky lady convinced the skeptical Japanese to sample her cookies and today her brand of cookies continue to do well in Japan.

Super markets in USA are a world in themselves. They are so gigantic that one could get his three days quota of walking by vising just one super market. Understanding the hunger that the visitors must be feeling the marketers have hit upon a brilliant idea. Free sampling of food. One can see nattily dressed men and women who conjure mouth watering varieties of dishes and offer the same as samples to the shoppers. The shoppers taste the products and many buy the product for home usage.

June 06, 2011

Religion and advertising - Look before you leap

Products needs promotions and marketing a product without promotion is like winking at a girl in darkness. Fully convinced marketers are leaving no stone unturned to garner eye balls. The case of United Colors of Benetton can be taken as example of a company that shocks for shocking sake. Their advertising campaigns are deliberately provocative and tend to generate lot of noise, furore and finally get banned. But they serve the purpose - United Colors of Benetton gets talked about and gets free publicity. 

Recently a shocking trend has been noticed. Religious symbols, religious figures and pictures of gods and goddesses have been used to promote products. Sometimes it could be a innocent mistake. One former Indian captain signed his name on the brand of shoe that he was endorsing. As the name of the captain is also the name of a holy person it created a furore and the caption had to tender a public apology. 

Similarly Shiromani Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC) had objected to an advertisement of Cricket star Harbhajan Singh that featured him with his hair open. Sikh Religion does not permit Sikh men to open their hair even at the time of eating. Later Harbhajan Singh apologized to the SGPC.  

In a recent fashions show in Delhi the visitors were shocked to see a model wear a dress that has the image of the Prime minister of India Dr. Man Mohan Singh.


International designer Lisa Burke had to scrap her swimwear line for Australia Fashion Week after protests by Hindu groups at her use of images of the goddesses on bikini bottoms. She apologized and halted production of the bikini line.

A statement issued by the designer's company of Lisa Burke claimed that usage of the goddess's image was "an attempt to celebrate different cultures".

Italian designer Roberto Cavalli similarly seven years ago had to hastily withdraw his spa line after the eruption of the Hindu sentiment the world over. His usage of images of Lord Ram, Vishnu and Goddess Saraswati on intimate wear for women was the reason for the outrage.

French shoe brand Minnelli withdrew their shoes with religious images after protests. 

Heidi Klum used Kali as a Halloween outfit, and popular brand Guess sparked protests with tank tops that sported Lord Ganesha images and the words "Handsome elephant!”

Danish cartoonists who drew cartoons that made fun a major religion had to face death threats and the sale of Danish products suffered in many countries as the citizens boycotted Danish products.

Marketers have to remember that they are not operating in vacuum. They are part of the bigger scheme of things and they need to understand that religion is one thing that is very personal and tends to whip up emotions. A small spark is enough to ignite the cauldron. Indian news papers have understood this aspect and thread very cautiously when dealing with the issue of religion.

Irani cafes in Hyderabad have become very smart. One Irani cafĂ© very boldly says “Do not discuss religion, politics and horse racing”. All three topics lead to time consuming discussions and to heart burn. An eatery wants his clientele to eat and exit. Customers who sit and talk for hours together are a drain on resources!