Samples Getting Tossed by Cosmetics Industry

Sep 27, 2002
George Anderson

By George Anderson

In yesterday’s Wall Street Journal, William Lauder, president of Estée Lauder compared manufacturer product sampling programs to an addiction. It is like “heroin — you can’t live without it but you wish you could.”

The same WSJ piece reported that lower volume numbers are causing cosmetics makers and retailers to become stingier about handing out free samples to consumers.

Manufacturers are looking to contain costs while still acknowledging that as Marc Pritchard, vice president of global cosmetics and personal care at P&G says, “The most fundamental thing that consumers want to do is try before they buy.”

P&G, which makes Cover Girl and Max Factor, now charges $1.25 for a miniature sample of Cover Girl cosmetics called “Tiny Try.” The decision Mr. Pritchard says, “Allows the consumer, in a low-risk way, to try the product and see if it works for them.”

Despite appearances, most manufacturers say they have not reduced sampling budgets. A P&G study found that up to 20% of the shoppers who sampled a lipstick later purchased the product.

Economic reality is forcing retailers to be more selective in giving away samples. “Sampling used to be something for brand-building and brand-expanding. Now it has become like a reward program for loyal customers, like air miles,” Mr. Lauder says.

Moderator’s Comment: Should manufacturers and retailers
reduce sampling activity or charge for samples when sales volume slows?

We had to smirk when reading the WSJ piece. An
article in Tuesday’s Women’s Wear Daily, In The Line of Booty,
looked at the samples and goody bags cosmetics companies give out at award shows
to the famous and those that cover them. According to WWD, Estee Lauder
mailed out a “24-carat gold dusted nail polish in a Manolo Blahnik-designed
bottle to celebrities and editors.” We guess getting free samples is easy if
you’re a consumer who doesn’t have to worry about not returning a product that
isn’t what you thought it was when you bought it.

The results of every study we’ve ever seen on sampling
says that the short-term expense is always outweighed by the volume it drives.
Why would any consumer goods company want to reduce their sampling efforts?
We don’t get it. [George
Anderson – Moderator

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