Product sampling is an old-school tactic that’s as effective as ever for brands today. Below we dig into why sampling campaigns work and how to get...
7 Creative Product Sampling Ideas and Examples for Brands
Sampling is about more than sending freebies. These creative product sampling ideas illustrate how brands can go above and beyond to delight customers.
Creativity counts for consumer brands that do product sampling.
This is especially true if you’re trying to build brand awareness or earn user-generated content.
Sure, the average shopper can’t resist the power of “free.” That said, in-house sampling campaigns are a ton of legwork. Given the resources required to get products into peoples’ hands, you should expect a measurable outcome for your investment.
Glowing reviews. Ad-ready customer content. Visibility in social search.
At Statusphere, we’ve seen how influencers generate all of the above if there’s a strong value exchange from the brands they promote. High-value products yield high-value content.
And this explains exactly why low-effort freebies are rarely effective.
On the flip side, creative product sampling ideas can build loyalty and make a lasting impression on potential customers. This post highlights what those ideas look like in action.
7 Product Sampling Ideas and Inspiration for Consumer Brands
Before you start sending out samples, here’s a snapshot of what you need to nail down first:
- Campaign goals
- Target audience
- The types of products you’ll send
- How much budget is available
- How you’ll track and analyze your campaign
Don’t have these details in order? Consider some serious brainstorming before moving forward.
Product sampling might seem simple on the surface. Spoilers: it’s not!
We find that brands often get more than they bargained for when juggling shipments themselves. This is especially true if you want to send out products at scale.
Assuming you are ready to move forward yourself, let’s get into the nitty-gritty. This post breaks down seven product sampling examples and ideas to inspire brands.
1. Create Sample Offers for Select Customers
The concept here is simple: send exclusive samples to make recipients feel like a million bucks.
When we say “a select group of customers,” we mean:
- Your “best” customers, influencers and brand ambassadors
- People with specific occupations (hint: teachers, healthcare professionals)
- Select social media followers
Below is a creative product sampling example from Colgate. Through the company’s Bright Smiles, Bright Futures program, teachers can claim classroom kits featuring free products.
These types of samples do double duty of highlighting your brand’s values while also delighting new potential customers who may have never engaged with you before.
Product samples can serve as a positive first impression between brands and potential customers. You can also use samples to delight past customers, social followers and brand ambassadors. Below is an example of the sample box that Orgain sends to welcome their newest partners.
The product sample idea from Harvey Prince below is one we don’t see too often. Note how their sample offering is exclusive to the brand’s Instagram followers. This illustrates how brands can build a sense of community among their followers and likewise incentive new ones.
Source: Harvey Prince
Sending samples to people who are (or might already be) customers might seem backward.
That said, people that already trust your brand and understand the benefits of your products are the likeliest to shout you out. We’ve seen firsthand how having a high volume of reviews, recommendations and influencer posts can help brands cement their social search presence.
2. Share Samples with Customers Posting UGC
You don’t have to look hard to find influencers on TikTok trying to get the attention of specific brands to send them stuff. Thing is, these are the exact types of posts that tend to go viral.
Below is an example from Cirkul. Their #drinkcirkul hashtag has amassed nearly one billion views from creators shouting them out. The post below earned over a million views on TikTok. This is also an example of how product sampling ideas and influencer gifting can overlap.
Earning visibility and reach on social media as a brand is all about building word of mouth.
The more people hyping up your brand, the more potential you have to rank via the TikTok or Instagram algorithms. When hundreds of creators post about your brand, you can instantly get in front of millions of potential customers long-term.
This sort of reach is impossible when you’re relying on your brand account alone.
Of course, sending samples isn’t a scalable way to get products into creators’ hands. With product sampling campaigns, content isn’t guaranteed. Not to mention the fact that sending samples is a massive time-sink and logistical nightmare when you juggle hundreds of orders.
Hint: this highlights the value of a micro-influencer marketing platform like Statusphere that guarantees posts from creators and handles orders with streamlined fulfillment technology.
3. Offer a No-Strings Attached Product Sample
Not every sample campaign idea needs to reinvent the wheel.
“Just pay shipping” samples can be incredibly effective. Granted you have the bandwidth to handle orders and track them.
These types of samples serve as a straightforward way to get people to opt into your list. While there are freebie hunters, conventional wisdom says that most shoppers won’t go through the legwork of signing up for samples unless they’re legitimately interested.
These types of samples also highlight how your brand is totally confident about what you’re selling. Chances are you’ve seen your share of product sample offers in the D2C space.
What makes this sampling idea “creative” is the fact that brands have to really brainstorm which products they can realistically send for free.
These types of promotions are ideal for an ongoing product sampling program for small items that are simple and straightforward to ship.
Rule of thumb? If a product can fit in an envelope, it’s likely a good candidate for a free sample.
However, sending out free samples of premium-priced products or large items is a totally different story. You obviously don’t want to break the bank on fulfillment, especially with free items. This is why “just pay shipping” samples are relatively rare.
4. Test-Drive Virtual Product Sampling
This particular product sampling idea is fair game for beauty and fashion brands.
Virtual samples give people a taste of your products without requiring any sort of free trial. This serves as a win-win for both brands and consumers as physical products aren’t involved.
Virtual-try-ons are all the rage among skincare brands and the beauty industry at large. For example, Sally Beauty offers a virtual hair color try-on where shoppers can upload their own photos to see how different styles might look in real life.
Source: Sally Beauty
Brands today are spoiled for choice when it comes to platforms to create these experiences.
Of course, the major drawback to this approach to samples is that recipients don’t actually get to experience your products firsthand. Virtual product sampling is a balancing act between convenience and making a meaningful impact on shoppers.
5. Send Product Samples During a Digital Event
Anything you can do to create a compelling experience through your samples is a plus.
Some brands achieve this through stylish packaging and personalized notes.
Another way to make it happen is to couple your sampling campaigns with your brand’s live events and webinars.
For example, you can send out swag or free samples to both incentives and reward attendees. Doing so is seamless if you already collect contact information as part of the sign-up process for your digital events. Check out the product sampling campaign example from Elemis below:
Sampling during events can also boost registration and engagement for webinars long-term. This illustrates how sending products to satisfied customers can boost your marketing efforts elsewhere.
6. Prioritize Personalized Samples Over One-Size-Fits-All Offers
Personalizing your samples is easier said than done.
Doing so not only requires extra time and attention to detail but also means having a wider variety of products on deck to send as samples.
That said, personalization is arguably one of the best ways to make an impact on customers.
For example, product quizzes help encourage brands to send relevant items that customers may actually purchase in the future. Contrast this with random assortments of freebies that are totally hit-or-miss because they’re not targeted.
Below is an example from Mario Badescu. The brand shares a quiz with shoppers to help them find the right skincare products. After the quiz is completed, they’re offered a regimen based on their responses which feature personalized product choices from the brand. Shoppers even have the option to buy them outright instead of simply sampling.
Source: Mario Badescu
A personalized approach to sending products is a win-win for brands and buyers alike. We’ve seen firsthand how selective offerings not only result in delighted customers but better content for brands.
For example, our platform matches brands and creators based on 250+ unique, first-party data points. This ensures that creators only get matched with products they love.
7. Send Product Samples to Micro-Influencers
Hot-take: the best product sampling campaigns are the ones that actually get people talking.
By getting your products into the hands of micro-influencers at scale (think: hundreds, not a handful) you can translate your samples into more than just satisfied customers. You stand to earn:
- One-of-a-kind, authentic social proof
- Conversations and content that build your brand’s social SEO
- Pieces of content that you can repurpose and promote throughout your funnel
Below is an example from one of our creators. The authentic, unfiltered content published by micro-influencers makes it easier for real people to imagine a product in their hands.
When influencers receive relevant products, their audiences are poised to respond positively. Micro-influencers build their audiences from people that want to hear about new brands. The glowing comment below highlights how smaller creators’ audiences notice specific details that matter.
Brands are likewise using their UGC in ads because of the power of authenticity. For example, unboxing ads are effective because they provide a natural hook from the word “go” and feel so much more authentic than brand-generated content.
Meta notes that creator-based ads increase ROAS and TikTok likewise touts the performance of their Spark Ads over competing formats.
The takeaway? Sending products to the right influencers can increase the ROI of your sampling efforts, paid ads and organic social strategies at the same time.
How to Get Hundreds of Posts from Influencers Without Sending a Single Product Sample
Product sampling provides a way for brands to get products into peoples’ hands. The creative sampling ideas above highlight how brands can go the extra mile.
However, the scalability of product sampling is a hurdle. Building awareness with samples can really only be done on a small scale.
If you want a way to get your product into the hands of hundreds of creators, Statusphere’s platform can make it happen.
Again, our micro-influencer marketing platform matches brands with creators using 250+ first-party data points. Through our vetted creator community and streamlined fulfillment technology, Statusphere helps brands earn guaranteed content at scale. No sending samples required on your end!
We built our software specifically to support brands with an always-on influencer strategy. We’ve already generated 75,000+ pieces of content for 400+ brands.
Want to learn more about how our platform works? Get in touch with one of our experts to see how we can scale your creator content production in a fraction of the time.
This article was first published in June 2020. It was last updated July 17, 2023.