Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Part 18 - Sidekick Envy

I was down but not out. Marie was absolutely destroying me in the ratings, visitors were demanding bigger and better things and time was ticking on my challenge. Worse still, lecturers were demanding I actually start on some coursework and group meetings were eating away at my time. I needed a big win, and I needed it bad. The big brands had all laughed in my face at the start of my quest but with the support now of a few brands such as Avon, Bandai, Coca-Cola, L’Oréal and Kenwood I felt it was time to upscale my freebie operation and give them another once over.

 Although I didn’t know it at the time, I can see now that one of the keys to successfully getting freebies is to start small and gradually work your  way up to bigger and better companies. Smaller companies are more willingto test the water, and once you have proven results you can go back to bigger companies and get them on board too.

You’ll always get brands that will never give stuff away, because it devalues the price or selling point of their brand. After all if they gave it away to one person, what’s to stop other people from trying? Which again, is why the unique offer works so well. Give them something in return for giving you a freebie and everybody wins. Well, except for those companies with crap products as they get crap reviews, but that’s their own fault for making shoddy merchandise.

The first big company to take the bait was Parker Pens, closely followed by Puma, who seemed worryingly enthusiastic about the whole thing. Within minutes of my email arriving they wrote back happy to send
samples, and mere days later I had a huge box of samples, for my testing delight.

Three sets of trainers, four T-Shirts, some trousers and 2 jackets were included adding another four gets to my total.

Most bizarre of these freebies was definitely the shoes. Even though I had clearly stated my shoe size and those of Marie (although the last thing I needed was for her to write another ‘worlds best’ review) the shoes were all Men's size 5/6. A little difficult for me to squeeze in to given that I’m a size 11.

Odder still was the fact that for one of the trainer styles I only had a single shoe, making any opportunity for wearing or trying out the shoes null and void.

This definitely set alarm bells ringing and after much rummaging around in the box I soon found a piece of paper stating. “Press Samples Only, Due for Return by 10/10/06”.

Return? This wasn’t a freebie at all, just a press loan!Although an article in the likes of GQ or FHM has the potential to make shoe sales double or triple, this is actually a common practice in many PR companies.

Loan out the product so the mag can take a few photos, get them back in before they can be damaged in any way and ship them off to the next person in line.

Sure it makes for some great looking photos, but realistically these are trainers, and items of clothing. How can people really get a good, honest opinion of what they are like when people can’t even wear them?

It’s no surprise really that when you open a magazine and look at trainers there’s very little in the way of actual option. Mostly it’s just a picture, price, release date and something along the lines of “These kicks look
fine!” Nothing to tell you if they’re comfortable to wear/ go jogging in/ go clubbing in.

You’ll find this happens with all kinds of products, and women’s magazines are the same. Throwing pictures of dresses, shoes and makeup in your face without any opinion or testimonials. In part this is due to fear of annoying advertisers (better no review than one full of lies) and also due to “you must return me” samples.

And in essence this may be why Marie’s review worked so well. She took a product that women see advertised everywhere and said ‘look, this is actually good, I’ve tried it and have no reason to lie to you’.
Thankfully not every company are over protective of samples. KSwiss for example, were absolute heroes in my book and their PR firm deserve a pat on the back. When I asked them for samples they wrote back
asking for my size and never once asked for them to be looked after or returned.

As a result it is K-Swiss you will see immortalized in this book in the review below. They let me get to the heart of their product by giving me something I could actually wear and try.
Read the K-Swiss Review

Did I beat Marie’s review? Just about, but I was more concerned now with spreading the truth about stingy companies and those who were willing enough to let reviewers try their products out fully.

But before I could do any of that I had an email to tend to:

“Hi Mike,
I just wondered when you were going to send the Café Retro back?”

Was this the start of a mass recall?

47 Down 53 To Go

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Every product on this site has been received for free, and given to me by the product manufacturer or their associated PR organisation in return for a review.

I have no other personal or business association with these companies, and all reviews are written truthfully and based on my own experience. If I hate a product I will say so (and have done on many occasions!).