Sunday, November 07, 2010

Part 21: The Secret

So I had had my five minutes of fame, and thanks to no mention of the website address whatsoever my fan base remained the same. You’d think I’d be on another downer, but I felt somewhat validated by the whole thing. The reporter had managed to get freebies with my persuasion and I felt sure that freebie grabbing could be done by just about anyone.

And then it hit me. The reason why all of this had been possible, and why my quest had even worked in the first place. A big secret which companies don’t want you to know.

But first a bit of background. Over the last few weeks my tally had seen a boost thanks to a plethora of food related freebies. Bottled water, fruit juice, apples, spaghetti, cereal bars, beans, sugar substitutes, poppadoms, dip, curry sauce, yoghurts and cereal had all graced my insides, increasing my total by twelve and making my job a little easier.

The biggest of these food freebies was a huge crate of crisps in various different flavours, adding another one to the total. As I tucked into the crisps, I started to enjoy their subtle flavours and wrote a review.

It was only after eating two large bags that I noticed their best before date, an entire two months before I had started tucking in to them! Thinking about this I turned to some of the other food products I had received, also spotting that several were either out of date, or had poor packaging.

There is no doubt in my mind that the PR companies had spotted this, in fact I had been offered the crisps out of the blue. The most likely scenario is that a batch of out of date crisps was found, and sent off to the press world to get rid of them.

Now I know critics are often given a bad name, and that some companies would rather we didn’t review their products, so perhaps they were attempting to kill us off one by one? I had written a less than favourable review of a fruit juice and the crisps were from the same agency. Perhaps this was all part of some secret plan?

Or perhaps they were just stupid and forgot to check the dates? Either way, if you’re sending something out so someone who can either praise or criticise your product please make sure it’s half decent. Critics are like hungry wolves waiting for something to go wrong with a product so we can focus all our attention there, when writing the review. Nasty, damning reviews are far more fun to write, so please don’t give us any more ammunition (or gut rot from out of date merchandise), it won’t end well.

The moral of this story, for you the prospective blagger, is that companies secretly want to give something away for free.

There are two trains of logic behind this. The first, as seen above, is that companies have piles of unused or outdated stock ripe for the picking. Often this stock is sat in a warehouse and sold off to the highest bidder in bulk. That’s why you’ll find great bulk buy bargains at the likes of Costco. They swoop in and buy low price, end of season stock and flog it off.

But what of the morsels that don’t get scrapped up or that are too out of season for those stores? The company can’t hold onto them as they take up valuable warehouse space, draining company time and money.

So these products in essence become ‘samplers’. They are sent off to press firms for quick and easy distribution, or given to shops for free in order to improve the shop-to-company relationship. If a lot of these samplers exist they become part of 2 for 1 deals or other offers. Ever wondered why shops seem to have the same 3 for £15 deal on DVD’s with near identical titles? It’s because they all got the same samplers, meaning there’s plenty of this type of stuff to go around.

So why would a company want you to have a ‘sampler’? Well that’s down to the second train of logic: Brand loyalty.

Remember the children’s hospital I mentioned earlier. Their unique offer was that anything they received for free would improve brand loyalty.

This was alluring for the company as they felt it had the potential to affect the future purchases of the children. In essence they felt they could create an attachment to the brand by giving something away. Better yet, if these were out of season toys (samplers) then they would have got some spare stock off their hands too.

Unsure how this applies to yourself? Think of a brand that actively targets people like you. A mans deodorant for 16-30 year olds, a fruit juice drink for children, a brain training game for 3-70 year olds? Whatever the case, these brands are the ones who are already actively trying to build up brand loyalty and are well aware of the benefits it can bring.

Now think of a similar product that you currently use that fits in to this target segment. A similar deodorant, fruit drink, game or your own example. This is the brand where your loyalty currently lies. Something an advertiser would be keen to change, as not only are you avoiding their product, you are also lining the pockets of their competition.

So if I was a huge fan of a type of cheese that in turn gives me the ammunition I need to target any other cheese maker in the country for a free ‘sampler’. Better yet if I can prove my loyalty through a photo, or amusing story of my cheese loving (such as building a tower from cheese) it only further improves my chances.

So if we wanted to craft this in to a unique offer it would go something along the lines of:

“Hello fellow cheese lover!
I have been a long time buyer of Edam cheese, and you know what, I feel like a change. Ever since my friends and I held a bet to see who could eat the most, I’ve wanted to sample more cheeses from around the world.

As such, I’m looking to jump ship to a new brand and introduce the guys to a new taste sensation. To help me do so would you be willing to send some samples of your cheese? I’ll make sure to include it in the next cheese-eating contest.

Phone / Email /Address”

Sound cheeky? Well that’s where your persona will come in, and help you craft something that maintains the characteristics we set out earlier. Key points to consider are the intention I have shown to change my brand preferences, the name drop of a rival, my fondness for cheese and the intention to consume more in the future.

This is what companies dream of when they start offers such as ‘Try me or get your money back’ or ‘buy 1 get 1 free’. They assume we will take the bait, but never dream a consumer will come directly to them and kickstart this process.

So now you know their secret why not give it a go? At this stage you have enough ammunition to send off a few emails and expect responses, freebies and success. If nothing else, you should start to find what works for you and if a company doesn’t reply don’t buy their brand in the future. That’ll teach them for being stingy!

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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!).