Let’s talk about one of the greatest marketing initiatives of the last 2 centuries:
The Free Sample.
Does anything draw you in more than the free sample? Maybe the unconditional refund guarantee would make a close second, but for me, the free sample wins out. I’m reading an autobiography by Claude C. Hopkins, an advertising giant from the turn of the last century who founded a lot of the principles and techniques in use by marketing execs today. What could be a dry read is actually turning out to be a hilariously written examination of the human psyche.
Unconvinced? Here’s the opening few lines:
“The greatest event in my career occurred a year before I was born. My father selected for me a Scotch mother. She typified in a high degree the thrift and caution, the intelligence, ambition and energy of her race. Boys, they say, gain most of their qualities from their mothers. Certainly I inherited from mine conspicuous conservatism. The lack of that quality has wrecked more advertising men, more business men, than anything else I know.”
The Philosopher and I enjoyed a few fine freebies at the Stockbridge Trout N’ About Festival in rural Hampshire on Sunday. We walked into this gem of a village completed unexpectedly and walked out of it laden with fudge, lime curd, and full bellies.
Stockbridge is nestled in the Test Valley, above the River Test where large trout are fished by men from miles around – including our B&B host, who is such an avid fisherman that he travels to Florida annually for the fly fishing. This was the first I’d heard of Florida as a fish-lover’s destination, but I suppose it IS a waterlogged state. Anyway, fish in the river etc. etc. – hence the ‘Trout’ in ‘Trout N’ About Festival’. We never did figure out what the ‘About’ referred to…
The Trout N’ About festival lined both sides of the street.
Free samples freely flowed, aided by several very cute burgeoning salespeople aged 8 and under who heralded their ware. We were suckered in completely. We bought fudge twice.