Freebieology- How Companies Will Win Your Wallet, Even if You Only Order Their Free Samples

March 4, 2013 § Leave a comment

If you had asked me a few months ago whether I thought that my past time of hunting for freebies was more beneficial for myself or the companies I was interacting with, I would have told you that it was ultimately better for me than them. “Sure- they have my address, but I am a student who is constantly moving around, so they’ll never actually be able to do anything with it within the next year” I would have argued, completely forgetting the psychology of the freebie. In other words, as I gave away my school address, sending the newsletters to my spam email account (the advertising black hole of no-return), I all but neglected the psychological impact that receiving just a small gift from a company for free can mean in the long term.

Samples are smarter than you think. First of all, free sampling is as old as the kraken, originating from the golden age of direct mail marketing. If a company had the resources, they could pick ad space from any printed publication (especially those written for children. I have a number of my parent’s old comic books with a few bonus ads scattered about them. These were probably considered a jackpot for companies at the time) and print up a mail-in slip for a free sample of well, just about anything that could be sampled. For the cost of postage, you too could have a sample of [insert 50’s brand name].

With the advent of the internet, the term “free” became associated with “most likely full of malware and will steal your money and children. Click now!” Companies bent on taking your money in newer, more technologically advanced ways had a field day. I recall a friend telling me about what happened when her father was exposed to the internet for the first time as a young man and saw an ad to enter to win $100. Most likely assuming that it was of the same truthfulness of print mail-ins he was aware of, he sent his information. Within the week, the company had emptied $200 out of his bank account and mailed him a check for $100.

Flashing forward through the scam buttons of the 90’s most of us who were alive then are all too familiar with (“Congrats! You are visitor #3453. Click here to claim your prize!” for the record, these were so prevalent in their time that they were even mentioned in pop culture- namely the show “Daria”), today legitimate companies have almost caught up to their scammy predecessors. Facebook and Google are now flooded with brands ever so eager to send a sample your way, today!

Lacking purchasing power or money in general, I decided to find out which companies were legitimate, hoping to save myself a few dollars and the emotional trauma omnipresent when going to buy necessities as a broke college student (seriously, even the clearance items are beyond my means sometimes). Setting up an RSS fees of trustworthy “free things and samples” sites, I got down to ordering as many samples as possible to build up a nice stockade of freebies.

I may have given these brands my temporary address and my spam email accounts, but I managed to neglect one thing; human psychology. See, there is a phenomena in psychology- the more you see something or someone, the more inclined you will be to buy something or get to know somebody. All of these little samples everywhere might have been taking up small spaces in my dorm room, but they took up massive spaces in my sense of preferred brands. Often, subconsciously.

For example,  a few months ago, I got a free pair of earrings from a site known for high quality products and bargain-bin prices. When they arrived, my first thought was- “oh, these are nice. Too bad the company wasted their money on me- I’ll never buy from them, anyways!’ Oh boy, was I wrong. Along came Christmas time, and this company got its initial investment back- eightfold. Earrings forgotten, when I thought about place to get inexpensive things, the place that gave me free earrings came to mind- lo and behold, they had the low prices that Amazon didn’t on the gifts I wanted to give. This is called having your brand planted in the mind of the consumer.

So hoarde as many freebies as you want- but remember, a company isn’t just getting your email, a space in your apartment, or your mailing address when you order a sample- they are buying a way into your constant, subconscious consideration.

it’s freaky, alright- but mutually beneficial, and I won’t be stopping my freebie hunts anytime soon! The lure of free is just too much to handle.


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