Behaviour Change

PROPAGANDA FOR CHANGE is a project created by the students of Behaviour Change (ps359) and Professor Thomas Hills @thomhills at the Psychology Department of the University of Warwick. This work was supported by funding from Warwick's Institute for Advanced Teaching and Learning.

Friday, February 1, 2013


Dove is using a free sample of their deodorant as a method to persuade consumers to purchase or re-purchase the product.

The distribution of free samples is a common and important pursuasive advertising technique for many companies (Shultz et. al, 1998). It has been shown to be successful in multiple studies.

A study by the Sunflower Group (2007) suggests incidence of consumers buying the product is over twice as likely after recieving the free sample as is achieved with other promotions e.g- coupons.

Bawa and Shoemaker (2004), compared the effect of a free-sample promotion with no promotion. 4,000 households were split into a no-promotion control group and a free-sample promotion group, matched equally on rates of who already bought the target product. Each groups purchase of target habits were monitored over one year. On week 1 of the second year, the promotion condition were delivered a single serving free sample of the product with their Sunday newspaper.
The free sample condition produced a significant increase in sales compared with the control group. The number of households who purchased the promoted product at least once in the following 2 years was 18% higher in the promotion group than the control group. This higher sales rate was still evident 52 weeks after promotion.
(It didn't state what the sample product was... sorry!)

From this and a number of other studies, Bawa and Shoemaker devised three possible reasons why free samples pursuade people to buy products.
1) An acceleration effect; Consumers would have purchased the product anyway but the free sample encouraged purchase earlier than consumers might naturally have.
2) A cannibalisation effect; Reducing the number of paid trial purchases of the brand/item, reducing the risk accompanied with an experimental purchase (e.g- losing money, disliking the product).
3) An expansion effect; Expanding the amount of purchasing consumers who would not have considered buying the product before the sample.

Bawa, K., & Shoemaker, R. 2004.The Effect Of Free Sample Promotions on Incremental Brand Sales. Marketing Science, 23(3), 345-363.

Sunflower Group, 1997. Private Communications. Sunflower Group. Overland Park, KS.

Schultz, E., Robinson, A., Petrison, L. 1998. Sales Promotion Essentials. NTC Business books. Lincolnwood, IL.


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