Beauty’s New Moves in the Sampling Game

NEW YORK -- A spritz and a swab are no longer enough.<BR><BR>While a trip to a department store cosmetics department in years gone by meant circulating fragrance models and skin care saleswomen ready to slather any available hand with cream, today's...

NEW YORK — A spritz and a swab are no longer enough.

While a trip to a department store cosmetics department in years gone by meant circulating fragrance models and skin care saleswomen ready to slather any available hand with cream, today’s consumers aren’t easily swayed by the old sampling approaches.

Beauty companies are attempting a variety of new approaches to achieve the all-important goal: Get the product into the customer’s hands at any cost.

Fragrance companies have been using advances in technology to put their scents into all manner of eye-catching objects and have been trying out variations of the Scentstrip, first placed in magazines in 1979.

Meanwhile, treatment and color vendors have been operating with the concept that bigger is better.

“Our belief is that if you give the customer a chance to simply try the product, that is one thing,” said Mark Loomis, vice president of retail marketing at Elizabeth Arden. “But if you allow this customer the opportunity to get hooked, that’s something else.”

Arden applied this philosophy in February of this year when it offered consumers a 14-day supply of both Ceramide Time Capsules for Face and for Eyes, 28 capsules in all, as a gift-with-purchase.

“A 14-day supply can, we are confident, get a customer committed for life,” said Loomis.

With Alpha Ceramide, Arden’s four-stage treatment product that launched last month, the company is giving the first three steps free to consumers who purchase Step 4 for $55.

Historically, Clinique has sampled full-sized lipsticks and travel sizes of its treatment products in its gwp’s. But recently the company has stepped up deluxe sampling on individual products by 400 percent, according to Eunice Valdivia, executive vice president of marketing.

“Consumers are different now,” Valdivia said. “They really want to try a product before they invest the money in it.”

To help consumers get acquainted with its new Long Last Lipstick, in September the company handed out mini-replicas with a three-to-four-day supply of the lip color. The effort promoted multiple purchases, Valdivia said. “Since people knew what the product was like, they felt comfortable buying it in two or three shades.”

In addition to deluxe sampling, Estee Lauder has upgraded the sizes it provides in its gwp’s. For example, many of the half-ounce sizes have been increased to a full ounce.

The company recently started sampling Fruition for the first time when it offered a 10-day supply as part of its Skin Profiling service, which helps consumers identify their skin type.

“Coming back with sampling now keeps the momentum going,” noted Muriel Gonzalez, senior vice president of marketing for Estee Lauder USA. “Every product that you’re going to support for the long term needs a strong sampling program.”

Lancome is also strengthening its sampling effort. In January, the company gave 2-oz. refillable bottles of its Respectee cleanser and toner to consumers who purchased its new Nutraforce treatment product.

“This kind of sampling is the most efficient, since instead of giving someone five packets of assorted products and hoping that one of them meets her needs, you are giving someone what will work for them. Going forward we will be doing more of this type of sampling,” said Karen Rae Flynn, assistant vice president of fragrance and treatment marketing.

Other manufacturers, such as Chanel and Prescriptives, who do not use gift-with-purchase promotions, rely even more heavily on single product and deluxe sampling.

“It’s not so easy and it’s terribly expensive to do, but we do find it pays off in the end,” said Jean Hoehn Zimmerman, senior vice president of sales and marketing for Chanel. “People are not going to buy expensive products unless they try them first.”

In addition to offering deluxe samples of its Cils Fragiles mascara last fall and it Compact Makeup last spring, Chanel is now in the midst of a sampling program for its Lift Serum Extreme that includes both packets and tubes.

Last year, the company started offering foundation dramming at the counter. Beauty analysts gave away a bottle with a full week’s worth of foundation in the appropriate shade and formula, and according to Zimmerman, foundation sales have increased 40 percent.

Throughout the year, Prescriptives stages Try Before You Buy events, where consumers who participate receive a week-to-ten-day supply of at least three different skin care products.

“We have found these events to be driving forces behind our treatment sales,” said James Bunn, vice president and general manager of Prescriptives, noting that for the last several years the company has been doubling its sampling efforts across all categories annually.

Fragrance companies have also been adjusting their sampling habits.

Lancaster Group USA has been creating name recognition for its stable of German brands through the use of innovative sampling with the latest in sophisticated implementation techniques.

“It helps to set you apart in the customer’s mind,” said David May, Lancaster’s vice president of marketing. “Not only does it get their attention, but it does a lot to convey the image of the brand.

“Creating these unique samples is not cheap,” he added. “But it gives you instant positioning and cuts through the clutter. We know the strongest element is the fragrance itself, so the only objective is just to get it into people’s hands.”

For its upcoming women’s launch, Casmir by Parfums Chopard, Lancaster used a technique of incorporating the Casmir scent into plastics that resemble precious stones. To boost the scent’s Indian imagery, Casmir will also be distributed in stores through imitation lotus petals that have been impregnated with the fragrance.

“These kinds of samples have to be well done to work, and we think they are,” said May. “We’re also using the polymer technology to make scented seashells, which will be part of a Cool Water promotion this spring.”

When Riviera Concepts launched Nicole Miller’s signature scent in the fall, it attempted an unusual campaign by giving away fragranced pumice stones at counters. The company shipped 1,000 pieces to selected doors in November. When the project proved popular with consumers, an additional 1,000 pieces were distributed around Valentine’s Day.

“It is a very unique way for customers to sample Nicole Miller,” said Adrian Ellis, Riviera’s executive vice president.

Robin Burns, president and ceo of EstÄe Lauder USA, said she was always on the lookout for new ways to sample.

“We’re always open to new technology,” she said. “The only problem is that today’s technology is often not competitive with the older pricing. It can be expensive.”

Burns noted the emergence of fragrance miniatures as a strong part of the business.

“Coffrets are really a form of sampling,” she said. “When you sell as many as we have, it becomes an excellent way of drawing in new customers.”

Burns said Lauder continues to rely on scented strips, but used a powder technology for Youth Dew and Spellbound last fall that “worked quite well. Trial before buy is still the way consumers operate. You have to get samples into their hands.”

Arcade Inc. revolutionized sampling 15 years ago with the invention of pull-apart paper samplers, which it trademarked with the name Scentstrip.

Last year, the company expanded into a new format with a product called DiscCover. DiscCover samples contain actual fragrances and use a peel-back, resealable format that allows for 25 to 30 uses, according to Elliott Mitchell, Arcade’s chairman and chief executive officer.

“It can be manufactured in all shapes and sizes,” he said at the time of the product’s introduction. “It can also be used in venues other than magazines; it could be handed out in stores, for instance.”

Meanwhile, Thermedics Inc., the maker of Scent Seals, which consist of a tin foil patch containing a scented liquid, said last month that the product had just finished off a successful first year. The company reported 1993 revenues of more than $4 million and bookings so far this year exceeding $5 million.

Concluded Lauder’s Burns, “Some of these techniques are wonderful. But I just wish they were more affordable.”