Untargeted sampling programs are completely exploitable

December 12, 2016


We became freebie hunters to prove it.

"What the heck are we going to do with all these diapers?”

The topic of whether targeting is worth the extra cost and effort comes up from time to time when we meet with brands. Not everyone is convinced that targeted is the way to go all the time. For example, P&G has planned to scale back their targeting on Facebook ads.

Sampler falls strictly into the pro-targeting camp for product sampling. Sure, handing out samples to everyone on the street can lift overall sales. But it's sort of like blindly using a flamethrower to light a candle, you're going to waste a lot of fuel.

But online sampling without proper targeting isn't just a little wasteful, it can be disastrous.

It's a problem because there are communities of people that are specifically seeking out free product regardless of fit. As a result, these freebie hunters aren't going to buy products after they try it and waste all of the inventory.

That's easy for us to claim, so we wanted to prove it and answer some questions for ourselves. How widespread of a problem is this? And how easy is it to get free stuff? I enlisted an expert who could help me find out.

Meet Reid

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Our lovely summer employee turned freebie hunter

He’s 18, has no kids and likes video games. I gave Reid one task, get as many free samples as you can, from anywhere, any means necessary.

Reid did the first thing most people do when faced with uncertainty, he turned to Google:

Google Results for "free samples"

Google turned up a bunch of websites that curate free sample offers on a daily basis. These sites played an integral role in updating Reid with all the latest free things he could grab.

Free Sample Search Results


Every morning Reid fired up his computer and clicked through waves of free sample offers. The clicks typically lead to forms, where Reid just had to fill out shipping information to claim his sample. Easy!

Simple form to get samples.

Some forms had product specific questions, which Reid filled in a manner to make sure he got his samples.

A user gaming the product sample sign up forms.

Reid then repeated those forms to see if brands would send multiple samples.

Reid scoured the internet for free samples for roughly 2 weeks.

We also took to the streets to see if we could take advantage of people handing out samples. The plan was to either ask for multiples or just wait a minute or two and walk by to get more than one free sample.

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We didn’t keep a running tally (we should’ve), but Reid was able to get more than one sample from the majority of brand ambassadors we came across.

Samples start coming in

At the end of the experiment, we ended up with some surprisingly large samples and a lot of small ones. Multiples of product samples did get shipped, meaning those forms didn't check for repeaters.

Most of the samples were irrelevant to Reid and I’m sad to report that Reid hasn’t purchased any of the products he sampled.

Here they are all spread out nicely, more samples came in after this photo was taken.

A huge collection of free product samples and inserts on a table.

Our 2-week haul

Conclusion - It’s pretty easy to get a bunch of free samples

With little expertise, Reid was able to collect a surprising amount of samples in a short amount of time. The appeal is obvious, every time we saw an envelope or box we were thrilled.  It didn't matter if we didn't have arthritis, a baby or incontinence, it’s easy to see why freebie hunters do what they do.


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