With Covid-19 everything changes, even sampling

Covid-19 has changed many of our habits and behaviours, including how to do sampling. Whereas before many professionals used to consider it a marginal practice and associated with OOH activities (as creative as they are dispersive), now you have to stop for a moment time and reconsider the whole process.

Firstly, the events at which thousands of free samples were distributed can no longer be organised and it is not known when and how sampling activities will be restored.

Just as the thousands of promotional days in the Large-Scale Retail and specialised shops can no longer be done.

Therefore, both trade marketing and consumer marketing have to consider new sampling methods, taking into account the current pandemic situation.

Even if the strategy remains the same, tactics and operations must be reorganised to take account of new exogenous variables.


For us, working in the audiSample editorial team who are used to investigating and analysing this market segment, the starting and ending points are obvious.

We all stayed at home: this is our starting point (and actually also our finishing one).

The streets were empty, events cancelled, concerts & exhibitions postponed…

So let’s forget for a moment all the “OOH” sampling activities realised so far, all those activities whose aim was to surprise, engage, inspire… and also to distribute product samples.

Expensive activities, even though the budget was getting tighter every year.

Activities often linked to external variables, limited in time, space and quantity.

All those activities, we could call them, just from a sampling point of view, “old style”. And they are always the reason that has generated so much disappointment confirmed by the results of the research published by our observatory.

The demonstration of customer frustration with sampling is summarised in the following pictures.

In order not to offend anyone, we have hidden the brands wherever possible.

A short “reportage” of images, taken from our editorial archive, which are not usually shared.

We remind you that our observation is limited to the sampling activity only.

A) Street Sampling cooling chain, hand-delivered products

sampling errori

Runaway minor with 6-pack product referring to the picture above!!!

street sampling

B) Classic sampling activity through insertion in magazines.

Please note that in this case the supply of samples must cover the entire print run from which returns must then be subtracted to go to waste.

The calculation of certain contact costs becomes rather difficult.


Image of the unpleasant inconvenience.


C) This video does not need any further comment.

Image referring to the Sampling activity of the Stramilano 2019 video.

Sampling granarolo_stramilano

D) Cibus bins full of samples and leaflets that are difficult to ‘digest’.

sampling Cibus

E) Smoker in front of the primary school exit

This is unfortunately one of the most unpleasant (and hopefully not very common) situations that can occur during ‘old-style’ activities. A mix of impoliteness, lack of common sense and lack of control on the part of both the client and the agency in charge.

Cigarette up!

Cigarette down!


We were all at home for the lockdown, we wrote that in the starting point, and this has led many people to buy more and more online.

Some estimate that 75% are new consumers who have never bought before (Source: Netcomm), and that 50% will continue to do so after this quarantine period (Source: Havas Media research 8/6/2020).

So why not take advantage of the opportunity and start thinking innovatively by exploiting the opportunities that the unpacking effect offered.

All the biases and inefficiencies of the ‘old style’ activities, partly documented in the pictures above, would be avoided, with countless benefits.

You don’t need much to be able to associate your brand with a ‘new style’ situation like the one below.

Just use common sense.

sampling tramite ecommerce

Sampling ecommerce Box


The activities renamed ‘old style’ are not to be deleted, denigrated or avoided.

On the contrary, they should be reorganised and enhanced precisely to avoid the inconveniences that everyone knows about but no one wants to talk about.

” Communicate less, communicate better!” is not only the slogan of audiSample but also a key to stimulating “divergent thinking (*)” that leads to innovation, improvement, more results and fewer resources.


This new sampling discipline, through the e-commerce box, may sound simple but it is not… starting with the name.

Some call it e-TryVertising, e-sampling, with or without a hyphen. The French, on the other hand, call it asilage, from Asile Colis, or asylum in a package. We, for example, call it simple sample, renamed e-box channel by some agencies.

Apart from the naming part, it may seem quite simple to a neophyte: ‘they show me the list of e-commerce, I choose the ones I want and that’s it’.

Unfortunately not so simple. Sorry for the neophytes.

The rules of this new market are numerous and complex, and the operational, legislative, procedural, economic, logistical and other aspects are all variables that must be known, assessed and managed.

The e-Commerce market is growing rapidly and only those with expertise know how to plan such a campaign, which is why our recommendation is to rely on the few experts in the field.

Even if only to get further information.


We can hypothesise that the trend of innovative digital sampling is a constant and unstoppable rising trend as it follows that of the e-commerce market.

The competitive advantage of those who begin to make good use of this opportunity will gradually generate positive effects on all major KPI’s, simply because it makes them measurable and for the first time those who plan can do so at a certain contact cost.

Activities where sampling was considered as a marginal practice will be improved. The “wasted” samples will be fewer and fewer, and will be correctly valued.

” Communicate less, communicate better!”