Free Samples Becoming Promo of Choice

Industry giants McDonald’s and Dunkin’ Donuts are resorting to free product sampling, a tactic typically used by smaller chains that can’t afford to advertise in mass media outlets, mediapost.com reported.

Timed with the launch of a new commercial touting its iced coffee, Dunkin’ Donuts is urging consumers on May 15 to get a free iced coffee from any Dunkin’ Donuts store. The chain is offering its Berry Berry Iced Coffee from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on that day, and it expects to give away nearly four million cups.

Also on May 15, McDonald’s will dole out free Southern Style Chicken Biscuits in the morning and Southern Style Chicken Sandwiches during the day.

Industry experts suspect consumers in this ailing economy are more appreciative of freebies, while marketers themselves are looking for cheaper alternatives to relay sales messages.

A giveaway of 50,000 samples would require 250 man-hours, which translates to between $15,000 and $20,000 for labor, according to Scott Thurston, president of Street Sampling. A company could add publicity stunts, promotional vehicles and the like, and still see the overall cost be more effective than costs associated with mainstream advertising.

Coffee juggernaut Starbucks is also publishing coupons in newspapers for a free cup of Starbucks’ new blend every Wednesday through May, while on tax day last month Dunkin’ Donuts gave away free donuts with the purchase of a cup of coffee. Earlier this year, McDonald’s also gave out free samples of McSkillet burritos to celebrate Leap Day.

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