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Free Cookie Anyone?

People love freebies. At my grocery store, and probably yours too, they’re often giving away free food samples. It’s definitely a draw and I often find myself chatting with the person about their giveaway. Here’s a recent exchange at my neighborhood grocery store:

Me: Coconut Oreos! That’s different. I’ve never heard of those. Oreo Lady: They’re new. You missed the coffee flavored Oreos. We had them earlier, but now we’re out. Me: Oh wow, coffee flavored Oreos. I love coffee-flavored anything. Sounds delicious. I’ll have to keep an eye out. But I’ll definitely try one of these coconut Oreos for now. And just like that, I’m a coconut-Oreo-lover on the hunt for coffee flavored Oreos when they’re back in stock. Now, I know it doesn’t take much to sell Oreos. After all, who doesn’t love Oreos, but the point is, I engaged with the Oreo Lady. We had a conversation about Oreos. And even though I had no intention of picking up cookies that day, I bought two packages of coconut Oreos with a $1.00 off coupon the Oreo Lady gave me. And now, I’m telling you about them too. Do you think the expense Nabisco went to for staffing a sample table at the grocery store and supplying oodles of Oreo cookies to give away that day was worth it? You betcha. A Little Bit of Science There’s actually a psychology behind giving things away that can boost business profits. In his 1984 groundbreaking work – Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion Dr. Robert Cialdini proved that the effects of receiving something free are given to the principle of reciprocity.  When we receive something for free—a gift if you will—we are hard-wired, as humans, to return a favor. Like me at the grocery story with the Oreos. I could have just taken a cookie and kept walking. But since it was free, I felt like I should probably at least talk to the lady. And you know how the rest went. It seems counter-intuitive, but businesses do make money when they give things away. The freebie must indeed be useful and appropriate though. A huge car dealership in my area gives away televisions, cruises and once even a chance to win a new home, if you bought a car. Clearly, this strategy works for them because they keep running the promotions. That type of giveaway, though, would hardly be consistent with the purchase of a new bicycle in contrast. On the flipside, a car dealership advertising a free keychain with the purchase of a new car would lead me to say, “big deal.” I’m not going to buy a $30,000 car just to get a free keychain.  But, for example, a free beach chair and umbrella rental or free bike rental when you book at least a 3-night stay at a resort is very useful and quite appropriate. It’s also an incentive for someone shopping around for a place to get away for a weekend to book your resort. And stay an extra night. Also, make sure your giveaway has a positive value effect. If your offer is a free beach chair and umbrella rental with a 3-night stay, don’t give your guests rusty old beach chairs and a shredded beach umbrella. If it’s bikes you’re offering, make sure they’re well-oiled and the tires properly inflated. If you don’t give away something with a positive value effect, the consequences could be an unintentional negative perception of your business. The Take-Away If done correctly, a free offer will cause an increase in sales and offset the initial expense. If done correctly, a freebie will also leave a positive impression of your business, fostering loyalty. In other words, if the freebie is an apt reward, you’re more likely to gain a customer and encourage repeat business. Here are some suggested giveaways:

  • Free Sample – like a cookie.

  • Free Gift – like a logo hat or a free drink coupon.  

  • BOGO - Buy one, get one free (or buy 2, get 1 etc.)

  • Free information – a free pamphlet or book; a downloadable report, e-book or guide.

  • Free, but conditional – the consumer must make a purchase, like free beach chair and umbrella with a 3-night stay. Or free dessert with the purchase of an entrée.

  • Free trials – take advantage of a service for up to a month at no charge. At the end of the trial period, the consumer can either cancel or keep paying to continue the service.

  • Freemium - A basic version of a subscription is provided free of charge, like the free version of LinkedIn.  But the user must pay a fee to upgrade to the premium services.

There are more for sure, but my question to you is, what are you giving away?

My Confession

When recently asked the question of what I was giving away in my business, I admit, I didn’t have a good answer. As a writer, I don’t have anything tangible to give away except free writing. (I did give away a customizable email template at the beginning of the pandemic for hotels and resorts to send to their guests.) What I do offer: 

My Freebie:  A 30-minute consultation about the marketing concerns you have for your business. I’ll spend time understanding you, your business, and your business goals. I might even make some recommendations that you can easily implement on your own—like what your freebie could be!

For your complimentary consultation, contact me via email at If you’re not quite ready to commit to that, check out my services and writing samples at


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