Monday, January 18, 2016

The Semiotics of Samples, or Sample Saturday #3

Sample Saturday is enjoying a three-day weekend

Internet, I know. I come out of hibernation, make promises to try all teh samples, then in two weeks, I'm already behind schedule. (Wait a minute—"semiotics?" Being behind? This is starting to sound like college.)

In my defense, there are times when I try an unassuming little packet of skincare, and it's like I opened Pandora's box. ExfoliKate, I'm looking at you.

And so, I decided to streamline the process. My first step was to sort through my drawers of samples, and no, I am not kidding.

I dumped them onto the floor and sorted them into skincare, makeup, and body care (fragrances are already in their own little ghetto.)

Then I sorted through the skincare samples, organizing not by product, but by packaging style. I mean, one of my problems—apart from the sheer number of samples I've accumulated—is their bulk. Some of these puppies take up a ridiculous amount of room. And wouldn't it be wise to use up the bulky ones first? I haven't even gotten past the first chapter of the Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, and yet, I could swear I could feel Marie Kondo smiling approvingly.

As I sorted, I started to become aware of a hell of a lot of marketing savvy.  OK, duh, companies give out samples to get us to buy their products. But there were subtleties apparent even to the not-very-marketing-savvy likes of me.

I noticed that my samples are packaged in four different ways:

Utilitarian single-or-few use metallic packets

These appear to be the choice of skincare companies that market themselves as no-nonsense. They are taking a scientific approach to skincare, and they want you to know it.

Utilitarian metallic packets stuck onto cardboard cards or folders


These tend to be produced by department store beauty brands. They like their big color photographs. The cardboard folder tends to outweigh the actual sample. By a lot.

"Deluxe Samples," i.e., samples good for several uses


These tend to be the specialty of extremely high-end department store brands. The reasoning being, I suppose, that this shiznit is expensive, and you want to be able to tell whether it does what it says it will do. This is also the size you can get from subscription boxes and at Sephora by spending Sephora points.

Several use tubes packaged in miniatures of the full-size product


This particular marketing approach obviously works with yours truly

Miniatures of full-size products tend to be mainstream high-end luxury department store brands like Guerlain, Estee Lauder, and Chanel. I'm guessing these are brands that want to capitalize on their brand recognition and perceived luxury, even in the teeny-tiny munchkin size.

Sample Strategy 101

If my goal is to cut down on the sheer amount of space currently devoted to storing these marketing devices, you'd think I'd head straight to the pile of department store brands like Lancôme and Yves St. Laurent, because holy hell, I've read books thinner than some of those folders.

However, I'm not just chucking out my kids' old Legos; I'm actually trying to discover some new products. I just ran out of my favorite foundation, Guerlain's Lingerie de Peau. I'm wondering whether my La Mer lip balm is worth the money. Something gave me a few milia and I plan to exfoliate all the way to Australia to get rid of them. And makeup is an incredibly efficient thing to sample because if I don't like it, I don't have to "make it work." I didn't pay for it, and can chuck it into the bin with a clear conscience.

And so, with no further ado, allow me to present this week's samples

note the classy halo effect

Ren Instant Firming Beauty Shot
Chanel Vitalumiere Aqua in Beige Rosé
Mox Botanicals Lip Butter
Sisley Black Rose Cream Mask


  1. You may exfoliate right to Australia but when you get here .... let me tell you Poppy - we are mean , mean , mean with the samples!!! OMG so Mean!
    When you do get one - I tell ya - its like a thunder blot from God! LOL

    Looking forward to your findings .

    * Left a tiny message on Non Blonde for you :)

  2. I'll never use half the products you write about, I'm just here for the writing.
    But it has occurred to me, in this post, that you may have a *slight* hoarding problem that I wasn't aware of.
    And I wonder, too, why we don't all sit around the condo with miracle creams on our faces...

  3. *Slight* hoarding problem --- LOL! SLIGHT?

    Actually, I don't have a hoarding problem. Hoarders find value in stuff that has no value. What I have is a shopping problem. I buy too much stuff, and most of the stores I buy from give me samples. Then there were the subscription boxes. And the GWPs.

    It adds up to a clutter problem. I'm swamped.

    But I'm getting rid of scads of stuff. Check out my instagram feed--I just chucked out about 25 lip glosses. Then there are the 10 or 12 different complexion care items I checked because of the little jar with the expiration number on it.

    Next time we get together, I'll bring my samples and people can make up goody bags for themselves, how's that?

    Maybe I should invite THE ENTIRE INTERNET.


Gentle Readers:

For the time being, I've turned off comment moderation. Please don't spam; it's not nice.

xxx, Poppy.