Sharing, A New Form of Product Trial

Can social media and the age-old principles of borrowing and lending impact the future of product trial?

When I was a child (and my parents’ personal messenger boy), my parents often ordered me, “God next door and borrow Mr. Olsen’s drill.” After using it, my dad would send me to return it. Oh, how grateful I was when my mom finally bought my dad his very own power drill for Christmas. But that wasn’t the end of my courier-service and isn’t the point of this story. Guess which power drill brand she bought? Of course, the exact brand Mr. Olsen had.

One of the first to hand out free samples was the advertising pioneer Benjamin T. Babbit, who, in the 1850s, solicited Americans to “get on the bandwagon” and persuaded them with a free trial of soap. Since then, thousands of brands have offered free trials of their products and millions of samples have been distributed. Studies have measured and validated the effectiveness of these efforts.

From test drives and trial downloads to a light job around the sports store in a new pair of sneakers, we almost never buy something without first trying it out. Entire big-box retailers have become electronic test-kitchens. So, I wasn’t surprised when I saw this advertisement in the Las Vegas airport.

While conducting further research into gun trial, I came across this fascinating community forum.

Rent/Test Handgun Before Buying?

Q: Is Tulsa Firearms the only place around Tulsa where my wife and I can try out a few different types before we buy? My wife has never shot a handgun before, so I would like to get her one that she is comfortable with. Thanks!

A: That’s a good question and a great way to get started. I’m in OKC area and am not very familiar with Tulsa Firearms, but I believe other members here mentioned that they were very pricey for range time, rentals, etc. I might be wrong other can correct me as needed. A better idea would be to meet up with one or more of our Tulsa members that have a variety of handguns. We have lots of members in that area that would be willing to help out new shooter(s).

A: Unfortunately TFA seems to be the only place. The good thing about being an OSA member is that you can organize a shoot with another member who owns the guns you want to try.

A: Ditto, Take a look around and see what interests you, then post what you would like to try and if a willing member has one, they’ll meet you at a range for you to try it.

This isn’t business-to-consumer product trial. This is consumer-to-consumer trial facilitated through social media. Essentially, it’s borrowing that power drill from your neighbor. Granted, you don’t know the person whose handgun you’ll shoot out near county line, but the principles are the same.

I see a few advantages of C2C product trial. 1. No selling agenda from the party allowing you to test their product. 2. Un-pressured time to engage with the product. 3. An honest, unbiased opinion of the product. In fact, this seems more like product sharing versus product trial.

Could other products adopt a similar version of product sharing? What would a product-sharing effort look like for a motorcycle manufacturer? What would it look like for a computer company? Would consumers get involved? What would be its efficacy? Instead of watching TV in a staged living room with a paper-mache fireplace, would people watch Lost at a stranger’s house down the road? Gun enthusiasts may have just introduced marketers to a new form of product trial — product sharing.