BEAUTY PRODUCTS COME with a price, but not with a warranty. Unlike gadgets and gizmos or appliances and clothes, vanity items, once bought, are considered sold, regardless of whether the lipstick suits your skin tone or the toner causes breakouts.

But thanks to the beauty of technology and social media — plus a good marketing strategy — a makeup fiend’s nightmare can turn into a pretty reality, thanks to “tryvertising.”

“Tryvertising” is simply trying before buying. According to The Guardian, the practice started with those free little bottles of shampoo in hotels or on cruise ships, in the manufacturer’s hopes that guests will try them and associating the product with a good holiday feeling.

“Tryvertising” may be a better marketing strategy than getting celebrity ambassadors because power and communication are given directly to the consumers. In the Philippines, “tryvertising” works well with online communities because people like sharing their reviews or rants on social media or blogs. And whether they’re shopping for the latest and best shampoo or a hotel room in Cebu, many consumers today always consult the Internet.


Google calls this deliberate, online decision making the “Zero Moment of Truth” (ZMOT). The old mental model of marketing assumes three stages: a stimulus (e.g., a commercial), the first moment of truth (when the consumer sees the product at the point of sale), and the second moment of truth (when the consumer actually experiences the product). In 2011, Google said its research showed there was a zero moment — the point at which shoppers today do research, read reviews, look for deals, and learn about alternatives, all before they even get to a store.

Tapping into the ZMOT is how Sample Room ( was born.

“We risk purchases. We gamble on full-size products and then don’t like them the next day. It’s thousands of pesos down the drain,” said Sophie Uy, one of Sample Room’s founders, at a gathering of social media and beauty influencers on May 19.

“We want to be part of the decision-making,” she said.

Established in 2012, Sample Room is the first sampling site in the Philippines. Besides Ms. Uy, the founders are Katherine Sy, Nathalie Toh, and Diana Ong, who said that like many girls, they get frustrated when their beauty purchases do not meet their expectations.

With 390 (and growing) beauty and health products to choose from and almost 50,000 users to write reviews, it’s almost an assurance that the ratings come from honest and unpaid user-consumers, who seek products that suit their needs.

Once you register, you automatically get 100 points, which you can use to score three sample products. The prices range from 15 to 1,000 points, depending on the item and brand. For instance, bar soaps cost 15 points while moisturizers are 50.

Everyone is required to give a review — good or bad — so they can grab three other sample products again. Rate and review the items and re-earn points.

The system is a cycle. But, if you want to fast-track gaining points, VIP membership is at P649 for an instant purchase of 1,000 points.

The goodies are free, but the shipping fee is P100 (Metro Manila) or P150 (outside Metro Manila). The freebies may come in sachets or sometimes in full-size packages, like for BB creams, lipsticks, and mascaras.

“I read each comment one by one,” said Ms. Ong, the group’s review moderator. She said the site accepts reviews, both good and bad, but she has to check them for foul language.

“Even if the review is negative, we approve of it, as long as it’s not bashing,” she said.

Majority of the bad reviews entail allergic reactions to chemicals, which is case-to-case — but after all, finding this out for yourself is the benefit of getting to try before you buy. — Nickky Faustine P. de Guzman