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Targeting trendsetting women, Tokyo cafe puts samples on the menu

Eating Out

Two years ago, we wrote about Tokyo’s Sample Lab, which connected brands with consumers by letting them test and take away new products. The concept was quickly picked up in other parts of the world. Now, the original Sample Lab has reopened as one-of-a-kind marketing cafe targeting Japanese women in their 20s and 30s with free samples in exchange for their visits and views, in a relaxed and informal setting. Located in Shibuya, LCAFE is well-placed to attract trendsetting shoppers. To take part, women register by mobile phone, supplying basic details about themselves such as their age, marital status and where they live. With every order of food or drinks, they receive an L Coin, which can be redeemed for free samples at the cafe’s sample bar. In a true Tokyo touch, a bar-code on members’ mobile phones allows Sample Lab to track who got which sample. After the visit, members are asked to share their views via an electronic survey, in exchange for more tokens. Samples on offer range from food and drinks to skincare products. Besides letting brands test the waters by getting consumers to try new products, LCAFE also functions as a platform for experience-based marketing. Last month, as part of a promotion for Toshiba’s new Biblio e-reader handset, the cafe printed promotional images on tables, napkins and staff uniforms. A Biblio was placed on every table, alongside a menu created specially for Toshiba. The enterprise is proving popular. Since it opened its doors two months ago, LCAFE has already registered 2,000 customers (or, as our sister-site would say, trysumers). Operating a hybrid between a regular cafe and a sampling venue makes sense from a business point of view, since it creates two streams of income. The indirect approach is also likely to attract women who wouldn’t want to be seen waiting in line for freebies. LCAFE has plans to expand into other Japanese cities and to eventually operate worldwide as a market research firm focused on young women. One to launch locally, or to reproduce for men? (Related: Tryvertising lab expands globallyVending machine dispenses free samplesSampling salons for cosmetics.) Spotted by: WSJ via Raymond Kollau



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