Wednesday, 23 July 2014



Allegedly, the First Taste Is Free


All of us have encountered free product samples. Envelopes of perfume or dish detergent routinely turn up in magazines or pieces of direct mail. T-shirt matched gangs of cheery young people hand out single serve portions of snacks or beverages at public events. There are enough in store demos at Costco to comprise a nice if rather varied full meal. I’ve discreetly eaten my weight in spicy sausage samples whilst shopping at the Italian Centre. Providing free samples to consumers is a reliable tactic for launching a new brand, a brand extension or reinvigorating awareness of an established one. Ideally the activity creates a little buzz.


And buzz brings us to a trio of alleged would-be cocaine dealers here in Edmonton. Apparently entrepreneurial new kids on the underworld block armed with a marketing plan which must’ve seemed brilliant when it was conceived late one night. Why not give away half gram samples of the product? Better idea! Let’s ensure each free toot comes complete with our contact info for the ease of potential repeat paying customers! And let’s distribute the samples in Old Strathcona where all the hipsters, bikers, students and the walking dead of the addicted fringe hangout! It’s the perfect demographic, the ideal target market.


Allegedly this is exactly what our three budding marketing gurus, none of whom is older than 25, did. Two blocks from a police station. This morning’s Edmonton Journal quotes a police spokesman describing the suspects’ very traditional marketing scheme as ‘very out there.’ The arrestees have been charged with trafficking and possession for the purpose and living off the proceeds of crime. The article does not indicate whether the officer was able to keep a straight face for the duration of the press conference.

Alas, there is no provision in the Criminal Code of Canada for harsher penalties for really dumb convicted bad guys; oh, say five additional years in the pen atop the maximum sentence currently allotted. So they will have dodged that fantastical Darwin Awards bullet. It’s possible they may have avoided a hail of real ones too. Criminal start-ups are obviously risky ventures and organized crime adheres to an enviable if lethal model of self-regulation. Best not to undercut established black market prices; not even for a glitzy, alleged product launch from the cab of a pickup truck near happening Whyte Avenue. Our heroes may be very fortunate indeed even as they enjoy the unfailing hospitality of the Edmonton Police Service.

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