We launched Tokenvape around 8 months ago. In that time we have learned a lot about the vaping industry and still feel we have much to learn about new things and ways to approach business everyday. However, whilst I was aware of this phenomena as 'a thing' (which seems to be slightly unique to this industry) namely: people expecting (occasionally demanding) free stuff. All the time. Like daily. No really.
I'm going to let you few who read these blogs into a little secret, Tokenvape is a tiny, tiny company. It is literally just me and my chemist with the (gratefully accepted) occasional helping hands of my wife. That's it. We are not Cuttwoods, Charlies Chalk Dust, One Hit Wonder or any number of global vaping super brands you want to think of. As a result, how much 'free stuff' (or actual stock as we call it here) do you think we have just 'laying about?' I'm trying not to go off on a violin filled 'oh poor me' segment here, but I do feel it prudent to mention that Tokenvape as a business is still in its infancy. For a year I made no income. If it wasn't for my wife supporting me whilst I sampled, tested and designed flavours for months and months, there would be no Tokenvape at all. This means, we went into significant debt, just to start the company.
The initial stock and development of new stock simply paid for the next batch of materials needed to make new stock, it did not go into the Tokenvape bank.
So what does all this mean with regards to samples and freebies? Essentially, it means there are no such things in Tokenvape. It means everything we buy and produce is meant for stock. If a reviewer, distributor, shop or whoever gets a freebie, know that's coming from our stock. Of course, sometimes we can make this work (and have done) but not always. We take the hit in the hope, that sample can go on and get our name out there among vapers and store owners alike.
Advertising is a costly venture in any business, though it is harder in an industry which is still very young and still frowned upon by a huge swathe of the world. Our marketing budget (ha!) was and still is nonexistent. We rely on the good word of our brand, of vapers liking our liquids as well as reviews and social media to slowly get out there about our little company. And we are truly grateful to all of you for this.
Where does this idea that companies have huge amounts of stuff around to give away come from?
Some of the requests I've had are a bit crazy. Every day, usually multiple times, I will have requests for freebies from someone. Be it a YouTube channel which has just started out with around 6 subs
and on average 2 views per video. Be it someone who has just found us on Instagram or wherever and I suspect, asks every company he or she comes across for free stuff. Sometimes I'll get asked for 'sponsorship'. I'll be honest, I'm old, I've been vaping for over 5 years, I had no idea until fairly recently what this even meant. You want me to sponsor you to, er, vape? And that involves me giving you free stuff every month (sometimes this is requested per week!) to, er, say you like my brand? What is this? Essentially you are being asked to pay someone to say how great you are.
Do these people go to other stores and request free things I wonder? I'm left scratching my head at the response this would get if they asked in HMV or Tesco or wherever: "Hey, I really like DVDs, your brand looks great, can I have some of yours?" Whilst I appreciate that the people making these requests couldn't know this, but I often get more requests for freebies per day then I do actual sales! Simple economics tells you that can't work. Is this a by-product of over saturation in the market? I guess it could be, but i mentioned earlier, I don't think the expectation for free products in other industries is so widely accepted. Are people wandering into their local newsagents and asking for samples of Malboro, Benson and Hedges and Lambert and Butler?
The last four reviews (among others) on YouTube actually bought the product from our web-store. That may seem a crazy novel concept, but I, as a e-liquid manufacturer really appreciate that gesture. You are far more likely to get a significant discount / one or two chucked in for free if you approach me like that.
It was on the vaping forums I started to see why it is now a popular view that companies can and will give out huge amounts of free eliquid like it's nothing. I've seen a lot of photos from vapers getting back from expos and festivals with their freebie hauls. Suicide Bunny at Vape Jam UK 2015 definitely went to that event with a freebie game plan. The sheer numbers of bottles they gave away and which were then shown in proud 'look at all this free stuff I got' photos was frankly, incredible. Full 30ml bottles of their entire range, given away in their thousands.
Whilst as a customer at such an event I could see how awesome that would be, as a vendor I'm left working out the staggering cost they must have incurred doing that. As a US based company they must have paid a hefty fee to ship all that over, not to mention the production cost, from the liquids, to the bottles, to packaging and everything else the operation required. Yet, as both a vendor and
vaper I'm also left wondering, have they not seen the irony in suggesting you have this premium, excellent quality, awesome tasting juice, which is then rendered worthless?
They are essentially saying: "Our juice is so premium and amazing we give it all away...."
I would love to know what the sales metrics are on all the freebie juice people get from expos. What percentage of those receiving (sometimes) entire rucksacks of free juice, go on to then buy said juice at retail? I wonder what the conversion rate is, i suspect it is actually very low. What is more, is the damaging long term impact upon the industry as a whole.
People expect and occasionally demand you supply them with free bottle after bottle of juice, because they have had this in the past from others. it has become a normalized expectation. This might be sustainable if you are a huge global company, with endless marketing budgets and 'snap back cool branding', but if your small, like us, it is unrealistic and unworkable. Just because these massive companies have managed to get their production costs down to so low they can take the hit on thousands of pounds worth of free stock, it doesn't
mean we all can.
To date, I've been given one freebie bottle of juice. A 10ml sample of Snake Oil at Vapefest 2015. I've vaped for over 5 years and bought every single bit of kit and every single bottle of juice I own (believe me, that it's been a lot of juice). I don't ask for freebies and I do not expect them.
I truly appreciate people want to try our brand, I know our stuff is good! It took us a very long time to perfect. The reviews speak for themselves (look here for hours of them). There's a reason just months after launch our brand was in a leading UK brick and mortar chain. But please, this is a business and my only income. This job
pays for my mortgage, my bills, for my stock, my everything. Tokenvape isn't a charity shop, so please, give it a rest asking for free stuff all the time.
If I had the kind of money Suicide Bunny and others clearly have to throw around on free juice and samples for all, rest assured, I would. If you want to try Tokenvape, we've launched an affordable 10ml line, give it a shot and tell us what you think! Failing that, if you live near Devon; VapourStation, some Flavour Vapour (whilst remaining stocks last) and City Vaper stores carry us, request to try our line on a dripper. I'm confident that you won't be disappointed.
Support your home grown small UK businesses! With the fast approaching toll of the 'TPD death bell', it may not be around for much longer. We will need all the help we can get.
Future freebie requests will be directed to this Blog.
Ross - Tokenvape