Is it just me or is GWP one of the most wonderful acronyms ever? Some of you (especially those with a shopping habit like mine, and/or some experience in retail) may know that a GWP,to is a "gift with purchase", a common marketing tool used in the cosmetics industry (hence the 51% though I know not all women use cosmetics...I'm being a little sensationalist today). My recent need to replace one favored berry lip gloss led me to the Estee Lauder counter where I may or may not have said "cha-ching!" out loud when I noticed that they were offering a GWP.

I've never worked in the cosmetics industry, but I think that GWPs can be brilliant marketing and I'm wondering why the practice has such limited application (one exception I can remember was when homegrocer.com was still in business and always included a nice surprise in my delivery). I've been curious, though, about how products for the GWP are selected. Obviously the GWPs are designed to draw in sales. Not sure whose product you want? Go for the one with the GWP. Thinking about trying something new? Act now while there's a GWP. You can take sales away from competitors, you can generate new sales. It's a beautiful thing.

I suspect that there's some customer research that goes into what products go into a GWP. Generally, there's a pretty cheap cosmetic bag. That's a given. If not that, maybe a compact mirror or something. My question is this: are the products selected based on extra products on hand (things that may not be selling as well as expected) or the most popular products? And then, digging deeper, I guess I want to know if the selected products are chosen to make that initial sale (the one that the GWP comes with...which would support the idea of just using the stuff that you have in stock if you feel that people are attracted to the freeness as a concept versus the actual products) or is it to get people to try other products (maybe some of your best sellers or some newly introduced products)? And I want to know if, based on research, products are selected based on color, features or overstock. And what impact GWPs have on overall brand loyalty (I admit it, I am not a one-brand kind of gal).

At the end of the day, the GWP is brilliant, I think because people like the idea of getting something for free (for a second, let's take the simple approach and believe that there's such a thing as "free"). As long as the practice is based on research, you pretty much can't lose with the GWP. Me, I'm just a sucker for travel sizes of things like mascara because packing for a trip and dumping all your "full-sized" stuff into your bag isn't as much fun (and if you are going to have an allergic reaction to a product you have never tried before, you may as well do it on vacation). And also, one time I did find my "perfect shade" of lipstick in a GWP. I'm just hoping that there's a reader out there that has had some exposure to the strategies behind the GWP that can help to satisfy my curiosity.  I need to know! I just think that GWPs can leave a customer feeling so good about their purchase, get additional product into their hands and impact their selection decision when they are faced with many options. Great marketing tool. Man, I miss homegrocer.com. Come back Peach Guy!

And also to see if someone can tell me of a situation outside the cosmetics industry where this practice has been applied effectively (and what kind of research was behind it). My guess is that it would have to be a high-touch sales situation. Any thoughts?

And since I am asking questions, I'm wondering if one of you can tell me what it is that makes the lobby of the Westin Times Square smell so good (yes..."good!"), if all Westin's smell like that and where I can get some. I know there's one reader out there that has the answer (you know who you are).