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Coupon Advertising

Back in the Spotlight

Coupons are deeply rooted in American culture and have been making a major comeback in recent years. When Coca-Cola became incorporated in 1887, they issued tickets redeemable for a glass of Coke. Record number of people tried the drink and became hooked, which probably explains the explosion of cavities in the 1890’s. During the Great Depression in the 1930’s families relied on coupons to help them afford the most essential goods. In the 1980’s, we began to see coupons in the newspaper, leading to a clipping frenzy.

Now with a shaky economy and rising prices on just about everything, there has been a resurgence of the popularity of coupons. Instead of feeling shame at trying to save fifty cents on a box of crackers, people are proud of how much they can manage to save. There are even blogs and reality television shows dedicated to the masters of the coupon game.

Going digital

Though the basic principles behind coupons are the same, technology is certainly changing the game. Yes, there are still people dedicated to combing through the Sunday newspaper and carefully clipping out their coupons, but we now have more options.

There are entire websites dedicated to online coupons, which can be redeemed in store or online. The grocery store cashier can even scan a barcode on your phone to redeem email and some online coupons.

Group-buying websites, like Groupon and LivingSocial have completely revolutionized the way businesses can offer discounts. The website offers a steeply discounted deal, but the price only goes into effect once a certain number of people have committed to the offer. This way, the business issuing the deal has a guaranteed number of new customers. This structure promotes a sense of urgency, making people more likely to purchase the deal.

Digitized coupons aren’t just convenient for the shopper, they also offer many benefits for the vendor. Sites like Groupon can track exactly how many coupons are purchased and redeemed, as well as how many web surfers checked out the deal in the first place. Rebecca Jami is a graphic designer at Empowered Women International and the owner of Jami Production and Design, as well as a graduate of the Art Institute of Pittsburgh. “This level of analysis of a target market provides valuable insight on current shopping trends. This type of feedback would not be possible without technology,” she says.

When it comes to designing coupons for digital devices, graphic designer and Art Institute of Pittsburgh alumni John Hapach explains the importance of relying on the same basic principles as you would for print. “This is just another medium, we have to take our design principles and translate them to the new media.”

What’s in it for the vendor?

How would a business benefit from offering their product at half the normal price? Logically, it seems like they would take a loss. But not necessarily. If a company plays the coupon game right, they can increase their exposure, infiltrate new markets, and gain repeat customers. Some coupons also lead to store traffic, making shoppers more likely to make impulse purchases. “Many times if coupons are given to the loyal buyers the trend shows it increases the average order size,” says Jami.

However, it is not all about giving the biggest discount. The rate of conversion is important, the number of coupons which actually result in a sale. It is essential that the effectiveness of the coupon campaign is tracked, so that the business owner can determine what works best for them. “If the data is captured and analyzed effectively, coupon marketing can be very effective,” says Jami.

Who it can work for?

Coupons don’t work for everyone. “Typically, coupons are associated with bargain buying, therefore discount stores and cost effective department store chains can benefit from strong coupon marketing as compared to high end retail stores. When quality is important, coupon marketing usually takes a lower priority,” says Jami. This explains why you can find a coupon for a pack of toilet paper, but not this season’s must-have Chanel handbag.

Best Practices

Coupons seem like very simple designs, but there are definitely some elements to consider in order to make them effective. The trick is to make the coupon as simple as possible while still conveying the most important information immediately. “Buyers want to know the details up-front rather than having to read small print,” says Jami.

According to Hapach, the same design principles that were used to create coupons decades ago are still important. The basic rules of design never change, they are just adapted for the media. So when considering a coupon that will be viewed on a smart phone, you can still rely on the on the tried and true design principles of print. Always offer the price discount at the forefront, whether it is a certain percent off or another specific discount.

While it is essential to offer a great discount, a coupon is not complete without a call to action. The consumer needs to be told specifically what to do, like, “Stop by today and receive half off your oil change.” According to Jami, “If the value proposition is clearly explained, the call-to-action rate is always high. “

Hapach explains the problem with conveying too much information in a coupon. “It’s bad retail when you draw attention to everything, it becomes noise and is too hard to distill.” Well thought out design is still important, even in something as small as a coupon.


Rebecca Jami, AI Pittsburgh alumni,  http://www.jamiprodesign.com/

John Hapach, graphic designer and AI Pittsburgh alumni http://www.behance.net/JohnHapach

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