Couponing vehicles aid growth

The development of the coupon and sampling industry is probably no better evidenced than by this special report.The realization that couponing and sampling is defining itself into a discipline within the advertising community is correct and has come not a moment...

The development of the coupon and sampling industry is probably no better evidenced than by this special report.

The realization that couponing and sampling is defining itself into a discipline within the advertising community is correct and has come not a moment too soon.

Not so long ago, couponing and sampling programs were seen as quick-fix tactics that were usually ill-conceived, poorly executed, with success that was hit and miss.

Fortunately, the hits outweighed the misses and attracted more marketing dollars. This, in turn, justified more energy in developing venues and media that could be integrated into overall advertising strategies.

The direction of more dollars towards these two disciplines has not necessarily been with the blessing of the advertising community.

In fact, the traditional response by advertising agencies has been ‘that’s not our style,’ ‘it won’t work for us,’ ‘we are concentrating on the more traditional route.’

Only when the cost analysis sheet or the bottom line pitch is seen or heard by the client’s president or board of directors does the program in question get a fair hearing.

The fact is that much of the advertising community’s thought processes have been tempered by self-imposed rules of marketing dos and don’ts.

The reality is that the markets for products and/or services are changing at a pace which does not allow marketers the traditional ‘fudge factor’ that market stability once afforded them.

The intangible of creative value is being questioned and tested by nervous managers who have to answer more than ever for their bottom line.

As couponing and sampling continue to develop out of this demand for advertising dollar accountability, so the supply side or media providers continue to pull the expansion along.

Media providers’ or carriers’ willingness to offer distribution to advertisers by way of their cash register receipts, automatic banking machine transaction slips and magazine poly bag inserts offer untold opportunities for aggressive marketers to tap a defined and established customer base.

The carriers’ willingness to provide this distribution is not born from altruism.

The fact is, the carriers realize they have a definable customer base which they are willing to rent to advertisers for some hard dollar return or hard-cost savings.

Previously, these type of cross-promotions have been difficult to execute because of the many variables involved and the trouble of quantifying contributions.

Indeed, many coupon and sampling companies – mine included – exist because of our ability to structure a level playing field and negotiate terms and conditions in which carriers and would-be-advertisers can execute programs.

The tools of our trade are the physical distribution systems that exist in the natural course of the carriers’ everyday business.

Cash register tape offers a blank space on the reverse side of every transaction that can be cleverly turned into a would-be-advertiser’s next sale.

The price the would-be-advertiser pays is to buy the carriers’ cash register tape.

Similarly, product managers can identify magazine profiles that best complement their customer profiles and by placing a sample in the poly bag of the subscribers, they can turn the magazine’s distribution network into their personalized storefront.

These are but a couple of examples. Indeed, there are a myriad of different ideas popping up all the time. The problem with some of the ideas is they fall short due to some physical shortcoming or the cost of executing the program.

The advantage, however, is that the coupon and sampling distribution systems that deliver are arguably the most cost-effective way to increase sales or build store traffic.

The coupon and sampling industry will continue to feel its way through various ideas and venues.

The companies that choose to make this industry their trade will be and are successful because of their ability to structure and execute concise goal-oriented programs.

Keeping marketers informed as to the realities of the return and ensuring the measures of success applied to the media chosen are commensurate with the properties of the medium itself.

The challenge for marketers is to continue to update their thought processes as it relates to this industry and to incorporate these programs as part of their overall advertising strategy.

Robert Tanner is vice-president of marketing at Mississauga, Ont.-based NCC Promotions.