I have come across a blog post where the author states that “discount vouchers will destroy affiliate marketing” because consumers look for discount coupons “at the point of sale” and “not while researching retailers.” To support the claim (at least partially) the Father of Advertising, David Ogilvy, is quoted, who wrote in his “Confessions of an Advertising Man”:
A steady diet of price-off promotions lowers the esteem in which the consumer holds the product: can anything which is always sold at a discount be desirable?
I think it would be just to make an observation that the context in which Ogilvy spoke of “price-off promotions” was that of building “brand personality” — “the sharply defined” one, with the purpose of getting “the largest share of the market at the highest profit.” He warned of spending advertising funds shortsightedly (on promotions only), to the point “that there is no money left for advertising” and real brand building. Ogilvy was a proponent of building long-term marketing initiatives that are based on “brand image”. He was not anti-coupon altogether. He acknowledged that coupons and promotions can be effective when used properly — as “mini-ads, complete with brand name, promise and a miniature photograph of your product” (Ogilvy on Advertising, 1985, p. 146).
We could certainly also mention the fact that “much of the early academic research into promotions produced very critical appraisals of their effectiveness,” viewing coupons as “short-term, tactical tools, often added into the marketing mix of struggling brands to boost sales.” And we could definitely point to the fact that such research was, in fact, flawed “by ignoring the indirect effects of promotions, and by taking a very narrow view of consumer response,” neglecting the positive effect that promotions can have on the “brand’s sales, awareness levels and image,” strengthening “brand positioning”, conquering new markets, etc. (cf.: Baker, 2003, The Marketing Book. pp. 479-481) However, I do not want to go any further into this.
What I would really like to hear is what you, the readers of my blog, think about coupons and coupon affiliates. Is this a value added strategy for merchants? Are couponers helping the affiliate marketing industry, hurting it, or is it neither of these, and they are merely coexisting with other types of affiliates?
A recent study by Platform-A and IRI reported that “more than 90 million consumers (78% of retail shoppers) currently use newspaper coupons” and “nearly four out of every 10 shoppers – a total of 40 million consumers – would be very likely to use coupons accessed online.” At about the same time, Coupons.com has reported that $57m worth of coupons were printed on its website only in the course of March, which amounted to a “192% increase over the last year” [source]. Needless to say that the current state of the economy is helping online couponers. As the Voice of America website has put it today, “coupons are hot when every penny counts.”
If you have any thoughts on the subject, I’d certainly love to hear them, and you may post them them as comments below.