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August 30, 2006

Casual Dataveillance: Shopping Coupons [6:59 am]

Clip and Save Holds Its Own Against Point and Click

“Coupons are an ingrained part of the nation’s shopping culture,” said Charles Brown, co-chairman of the Coupon Council, a coupon advocacy group.

The paper coupon, Mr. Brown insists, is a powerful marketing vehicle to reach millions of consumers and build brands and customer loyalty. Proof of the coupon’s worth, he said, is that major companies like Procter & Gamble, S. C. Johnson, General Mills and Kraft continue to rely on traditional coupons, and that the yearly number of coupons distributed keeps rising slightly.

Some marketing experts say that while old habits resist change, the demise of the paper coupon is a sure thing. It is, they say, the marketing equivalent of a blunderbuss, while the Internet offers a laser shot.

“The paper coupon is the single most inefficient marketing tool you could imagine,” said Peter Sealey, a former chief marketing officer at Coca-Cola who is a marketing consultant in Sausalito, Calif. “The traditional paper coupon is going to die. It can’t survive in the Internet world.”

[...] Coupon sites like ValPak and CoolSavings, a subsidiary of Q Interactive, offer coupons for local merchants or nationally branded products. But digital coupons are also spread across many Web sites, just as ads are. So those looking for information on baby care might see an online coupon for diapers, while a person looking at a Web site for motorcycle enthusiasts would be more likely to see a coupon for helmets or leather jackets.

That kind of selective marketing, showing consumers advertising and promotions related to their browsing interests, is the potential Internet advantage.

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