Thursday, May 20, 2010

Realize That Coupons Are Marketing Tools

Tip #257 - Realize That Coupons Are Marketing Tools. Sometimes I get a little frustrated when I read what's out on the net about "saving" money because most of it revolves around how to buy things - either cheaper or how to get things for free. But in reality, the only way to save money is to buy fewer things and only the things you need at the best price possible. Then you can put more money away, which is the real definition of "saving money."

Why do manufacturers give out coupons? Is it to be nice to the consumer? Is it because they want you to get a good deal? No, they give them out because coupons make the company money. Yes, coupons make the manufacturer money. It might be in ouvert ways - the more coupons for a product that is out there, the more of a product the consumer will buy. Or, it might be in subtle ways - it gets a consumer to buy a product that she would not have bought and causes the consumer to buy that product in the future.

Don't get me wrong, I think there are some people out there getting decent deals because of coupons. There are a few good consumers who can work the system very well. They stick to a list and only buy products that are on sale at the lowest possible price. They only use coupons for something they had on their list to buy anyway. And even if an item is free, they don't get it because it's not something they would normally use, and they don't want to become attached to a product they don't need.

But I think that most people are buying additional items they would not normally buy because of coupons. And that people do not realize that when a company gives out a coupon for a free new flavor of spicy apple ice cream that it is setting the stage for the consumer to later further desire spicy apple ice cream and for it to become a regular item on the consumer's shopping list. Marketers are good like that. Remember, overall, coupons make a company money.

So next time you clip coupons, ask yourself, is this something I was going to buy anyway or am I buying it because it's a good deal? By buying a new product that cleans toilets better am I going to like the product so much that I will keep buying this product in the future? If the answer to either of these is yes, then that coupon is costing you more money than it is are saving you. So if you plan on using coupons, make sure you only use them for items on your list that you were going to buy anyway. Companies make money on the coupons overall, but they don't make money on each and every person who uses their coupons. Be one of the people who they don't make money on.

In Real Life (IRL) - I am not anti-coupon. But I do think people are giddier about them than they should be. There are better ways to save money - that is put more money away in savings. So coupons should only be a tool in building up savings, not just a way to "save" money.

Using coupons on products that were on my shopping list anyway really do save me money. But I realize that when I use one for a product that wasn't on my list, then I am buying something I was not going to buy. And that does not save me money. It costs me money. And getting a new item for free is a cheap way for a company to get me to test their item and start to like it and want to use it. I know. It's happened to me before.

Yesterday, I got in the mail a sample pack from Nabisco and other companies. Inside were free samples of a new flavor of Wheat Thins - a flavor I had never tried before and one I had about 0% chance of buying in the future. I very rarely buy Wheat Thins. And I have never bought any flavored ones. But when I opened up the package to taste them, I found them to be delicious so much so that I opened up a second package and ate that one, too - bad I know. But they were so good. Then my 5-year old ate a package and loved them as well. "Mommy, can you please buy these again?" she asked. Ah yes, the power of marketing. That free sample is going to cost me money, and Nabisco is the one who is going to make it off me.

One more example - Before last year I had never tried Honey Bunches of Oats cereal. It never struck me as a cereal I would particularly like, and I never purchased it. But about 6 or more months ago, I clipped out a high-value coupon for the cereal. And there was a great deal at our supermarket for it, so I combined the coupon and the sale and bought a box. And guess what? I really like Honey Bunches of Oats. And so do my kids. I have added it to my regular shopping list.

Now I almost always only purchase cereal when it's on sale and when I have a coupon. But a few weeks ago I bought a box that was on sale but for which I had no coupon. We were running low on cereal and it was still a decent price but not the lowest price possible. So I am not a perfect couponer or shopper. If I were, I wouldn't have been running low on cereal or I would have bought a different cereal I could get at my target price. I slipped. I bought something I wanted even though it wasn't the best price I could get it for. And that's how Honey Bunche of Oats has made money off me. And that's how they make it off you, too. So realize that coupons are a marketing tool for the company, and then use your coupons wisely.


Mom2fur said...

I don't think there's anything wrong with a company making money. There are TV commercials that annoy me because they act like they really, really care (I'm thinking the Dove Campaign for Beauty, for example) but the bottom line is that they are in business, and business is meant to make money. Again, nothing wrong with that. It's up to us as consumers to make the right choices. Yes, I buy new things with coupon/sale combos. And I've found things I really, really like. But I'll also do without such items until the deal comes around again. I like those 3-in-1 washing machine sheets but I won't pay full price for them. (BTW, I cut them up so they last 3x as long as the box says.) So I just make do with my cheaper but still efficient detergent for a few months. Everything is cyclical.
Your cracker story is really funny--I'd probably eat two bags, too. You could make them the occasional treat, but if you see them go on sale, try checking out the Nabisco site to see if there are coupons there.
I'm sorry this is so long, but one more thing: I've been an avid couponer for years, but had to remind myself to start taking inventory. I have 8 tubes of toothpaste, so I'm not buying it for a while. My stockpile (food and non-food) is so full that there is little I need each week. Can you believe I recently bought almost $250 worth of groceries for $98 and only used 2 coupons? I stocked up on some amazing meat buys so now I have plenty to work with at mealtime.
I better sign comment is turning into a book, LOL!

FoodontheTable said...

You make such a good point. I used to look for coupons, but then I realized that what I saw, I really didn't need and would end up spending extra money on the item. Now, I make my list of things that I NEED. Then, if something has a coupon, that's an added bonus.

Emily on the Southern Prairie said...

Yes! Thank you. Coupons are designed to make you buy more (not just of the 'for sale' item, but other items while you are browsing) -- and also for companies to unload stuff they made too much of.

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