The Evolution of Coupons
Coupons have been a popular marketing tool ever since Coca-Cola introduced the first coupon in 1887. Today, couponing is a way of life for many shoppers, helping them save thousands of dollars each year. Now you can use a coupon to save on everything from groceries to hair cuts to oil changes.
That very first coupon was the idea of Asa Candler, an Atlanta businessman. Candler’s idea was to offer a coupon for a free Coca-Cola, which he had begun marketing after purchasing the Coca-Cola formula from its inventor. By 1913, 8.5 million free drinks had been enjoyed by Americans. The promotion was so popular that it helped the company push the product into every state in the country.
Coca-Cola distributed its “free Coca-Cola” coupon by mailing them to potential customers and placing them in magazines. Rather than asking stores to mail in the coupon after it had been claimed, the company gave free syrup to stores in advance to cover the free drinks.
Another boost for couponing came in the Great Depression. Manufacturers offered discounts for cereal and food items to help boost sales and get products into the hands of the customers that needed them. Post Cereals distributed savings offers in an effort to increase sales, which further increased the popularity of the coupon.
In 1940, grocery stores started offering printed store discounts to attract customers. The money these stores lost through discounted prices was made up for by the new business they took away from the competition.
Nielsen Coupon Clearing House was created in 1957. Its sole purpose was coupon redemption to help stores get their money back and make it easier for consumers and stores to use these valuable pieces of paper.
The recession in the late 2000s also saw a boost in coupon use, with 75.8 percent of American consumers using coupons for purchases in 2008. Although the recession is over, coupon use is actually higher now than it was then, with nearly 80 percent of consumers using coupons.
Today, consumers can find a coupon for nearly everything. Grocery stores remain a popular venue for couponing, but you can also find discounts for hair cuts, clothing, car repairs, pet supplies, and just about anything else. Using coupon books and catalogs received in the mail remains popular, but manufacturers and stores also offer printable coupons that customers can print at home to take to the store with them. Digital offers via email and text message are also becoming popular as the growth of mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets increases.