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The Anatomy of a Good Coupon Ad: What to Include and What to Avoid

5/14/18 8:20 AM

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Six months ago Rick invested in register tape advertising for his restaurant. After hearing success stories from other restaurant owners, Rick expected to get a quick return on his investment. Now six months have gone by and only one new customer has come in from the campaign. Determined to find the source of the problem, Rick goes to the grocery store to see the receipts first-hand. Much to his surprise, Rick's offers aren't nearly as good as he thought they were! His $2 off an entree pales in comparison to the other offers, and the colors he insisted on using are muddy and unappealing. Realizing he's made a huge mistake, Rick rushes back to the restaurant to call his Marketing Consultant, ask for forgiveness, and get his coupon advertising campaign back on track.  

To be effective, a coupon advertisement must have a compelling and profitable offer, displayed in a way that is eye-catching and easy-to-read. Here are several things to include, and not include, when designing coupon ads. 

What to Include

  • Added Value: Consumers use coupons that get them a good deal but, "a good deal" for the consumer doesn't have to mean a loss in profits for you. A good coupon shows consumers what they can gain (an additional product or extra dessert) rather than what they can lose (25% off). Research shows that when an offer is framed as an increase in quantity rather than a decrease in price consumers feel the value is higher than the actual discount. Since most consumers don't crunch numbers right before a purchase, you can offer a discount that adds value to the consumer at a price that is still profitable for your business.
  • A compelling call to action: With your established value in mind, use as much real estate on the coupon as possible to deliver a call to action, such as “Buy one, get one free”,  “50 percent off”, or “Free fries with the purchase of a burger”. 
  • Colors and images: A coupon on the back of a receipt may be small, but it can still be visually appealing and pop off the paper. Use vibrant but complementary colors to make your ad stand out, and add photos—perhaps of a menu item or the service you offer—to give consumers a better representation of your business.
  • Personalization: Since your coupon ads will run at a specific grocery store, you can use geographic and demographic information associated with the store to personalize your coupons. Things like age, gender, and cultural trends (sports teams, local celebrities, and town holidays) can be included in your ad to grab the attention of shoppers.
  • Basic information about your business: Don’t forget to include the vital info about your business: address, phone number, website, expiration date, and—if you have room (you don’t want your ad to be too busy)—hours of operation and social media handles.

What Not to Include

  • Not enough value: A dollar off a $20 entrée or $5 off a $200 service simply is not enough incentive to use a coupon. In order to make an ROI on your advertising investment, your coupon offer has to be aggressive enough to prompt customers to walk through your door.
  • No offer at all: Some businesses might try getting away with advertising on receipts without offering a coupon. This doesn’t work well—instead of saving the receipt for the coupon, the consumer simply tosses it and forgets your ad was ever there. (If your business doesn’t lend itself to receipt coupons, try another grocery store advertising option.)
  • Too many choices: Two or three good offers on a coupon give the consumer the power of choice. Any more than that can be overwhelming, potentially confusing the shopper to the point of simply ignoring the ad.
  • Everything: Trying to cram too much information on a business-card-sized ad is a sure way to guarantee the customer won’t read it. Shrinking the font size won’t help either—the reader shouldn’t need a magnifying glass to read your phone number. Include only the information that helps sell your offer, reasonably fits, and looks good.
Anna Ruby

Written by Anna Ruby

Marketing Analyst. Theatre nerd. Dog-lover. Obstacle course-racer. Small business owner.