Home » Coupons Aren’t Bad (When They are Rare and Special)

Coupons Aren’t Bad (When They are Rare and Special)

Back in the 90’s we started a direct mail newsletter for Toy House. We sent out a mailing every other month.

Conventional Wisdom at the time said we needed to include a coupon with each mailing to help us “track the effectiveness” of the mailing. So we included a $20 off a $100 purchase coupon in each mailing.


Two things happened…

First, we never really were able to “track the effectiveness” of the newsletter, only the effectiveness of the coupon (which grew considerably in November, but waned in other months). It was hard to say whether the other articles were even read, let alone acted upon. In theory, we were told the coupon would mean that people would at least read the newsletter without throwing it away (although today I’m not sure if that was the case).

Second, we were training customers to save their big purchases until another coupon arrived. I would be showing a customer a new car seat and the first question was always, “When does your next coupon come out?”

Bed Bath and Beyond just announced that their coupon program was backfiring and causing them to lose profit as people just waited for the next coupon before they shopped. We learned that from sending out six a year. They send out one or more a week.


We decided over a decade ago that sending out multiple coupons wasn’t the answer. We shifted the direct mail newsletter to email newsletters (no coupon) and shifted the coupon to a postcard mailed only in November. Our response to that direct mail piece doubled the ROI of any previous mailings because it was Rare and Special.


Even with that shift to a once-a-year coupon, we have seen our annual mailing become less and less effective over the years. Although it is Rare, it is no longer Special. It is a foregone conclusion.

Until this year.

We’ll be doing a different type of coupon this year for two reasons.

  • First, we need to make it Special again.
  • Second, we want to shift away from the expenses of direct mail, so it will be an email coupon.

We have already begun marketing to our customers the importance of being signed up to get our emails. We have already begun prepping them that something new is going to happen this year. We have already begun the buzz and excitement as our customers are wondering what will happen.

You can use coupons in your marketing tool box. Just remember that to be most effective, they have to be both Rare and Special.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS I’ll tell you how we are going to manage an email coupon in an upcoming post. Make sure you and your fellow store owners have signed up to get this blog in your inbox.

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