History Of Coupons

by Scott Bradley · 2 comments

Have you ever thought about where coupons came from, or researched the history of coupons and how they relate to national and global commerce?

Well, one initial interesting statistic about coupons is that companies have been using coupons to market products to the masses for over 110 years.

Each and every day as we open up the newspaper, we are exposed to coupons. You know…the square and rectangular pieces of paper that show us how we can save money on products we normally buy in stores and on the internet.

Coupons have an interesting history dating back to the 1800’s.

Coca-Cola Paves The Way

In 1894 the Atlanta businessman and co-owner of Coca-Cola, Asa Chandler, wanted to use an innovative way to market his new drink that was never tried before.

With the goal of becoming a household name and selling a ton of product, he created hand written tickets for a free glass of Coca-Cola. He strategically placed them in magazines and even sent out direct mailers to potential interested buyers of the soft drink.

This innovative advertising worked as more than eight billion free Coca-Cola drinks were given out for free. The rest is history. To say this brand and product has become household name is an understatement as they still generate billions of dollars per year selling this drink we all know and love.

Bring On The Grape Nuts

After the wildly successful campaign pioneered by Coca-Cola starting in 1894, in the year 1909, exactly 15 years later, a man by the name of C.W. Post decided to leverage the use of coupons to increase his sales of Grape Nuts cereal.

As we all know, Grape Nuts can still be found in the cereal isle of most grocery stores!

C.W. Post began his campaign by giving people who used the coupon a one cent discount off of his cereal. One cent may not seem a lot, but in 2010 dollars and cents that was about a 24-25 cent discount on his products if we fast forwarded time to today’s current economy.

This was the beginning of businesses really starting to use and leverage this creative form of advertising that put Coca-Cola and Grape Nuts on the map.

The Great Depression Hits

In the 1930’s the great depression hit America, when saving money on goods and services became a necessity to survive if you wanted to eat somewhat decently. As everyone had lost their fortunes betting on the hopes and dreams of the stock market, and while work was scarce, cutting coupons during the 30’s became commonplace.

This widespread behavior of clipping coupons in society ushered its way into the future, molding and adjusting to the times and many different technologies ahead.

From Neighborhood Grocery Stores To Massive Supermarket Chains

During the 1940’s after overcoming the depression in America, large scale supermarket chains began to adopt the use of coupons to increase sales in their stores. The transition from only having coupons available to local grocery stores to allowing large chain supermarkets to leverage this new marketing tactic as well was ground breaking.

Because supermarkets move a massive amount of volume, they could also leverage their ever-growing reach by using national newspaper and media to get these coupons in the hands of their customers.

By 1965 it is estimated that at least 50% of all Americans were using coupons in some form or another as saving money is and was something everyone was focusing on as time continued to pass.

The Internet Changes The Game

With the dawn of the internet the use and delivery of coupons changed yet again as people began to start shopping online to learn about products that they would buy offline in the local stores and malls that were close to them.

Around 1995 coupons started showing up on the internet for internet purchases, and offline purchases of goods and services. Companies used the internet to distribute coupons to those who were looking to save money, and gave customers the option to print out the coupons to bring into the store to redeem.

This was yet another amazing innovation in the use of coupons, and exciting for major supermarket chains and retailers as this new medium only brought more opportunity to everyone who was involved.

The Future Of Coupons

The future of coupons is somewhat uncertain. As newspapers continue to die, and more and more people flock to the internet for all of their news and content, one can only guess about what the future holds for companies who rely on coupons to get their message out to sell their products and services.

What do you think is in store for those companies who use coupons? Do you think their future is bright, or do you feel they will need to find other creative ways to get people to buy their products!?


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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Guide To Useful Websites March 7, 2010 at 12:39 am

I believe that coupons will still be around and as technology advances, the companies will definitely have to find more creative ways to distribute these coupons. For example, people are now using their mobile to shop online and can now scan their phones to redeem coupons. For the future i can only imagine that people may can just scan the palm of their hands to redeem coupons. who knows!

Shannon November 23, 2010 at 11:26 am

Please recheck your stat: “This innovative advertising worked as more than eight billion free Coca-Cola drinks were given out for free. ”

I saw this error reprinted in another blog – the wikipedia article says 8.5 million, not billion. There are not even 8 billion people in the world today.

Also, I would take the wikipedia article with a grain of salt, given that that particular fact (and many others in the article) are unsourced.

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