Why Coupon Expiration Dates Are Impossible to Read

I can count at least five magnifying glasses around my house, one of which has permanent residence in my coupon bag. Now, I’m over 50 and need new glasses, but even when I ask one of my 20/20 vision teen kids to help me read an expiration date on a coupon, they have a tough time. Naturally, I need a magnifier. 

So, if manufacturers SAY they want us to use coupons, why are the expiration dates printed in a nearly negative font size or just plain unreadable font?

I think the reason is this: they (and I mean manufacturers and retailers) really DON’T care if you use the coupon or not–and they kinda don’t want you to use it, actually. 

coupons and magnifying items
A few of my magnifying tools necessary to read coupons!

WHY? Well, if you ever wondered why, in this digital age, print coupons are still available in your Sunday newspapers, it’s this: it’s a great way of advertising a new product. It’s a great and cost-effective way of advertising, period. I gleaned this from a post I saw on fact-finding site, Quora.com, which I have posted here (here is one former brand manager’s answer, but there were a couple more answers along the same lines–be sure to read halfway into the quote…) – and PS: CPG means “consumer packaged goods.”

Online couponing versus offline couponing: Why are CPG companies still spending millions on offline promotions?

answered by a  former P&G brand manager (I have chosen to not put his name here)

“Why? Because it works. The important question here is “how do they work since redemption rates seem so low?
Yes, redemption rates are very low (though there is a big range depending on offer/category). Your question seems to assume that a low redemption rate translates into ineffectiveness for the marketer. This is not necessarily the case. Here are some of the reasons brands use “traditional coupons”:
  1. Trial – The most obvious use. Most folks assume that coupons are used to try and get new consumers trying the product (trial) given the discount. In theory a new consumer who tries the product and likes it, will continue to buy it even without a coupon if it serves them well.
  2. Switchers – There’s a certain population who are not brand loyal in a # of categories and will buy whatever is on sale. They’re willing to do the “extra work”of clipping coupons, so its effective price discrimination (in that it still allows regular folks to pay full price).

But those aren’t the real reason couponing is so effective. This is:

  1. Merchandising – CPG brands work with retailers to create a merchandising calendar. Things like a strong coupon (high-value) can entice a retailer to offer a temporary price reduction and/or a featured spot in the weekly circular and prominent display in end of aisle, etc. This is the big deal that results in a significant sales bump. FSCI (Free Standing Coupon Inserts) weeks are typically a brand’s best sales week in a given month.

Since, for most CPG brands, the majority of sales are in-store, offline coupons are one of the most-effective marketing levers. If retailers change how they treat coupons, that would change the equation.”

Now, I don’t profess to know the cost to the manufacturer of having a coupon show up in various regional “offline” inserts or what the co-op deals would be in the grocery biz (when companies partner to pay for ads). It’s probably a lot less expensive than having to buy one full-page, four-color national consumer magazine ad and definitely less expensive than a national tv spot! I truly don’t think the coupon redemption percentage (I believe 1%) matches how many eyes actually SEE the coupon (many, many more!). Plus, the retailers partner with the manufacturer with targeted POP, circular and in-store promos. If you are a manufacturer, what better bang for your buck than to show up in a coupon circular?

And…have you noticed the trend in companies that simply place “ads” in the circulars WITHOUT A COUPON? They vaguely direct you to their website or they have a code to scan or some useless thing on their page.

Any thoughts on why you think expiration dates are impossible to read?


One thought on “Why Coupon Expiration Dates Are Impossible to Read

  1. Oh my goodness! Awesome article dude! Many thanks,
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