Coupon and discount promotions have long been a staple of marketing strategy and as such deployed by communication professionals.  We know that redemption rates are low, but for purveyors of toothpaste, breakfast cereal or any item at a big box retailer, the redemption rate can generally be predicted based on decades of data.  We also know that some people take more advantage of these opportunities than others, even if only because of a coupon clipping aunt who took the concept of home economics to an extreme.  She may even have been the force behind a neighborhood coffee Klatch devoted to exchanging coupons and discount secrets.  Hmmm…  a community…

Today the ability of Aunt Martha to organize similarly minded consumers has elevated to an insane pitch. Web sites such as A Full Cup aggregate coupons and act as a portal to deals and a central community for exchanging tips and information.

My wife “dabbles” in these communities, but has a sister who appears to be entrenched.  Recently, they recruited me to act as what could only be described as an “operative” in an expedition to take advantage of a rumored deep discount of toys at a major retailer near my office.  With a mobile phone pinned to my ear in the toy department, I felt like a member of some underground conspiracy, and actually thought the stock clerk was following me.  I found… nothing out of the ordinary, but I did buy a few things.

After that experience, I touched base with contacts in promotions at a couple of Twin Cities retail and consumer packaged goods firms about these 21st century Save Mavens.  Their opinion – that it was fine if the centralizing of incentives provided positive impact to redemption and promotion.  However, an appropriate level of disdain exists when the organizers and community members appear to be pursuing and promoting ways to “cheat the system.”  In other words, combining incentives on a single product until it is nearly free – go for it.  Generating false receipts or other materials to receive rebates for items never purchased… that’s fraud.

When you think about the effort and engagement these folks put into finding and aggregating discounts on a tube of toothpaste, the number of customer touch points associated with the sale increases dramatically.  One might argue that even though the double-dipping consumer may be put one over on the manufacturer, they are certainly more engaged with the brand that the person in the aisle staring at the wall of boxes simply hoping to find a paste without sparkles or vanilla-mint flavoring.