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Sorting Through Couponing in the Mobile Age

by Susan Zweibaum on October 21, 2015

Once upon a time, consumers would clip their coupons from their Sunday FSI circulars, take them to the store and turn them in for their discount. Consumer goods manufacturers incented their consumers to try new products, buy multiples or use the FSI as another form of advertising.While the idea of the coupon has not gone away by any stretch of the imagination, how consumers want to interact with them has. Mobile has changed everything – sort of. People want to use their phones for everything including cashing a coupon.

They assume because they can pay for their Starbucks with a swipe of their phone or use a coupon on their phone when they shop at the Gap that they can do the same with coupons in the grocery or big box store. Manufacturers want to take advantage of this trend and deliver mobile coupons to their consumers. Unfortunately, reality makes things a bit more complicated. Consumers and manufacturers are moving faster than the redemption agencies and retailers can keep up and this has made the coupon landscape confusing especially for those either just entering or trying to re-enter after an absence.

So, let’s start with the issue of technology. Retailers and manufacturers work with redemption agencies to be the financial go-between these two entities for coupons. Retailers collect the coupons and send them to the manufacturer’s agency who records and then bills the manufacturer for the coupons redeemed so that the retailers are refunded for the coupon. This is all based on a physical coupon that can be audited and checked for fraud. Simple, right? Not so much when you involve the mobile coupon. The retailer would theoretically scan the mobile coupon and take the discount as they would with a printed coupon. But then what? They don’t have a physical coupon to send to the agency and there is no way to account for fraud. How does that discount get communicated back to the manufacturer? It can be done in theory, but at this point there is no consistent technology that all of the retailers can use. Internal systems are different and while the redemption agencies are working them to come up with a solution there currently isn’t one. What this means is that the product manufacturer needs to come up with alternatives to get mobile coupons to their consumers that want them. You may be asking – why can the retailers do mobile coupons for their stores? The answer is simple, it is their store and/or product so if a mobile coupon is used there is nothing that goes back to the manufacturer, it is just treated like a sale price.

What are the manufacturers to do if they want to engage in mobile coupons? There are options out there and the key is to determine which best meets your needs.

Coupon Apps
There are many coupon apps out there. Some names you may have heard of and others newer – RetailMeNot, Coupon Sherpa, Ibotta. These work by providing coupons to retailers such as Gap, Aeropostal and Babies R Us. The problem here is that it doesn’t support manufacturer’s coupons. A new company, MobiSave, is coming out with an app that allows you to choose your offer and then scan your receipt within the app. The consumer will then get refunded the coupon amount via PayPal.

coupons incLoad-to-Card
Coupons, Inc., News America and a number of others now have deals with the grocery and big box manufacturers to load special offers/coupons directly to your frequent shopper card. When you scan the product at check-out it deducts like a coupon.

Store Coupons
One way to bypass the coupon redemption issue is to create a joint partnership with a retailer such as CVS, Babies R Us, Target, etc. You create an offer that is pushed out to consumers so that it is downloadable onto their phone. The consumer scans the coupon at the register like they would any other retailer coupon.

The Future
One only hopes that the retailers and the redemption agencies get their act together and figure out a solution so that consumers can use their phone for manufacturers coupons. Until then, consumers will have to print coupons from their computer or clip them from the Sunday circular.

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Perception is Reality In the Agency-Client Relationship Game

by Susan Zweibaum on February 13, 2012

I came across this poster in one of my LinkedIn groups and it made me wonder – if these perceptions are accurate it may explain the generally dysfunctional relationships clients and agencies have with one another.  It may also explain why it appears so difficult to get things done in an agency.

I have spoken before about how to improve these relationships, but I guess we need to go to the beginning and ask why do these negative perceptions exist in the first place and what you can do to correct them.  Maybe by understanding the perceptions better you can improved the relationships.  I’m going to start with the client perceptions since it always seems to come back to the client.

The Client

You didn’t know your agency thinks that way about you?  While not all agencies think this way about their clients, I have known plenty that have.  I recently spoke to a former vendor who informed me that people within her organization refused to work with one of their clients as this specific manager drove them to drink.  The client had no idea!  All the agencies literally danced on their desks when she left the company.  These negative perceptions exist because the clients often treat their agencies like servants instead of partners.  They made demands and expect the agency to jump.  They change their minds which causes significant rework by the agency.  On top of it, many client managers delegate down to their junior brand managers who have never been trained in how to manage an agency or how to get the most out of them (and it isn’t browbeating or demanding obedience).  The client thinks they know everything.  Realistically, they may know more about their product than their agency, but it is their responsibility to train them so they can provide the best solutions for their stated goals.  They rarely do that effectively and they don’t know more than the agency does when it comes to advertising and promotion.  Most clients are generally poor communicators and don’t know how to write an effective creative brief that will help the agency deliver what they want and need. 

So, the solution is simple – communicate well, treat your agencies with respect and try and walk a day in their shoes.  If the agency isn’t a good fit for the organization, it is better to cut the cord then make everyone miserable and if you love them, show them the love.

The Account Manager

OK, I have to admit it.  Whenever my media or advertising agency came for a meeting from NYC, I always felt inferior.  They were always dressed perfectly and they all seemed to be more attractive than me.  Maybe it was the NYC factor, but they all seemed to exude that agency attitude.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I loved them and had a great relationship with them, but I just wasn’t as chic.  They felt they had had an image to project and, in reality, they did it well.   Reality is, the client just needs to change their attitude about the perfectly dressed and chic account team.  (I tried and eventually got over it.)

 Now, as it relates to the internal folks’ perception of the account team – there are multiple reasons.  First of all, there is the idea that shit rolls down the hill.  The client makes demands and asks for unrealistic deadlines, the account manager says they will make it happen and making it happen means additional work for the creative and planners under often unrealistic deadlines.  They are pissed at the account team and the account team is annoyed at them for being so uncooperative.  Secondly, there is the role that the creative teams plays vs. the account teams.  See, the creatives like to give the account team a bad rap because it seems that all the account team wants to do is to squash the really cool, really big idea!  It really isn’t fair as the Account Team is putting the realism in the idea.  They are trying to translate how they feel the client may react to the idea and they have to monitor the overall budget.

 Solution:  Be realistic with your client as to what is achievable in order to not put your creative and planners in a difficult position with you or with them.  Treat your creatives with respect and acknowledge what you are asking of them.  Finally, creatives throw big, brash ideas out there which may not mesh with the client’s needs.  Give credit for the great ideas, but work with them to find appropriate creative solutions.

 The Creatives

Where would we all be without the Creative Manager?  They are the energy, the ideas and they can make everyone frustrated.  From the account person’s perspective, the creative team doesn’t always follow the creative brief well and these great ideas don’t always fit the client’s goals.  I realize the creative team thinks they do, but the ideas are big and not always realistic (and the brief not clear enough that it leaves things open to interpretation).  The account manager should know what the client likes and how they will react so when they give that constructive criticism to the creative it is not unrealistic for the creative team to think the account manager just doesn’t get it.  Then comes the hissy fit by the creative team and that is why the planners look at the creative as children.

 The client loves creativity and when the creative is big, bold, achieves their goals and is in their budget they can’t help but love the creative team.  However, I can’t tell you how many times the creative idea doesn’t achieve the goals or doesn’t fit the budget.   That’s when the client decides that the creative team was probably smoking dope when they came up with this brilliant idea.  Nonetheless, I will give the creative team one out on this one – the ideas can only be as good as the direction that comes out of the brief and if the brief sucks the client can’t blame the agency for the off-track concept.

 Solution:  The creatives need to get off their high horse and realize that good ideas come from many places and that the idea is only as good as its ability to affect the public’s perception of the product and meet the client’s goals.  The client needs to make sure they have a well- written creative brief and are open to new ideas.  Finally, the account teams need to treat the creatives with respect and learn to offer constructive and useful input.

 The Planners

It is the planners job to bring it all together, think strategically and work with the client to help determine the best strategic direction for the creative.  They are there to really help ensure that there is a strategic link to the brief.  If they have a good relationship with the client, then there can be that buddy feeling.  If they don’t work well, then the planner will all but be ignored.  Sort of like the friend who has been shunned by the group.  The creatives have the same feelings about the planners that they do about the account team.  They bring reality into the situation and the creatives want to be free to come up with the coolest idea.  The account team thinks the planners are just there to make their lives nuts and get frustrated about who really is running the show.  The planner pulls the whole presentation together – the creative, the strategy and the execution – all in nice tidy bow that the client will buy into.  Truthfully, the planners are often in the toughest position in the middle of all of these competing internal interests. 

 Solution:  The Planners need to make sure they communicate completely what they know to everyone on the team.  They need to do their job without strong arming everyone and they need to make sure they keep everyone on track – with respect.  Additionally, everyone else has to give the planners a little slack and realize they are doing their best to keep it all on track.

 Do you see a pattern?  It is the idea of respect and communication.  That is why I think the relationships are often so dysfunctional.  There is a lack of good and effective communication.  Both the client and the agency need to be trained on how best to communicate with each other effectively.  The client needs to get off their pedestal and the agency (everyone at the agency) needs to learn how to truly meet client expectations by helping to set them.  It is ok for an agency to push back if it is in the best interest of their client, but they have to know how to do it and the client has to learn to be open to something other than what they thought was correct.  If everyone does these few things then maybe, just maybe, we can have better functioning agency-client relationships and agency-agency relationships.

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Komen, Planned Parenthood and Sponsorship

February 8, 2012

Boy, did Susan G. Komen blow it last week.  When news spread of its decision to pull funding from Planned Parenthood, support for this decision and positive feelings about Komen dropped like a stone.  Every female friend of mine and many male friends lambasted them on Facebook and Twitter.  ABC’s The View had a raucous […]

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A New Job Path Away From Marketing Services

January 23, 2012

What happens to all those professionals who lose their jobs as marketing services teams disappear? It’s something I thought about as I reread a post of mine from last year. I wrote then about how companies, particularly CPG companies, are getting rid of their in-house marketing services teams, and I recommended ways for companies to […]

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Strong Partnerships Can Drive Sales

January 11, 2012

Yesterday, while reading my New York Times I came across an offer that just blew my socks off and made me wonder if it wasn’t almost too extreme.  However, upon further thought I realized that this promotion was perfect for a few reasons that I will get to shortly. So, what is this amazing offer?  […]

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