Promotion insights for an election campaign: Core and non-core discount coupons

myer couponJust imagine if you could write up your sales promotions in the same style that politicians word their promises during election campaigns.

You would be able to promise much, but in a way that left you room to wriggle out of delivering any commitments.

Now think about this from the consumer’s perspective?

Imagine the disappointment and possible vitriol that would build up against you in the market place.

While politicians only need to face repercussions of relegating a core promise down to a non-core promise once every three to four years, your business faces a mini election every day.

I would argue that small to medium businesses should never resort to trickery or ‘fine print’ to win attention because, apart from being ethically questionable, we are likely to feel the pinch of an unhappy marketplace very quickly.

Too big to care? The Myer example

This is why big retailers are never great examples for small to medium operators to mimic.

My family and I popped into Myer during the recent school holidays and I bought some clothes.

At the checkout, the assistant rang up the sales then dealt me a handful of $10 off coupons.

How intriguing, I thought.

He then had to hand write a unique, 21 digit code number on the back of each one before handing them over, while the line at the counter grew behind me.

It was a nice feeling to have been handed what appeared to be $70 in ‘cash’ just for shopping at Myer.

But then I read the fine print

Each voucher had to be used independently and the $10 was only available if each purchase was $30 or more.

So to make back my $70 ‘gift’ I would have had to spend a minimum of $210.

Then I noticed the sales had to take place during week days of the following week, not helpful for an occasional weekend shopper.

Then I noticed that ‘some exclusions apply’ actually meant THESE exclusions apply, are you ready?

Myer $10 coupon exclusions:

  • Laybys
  • Credit card payments
  • Online purchases (that ruled me out – I was never going to make a special trip back – might have made an extra purchase on the day IF I had been allowed to)
  • Gift cards
  • Sunglasses
  • Racewear millinery
  • Alan Pinkus
  • American Apparel
  • Amor
  • Anthea Crawford
  • Apple branded accessories (drat, that would have been handy)
  • Bamix
  • Benefit Browbar services
  • Bose videowave
  • ck Calvin Klein
  • Coast London
  • Country Road
  • Cue
  • Dom Bagnato
  • Feathers
  • Fissler
  • Gibson
  • Hairhouse Warehouse
  • Hugo Boss
  • iTunes Gift Cards
  • Karen Millen
  • Kit Cosmetics
  • KitchenAid
  • Levis
  • @ Sydney Basement
  • Magimix
  • Mecca Cosmetica
  • Miele coffee machines & microwaves
  • My Flowerhouse
  • no!no!
  • Pandora
  • Pilgrim
  • Polo Ralph Lauren
  • Miss Shop accessories
  • Revlon Nail Bar Services
  • Rhodes & Beckett
  • Ripe
  • Sass & Bide
  • Seafolly
  • Simona
  • Skin Physics
  • Smartbox
  • Sportscraft
  • Spurling
  • Stop & Pose
  • Sunglass Hut
  • Swarovski
  • Vicky Mar
  • Villeroy & Boch
  • Vitamix
  • Wedgwood
  • Weight Watchers
  • Zu shoes
  • Food, service and repair outlets

As you can see, it might have been easier to list what you COULD spend your money on.

I thought it was telling that the front of the rather large coupons featured a notice: DO NOT LITTER. Please dispose of responsibly.

I also wonder, at what point in the sales meeting as such a long list of exclusions is being created, do you have to stop yourself from laughing at how bizarre it is to be filling one side of a special voucher with dozens of exclusions?

How to think about promotions

Promotions and special offers are typically used to attract new clients or customers into the ‘sales funnel’, or to spark renewed interest and orders from existing customers.

With that in mind, shouldn’t our promotions be honest, simple and straightforward?

We have a jewellery retailer client currently offering entry to a draw for simply liking their Facebook page. Nothing tricky, nothing devious; one like earns entry to the draw to win credit to spend in one of their stores or online shop.

A coffee retailer offers free postage if you buy five bags or more in one order. Simple.

Both of these simple examples have set goals they are trying to achieve and conditions easily made clear in a sentence or two.

If you are planning some promotions and find you are tying yourself up on knots as you wrestle with exceptions, perhaps it might be time to stop and reconsider the campaign.

One task might be to revisit your marketing plan to make sure all your resources are aligned toward the same goals.

Another might be to ask yourself, if an individual or business took up our offer in its current state, would they ‘vote’ for us again or ‘campaign’ for us among their contacts and friends?




  1. Mr Dunwright

    Loss leaders are sposed to be….exactly that. Rather than a way to make more money from the margins….

  2. Nigel

    I think the coupons in this case are more than simply coupons. By having a person fill out the number in front of you is the start of an exchange. By having to do this manually they are showing they are willing to spend time for your benefit, even though its really the shops time and not the person you will perceive this as another human spending time for you. They are playing with your sense of reciprocity. Compare the experience of them filling out the dockets manually and if you noticed them doing this to the sales docket having a preprinted discount on the back in another store. You probably felt a bit awkward as the line built up behind you? And it was memorable enough to write about? And the other customers in the line? They saw a staff member spending time with another customer, and they’ll be getting some of that service pretty soon.
    Just like in politics, substance can just as effectively be replaced by a perception of substance.
    Are you sure you’re not feeling a teensy bit guilty by making those other customers wait? And you really can’t waste something you were given for free, can you? Furthermore, these are not the fine print you are looking for…

    • Steve Davis

      Nigel, interesting.
      1. Not guilty about the other customers waiting at all, even in the slightest. I did not ask for these coupons, nor did I know what they were at first. I actually felt annoyed that I had to restrain my restless children for this extra act of archaic paperwork.
      2. I did not perceive the act as a gift, quite the contrary. It came across as such a niggardly act of penny pinching to monitor every tiny coupon, signalling no trust in their staff or in me.
      3. When I took some of the clothes back, I made sure to take my coupons because of the wording about having to surrender them if exchanges take place. They were a BURDEN because I am sure I would have had my return halted until I surrendered these unasked for coupons. The staff member then went all pinch-nosed as he counted up how many of these coupons I was allowed to keep and how many I had to surrender.
      4. I think you are optimistic to think that the people behind me were waxing lyrical with one another over this drawn out ‘service’ I was getting, in anticipation of receiving same.
      And then, upon rereading your message, I am sure you had your tongue in your cheek. Well met!


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