When it Comes to Couponing, Familiarity Breeds Content

Cindy Carleton, Manager, Brand Strategy & Creative Services, Valassis
Published Friday, Sep 15, 2017

When it Comes to Couponing, Familiarity Breeds Content

The familiarity principle in psychology, prescribes that we tend to develop a preference for things merely because they are familiar.

Familiar things – food, people, activities, make us feel comfortable. Generally speaking, things that are familiar are likely to be seen as safer and more reliable than things that are not. If something is familiar, we recognize its value and continue to engage with what is appreciated as “tried and true.”

Dynamic shoppers continue to navigate a complex, on-the-go environment of over-scheduled calendars, social media, and message overload. In this environment that includes multi-channel savings vehicles, shoppers are still turning to coupons as their tried and true savings tradition. Consumers’ use of coupons remains high overall, with 90 percent of consumers reporting they use them. There are no significant differences in coupon use among millennials, Generation X, or boomers. Coupons and saving certainly appeal to the current value mindset and just make sense. But it’s the familiarity of coupons and of the accompanying routine that appeal to our comfort and sensibilities.

According to the 2017 RedPlum Purse String Survey, 51 percent of consumers are planning their shopping around circulars, coupons and deals more often than last year. While coupons from printed sources still account for the majority share of use*, the growing popularity of digital media cannot be ignored. In a 2017 report, 71 percent of consumers used paperless discounts received on their smartphone/mobile device or downloaded them onto their store ID/loyalty card.*

Digital couponing’s continued growth relies on its ability to retain the familiar. Chances of developing a liking toward a new experience are improved if that experience has at least some familiar elements in it. For example, a person who likes rock music, but not country may find some familiar elements within folk music. Thus, folk music may be considered a "bridge" between rock and country music. A successful evolution in digital couponing relies on the incorporation of these bridges between the new experience and the familiarity of traditional print couponing.

When Coca Cola distributed the first coupon in 1887, they launched a tradition. I’m a Boomer/Gen Xer, and have fond memories of sitting with my brothers and sister at the kitchen table, helping my mother cut coupons (and every other little scrap of paper I could get my hands on) from the weekly circulars. I, in turn, shared the Sunday ritual with my own daughters. They, a millennial and early Gen Zer and many of their friends are savers. Couponing is popular. Couponing is familiar. Like most from their generation they have expanded their routines and crossed that bridge to include digital offers.

Even through constant evolution, couponing continues to be a very familiar routine – and one that truly does breed content.

*2K17 Valassis Coupon Intelligence Report