CLASH OF THE COUPONS

Procter & Gamble single-handedly has added value to the freestanding insert by focusing heavily on its "brandSaver" coupon guide.The two-year-old coupon insert, dropped monthly in home-delivered newspapers, accounted for 10% of all FSI couponing activity over the last two years, according to Marx Promotion Intelligence/TNS Media Intelligence, Minneapolis, a provider of coupon information. The insert's

Procter & Gamble single-handedly has added value to the freestanding insert by focusing heavily on its "brandSaver" coupon guide.

The two-year-old coupon insert, dropped monthly in home-delivered newspapers, accounted for 10% of all FSI couponing activity over the last two years, according to Marx Promotion Intelligence/TNS Media Intelligence, Minneapolis, a provider of coupon information. The insert's average circulation last year was 51 million.

"P&G's involvement adds worlds of credence to the [FS] vehicle," said Wallace Marx Jr., marketing director, Marx Promotion Intelligence.

BrandSaver is what's commonly called a solo-FSI, or a separate FSI booklet comprised solely of products from one company. According to Cincinnati-based P&G, brandSaver is used to accomplish three main marketing objectives:

Drive mass-brand awareness with consumers.

Drive broad-scale trial with consumers.

Drive trade support.

"BrandSaver has strengthened the trade support we receive behind our coupon executions, and has also had a positive effect on our incremental coupon redemptions, particularly behind our new items," Jim O'Connell, a P&G spokesman, told SN.

P&G has strengthened brandSaver in terms of page count and distribution frequency. Last year, P&G dropped 11 issues, up from eight in 2002. The average page count in 2003 was 20, up from an average of 15 in 2002, according to Marx Promotion Intelligence.

The insert will remain a top priority this year as well, according to O'Connell.

"We feel very good about the results brandSaver is generating for us and, therefore, have plans to continue to have it as a key part of our total marketing mix," O'Connell said.

P&G essentially dominates the solo-FSI business. Although Kraft Foods has distributed its own solo-FSI, called Food & Family, its frequency has significantly decreased over the last year, according to industry observers. Plus, Food & Family focuses more on recipes and content, rather than coupons.

BrandSaver, on the other hand, heavily emphasizes coupon savings. The cover of last month's issue, for instance, touted a combined $48 in savings.

This is one of the main reasons for its success, said Charles Brown, vice president, marketing, NCH Marketing Services, Deerfield, Ill. Consumers are price-conscious and promotion-sensitive, and warmly embrace money-saving promotions, he said.

"Anytime you feature savings and specials, you can drive sales," said Brown.

Freestanding inserts accounted for nearly 90% of all consumer packaged goods coupons distributed in 2003, a 5% increase from 2002, according to NCH. BrandSaver had a lot to do with that increase.

"BrandSaver has had a big impact on the world of couponing, boosting overall volume numbers throughout the industry," Marx noted.

Backed by power brands like Crest, Charmin and Tide, brandSaver is used to build existing products and introduce new ones. The March issue, for instance, featured new Olay Daily Facials and Red Zone invisible solid deodorant from Old Spice.

Along with product information, the insert has plenty of other components. It typically ties in with a charitable organization. Last month's issue promoted P&G's sponsorship of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. Plus, it featured promotional messages from corporate partners, including Kellogg and Hallmark. Its online counterpart, www.brandsaver.com, offers shopping tips, coupons, samples and content.

Trying New Tactics

BrandSaver's clout has created a more competitive couponing environment. While most marketers don't have the funds to distribute a solo-FSI, the existence of brandSaver has sparked more creative use of various couponing tools.

Georgia Pacific Corp., Atlanta, for instance, has revamped its couponing strategies due, in part, to brandSaver. Most of its efforts are now aimed at defending its key brands, including Brawny, Quilted Northern and Sparkle, according to Rob Lorys, vice president, consumer marketing, Georgia-Pacific.

"We've had to step it up a little based on competitive activity," said Lorys, referring not only to brandSaver, but also to Kimberly-Clark's use of Catalina coupons.

Until recently, Georgia-Pacific relied mostly on FSIs. Now, however, it's employing a larger mix of couponing vehicles, including FSIs, the Internet and direct mail.

"We're diversifying the dissemination of our coupons," said Lorys.

Along with reassessing traditional coupon methods, marketers are also trying different couponing tactics. One popular tool is the "corporate FSI," when a manufacturer buys several pages in the main FSI book and groups several brands -- or even its entire brand portfolio -- under a common theme.

"We continue to see marketers use multiple pages for an entire corporate campaign," Brown of NCH said. NCH does not release details about corporate events.

Brown considers the growing reliance on corporate FSIs as a way to get the "biggest bang for the buck," along with additional retailer merchandising support.

Del Monte Foods Co., San Francisco, tested a corporate FSI last fall, when it partnered its food and pet brands, including Del Monte, StarKist, 9Lives and Kibbles 'n Bits. The theme of the event was "Big Night In," focusing on enjoying family time at home. The FSI pictured a family eating popcorn and watching a movie at home.

The FSI contained 10 coupons, most of which had face values of $1. Also included was a rebate equivalent up to two free movie rentals. Consumers who mailed in five Del Monte Universal Product Codes could get a rebate for $4, the average cost of a movie rental. Consumers who mailed in 10 UPCs could get an $8 rebate.

The test ran in four cities and produced positive results, according to Melissa Murphy, company spokeswoman. Del Monte hasn't planned another corporate event yet, but definitely sees value in brand bundling, she affirmed.

"Some of our brands, like StarKist, have a lot of equity, and can serve as an umbrella to showcase some of our other products," Murphy said.

The same is true at other consumer packaged goods companies. ConAgra Foods, Omaha, Neb., uses corporate FSIs to leverage the strength of its brand portfolio and to satisfy customer and consumer needs, according to Chris Kircher, vice president, communications, ConAgra, marketer of such brands as Banquet, Butterball and Chef Boyardee.

Most of ConAgra's corporate FSI programs are based on specific consumer needs or common occasions, such as back-to-school or the holidays.

"This allows us to highlight the variety of our brands and the fact that we have products for every eating occasion and location," Kircher noted.

What's more, brand bundling through the use of corporate FSIs can save promotional dollars, marketers said.

"Our individual brands benefit by getting improved placement within an FSI at a lower cost," Kircher said.

Murphy of Del Monte agreed.

"There are certainly efficiencies, as some brands may not have the budget that others do," she said.

Georgia-Pacific hasn't run a themed corporate event, but has purchased multiple FSI pages. Just last month, a full-page Brawny FSI ran opposite a full-page Quilted Northern FSI. Both brands were recently improved.

The goal of this effort is for Georgia-Pacific to make a bigger statement in the Sunday coupon insert.

"It creates a more focused impression on our Quilted Northern and Brawny brands," said Lorys.

At a Glance: BrandSaver

Average 2003 Circulation: 51 Million

Average 2003 Page Count: 20

Highest-Ranking Corporate Partner: Kellogg

No. 1 Promoted Brand: Crest

Source: Marx Promotion Intelligence