COUPONS CALLED TACTIC IN BROADER STRATEGY

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Using coupons to drive product sales is more complicated than it has ever been, according to a leading brand marketer.Also, coupons should be viewed as just one tactic in a total sales promotion program that centers around basic marketing, said Carl Woodard, director of sales promotion services at Hunt-Wesson, Fullerton, Calif."To be effective in couponing today, you must force yourself

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Using coupons to drive product sales is more complicated than it has ever been, according to a leading brand marketer.

Also, coupons should be viewed as just one tactic in a total sales promotion program that centers around basic marketing, said Carl Woodard, director of sales promotion services at Hunt-Wesson, Fullerton, Calif.

"To be effective in couponing today, you must force yourself to ask a lot of questions," he said."You have to see what you want to accomplish. Is it an increase in volume, an increase in profit margins or an increase in market share? All of these things have to be put into the market plan as objectives." Woodard, who spoke at last month's Grocery Manufacturers of America Coupon Management Conference here, said brand marketers can't just print coupons, sit back and expect to see the sales rise.

"A coupon is a tactic, not a strategy, and not an objective. A tactic supports your strategy," he said.

In planning their coupon tactic, brand marketers must carefully examine the situation to see what type of coupon they should offer, or even if they should use couponing at all.

"A coupon will not correct a basic marketing or product problem. If you have a basic problem with your product, you have to correct that problem first," Woodard said.

Manufacturers have to know their product, including the quality, price/value, sizes offered, the purchase cycle and its distribution skew. They also need to know what other similar products and categories their brand is competing against.

For example, Hunt-Wesson's Hunt's tomato sauce competes against not only several canned tomato products, but also against the entire pasta sauce category. Woodard said manufacturers have to study their customers to see why they are buying and using the product, how often they use the product, are they open to switching brands, and who the purchaser and the user of the product is.

"When you know as much as possible about your product, consumer and competitors, then you are ready to plan your coupon tactic," he said.