BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The giant sucking noise now emanating from upstate New York could be the sound of millions of coupons being removed from area markets by more brand marketers.
Or it may be the collective sigh of relief by major area retailers who see an imminent respite from the costly trap of triple-coupon redemption.
Following the lead set by Procter & Gamble in February, when it initiated what is generally called the "zero coupon" test, the Clorox Co., Oakland, Calif., said it would mount a similar experiment in the Buffalo-Rochester-Syracuse area in New York during the April to June quarter.
"We feel that the test is right on with our objective of driving nonvalue-added costs out of the system and increasing value for our customers and for consumers," said Frederick Reicker, director of corporate communications.
A report in the Wall Street Journal indicated that Kimberly-Clark had "adjusted" its coupon strategy in the same market, and a Business Week article said Lever Brothers Co. might be doing the same.
Throw into that news mix Kraft Foods' decision to cut prices and adopt a simplified national coupon concept for its Post Cereals line, and the mainstream press rushed to tell the world that coupons -- which turned 100 years old in 1995 -- were never such a good idea.
"I think it's a case where everybody was standing by the pool waiting for someone to jump in," said Richard Kochersperger, professor of food marketing at St. Josephs University, Philadelphia.
But there was already someone swimming laps: According to Jan Robert Horsfall, vice president of consumer brand strategy for Valvoline, the company first tested eliminating coupons in 1989. "You can tell [P&G Chairman] John Pepper that it worked for us," he said.