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Spic n Span

Back in 1962, the maker of Spic ‘n Span offered a coupon for five cents off a package of cleaner. This past Sunday, a coupon in the latest SmartSource insert offered five cents off a bottle of cleaner (click on the image above to see them both up close).

Five decades later, the same five cents worth of savings. Now that’s progress!

Technically, the new coupon offers ten cents off two bottles of Spic ‘n Span. But that’s arguably worse, since you have to buy twice as many products as you did a half century ago, to gain access to the same savings.

Now, the coupon is starting to become known as one of the worst coupons – if not the absolute worst coupon – many couponers have ever seen.

“Is this a error?” one online commenter wondered. “Is Spic & Span that dumb?” Added another: “Are they kidding me? No worries over forgetting this coupon at home.”

Not every region got the Spic ‘n Span coupon, so consider yourself fortunate if you did. Or maybe you can consider yourself fortunate if you didn’t.

Either way, what exactly was Prestige Brands, the current owner of Spic ‘n Span, hoping to accomplish in offering such a minuscule incentive for purchasing its products? We can only guess – the company did not respond to requests for comment.

So we’re left to consider why any company would offer a coupon of such low value, that it’s barely worth your time and effort to clip it. Here, then, are several possible answers to the question: what were they thinking?

#1: Lower values actually work
It may be frustrating, but there’s a reason certain companies offer coupons for 25 cents off expensive products. People may dislike the low values – but many of them use the coupons anyway. So the company figures, why offer a dollar off, when a quarter off works just as well to boost sales and keep customers happy?

Except Prestige Brands doesn’t have a whole lot of data to work with, when it comes to how customers respond to Spic ‘n Span offers. The company hasn’t offered a coupon for the product in years. The last coupon widely available for Spic ‘n Span was a printable offer, in 2011. It’s been even longer since a Spic ‘n Span coupon appeared in a Sunday insert.

So Prestige Brands may be dipping its toe in the water, in the cheapest possible way, just to see if a $0.10/2 offer moves the needle at all.

#2: This is all they could afford
That printable coupon in 2011 offered a dollar off two spray cleaners. And Spic ‘n Span is pretty inexpensive as it is – it sells for 97 cents at Walmart, and for a buck at most dollar stores. So everyone who used that $1/2 coupon got Spic ‘n Span for half price.

It can be hard to make money when you’re giving away spray cleaner for less than 50 cents a bottle. So the higher-value coupon may have worked a little too well in boosting sales at the expense of profits. Is it any wonder that it took five years before Spic ‘n Span offered another coupon at all? It could be that the company simply can’t afford such a high-value coupon, relative to the price of the product, again.

#3: Subliminal price messaging
Did you even know that Spic ‘n Span spray only costs a dollar? If not, you do now. And Prestige may hope the coupon itself helps to send that signal.

Consumer research has shown that higher coupon values often imply to shoppers that the product itself is more expensive. If Company A’s coupon offers two dollars off, while Company B is offering 50 cents off a comparable product, then many shoppers infer that the lower value means Company B’s regular price is lower.

So rather than working too well, maybe that $1/2 coupon from 2011 didn’t work so well at all. The high value could have made shoppers think Spic ‘n Span was more expensive than it really is. So a low-value coupon could help signal that the product itself is low-priced.

#4: Thwarting resellers
If you’re not likely to use a coupon for 10 cents off two products – who in the world is going to buy such a coupon?

Probably no one. And industry opponents of coupon clipping services are likely thrilled.

Coupon sellers are still doing a brisk business in high-value and high-demand coupons. But the Spic ‘n Span coupons are bound to be a bunch of duds on the selling circuit. That’s not stopping some from trying to sell them – in at least one case, the Spic ‘n Span coupons are going for as much as eight cents apiece. That would knock down your savings to a mere penny per bottle – and that’s only if you don’t have to pay for the seller’s postage.

It’s probably not Prestige’s plan to issue a low-value coupon just to spite coupon resellers. But, intentionally or not, someone has finally managed to come up with a coupon that’s virtually resale-proof.

#5: Stick it to the stores
Another unlikely scenario, but it’s worth mentioning only because some retailers do more than just double coupons. Instead of doubling or even tripling the value of cents-off coupons, some stores have been known to “round up” the value to an even $1. So a 75-cent coupon becomes a dollar. A 25-cent coupon becomes a dollar. And so does a $0.10/2 coupon.

Since the “round up” portion of the deal comes out of the retailer’s pocket, Prestige in this case would be on the hook only for the ten cents, and the store would be chipping in the extra 90-cent portion of the deal. That’s one way for the company to ensure that Spic ‘n Span starts flying off the shelves – while making the retailer pay for it.

Would Prestige be that devious? Unlikely, especially since few retailers do “round up” events anymore. And these days, Spic ‘n Span is sold mostly in places like Walmart and dollar stores – and you’re lucky if they even know how to take your coupons at all there.

#6: It’s just advertising
Finally, maybe Prestige simply doesn’t care whether you use the coupon or not. In the end, coupons are really just a form of advertising – and Prestige may have run the coupon offer just to help promote the Spic ‘n Span brand, at a potentially troubling time for the entire household cleaning category.

“The long-term trends for the category will continue to decline as consumers’ household cleaning changes,” Prestige Brands CEO Ronald Lombardi told investors a couple of weeks ago. “People aren’t mopping floors and mopping off granite counters like they used to. So we anticipate over time that we’re going to eventually fall back in line with the category trends, which are declining.”

Instead of merely sitting back and watching as sales drop off, then, the coupon could be a way to keep Spic ‘n Span’s name in the spotlight. Unless you’re already a loyal customer, when was the last time you even thought about Spic ‘n Span? Well, this measly $0.10/2 coupon – and all of the discussion about it – means more people are thinking and talking about the product now, than they have in a long time.

So as it turns out, there may actually be a handful of pretty good reasons that the maker of Spic ‘n Span can only spare a dime on your next purchase. If consumer response isn’t that great, then maybe we’ll see a slightly higher-value coupon in the near future.

Until then, don’t spend all of those extra nickels in one place.

4 Comments

  1. Cost more to print the coupon, what a waste of paper. Don’t purchase Spic ‘n Span and never will. Cheap companies, bet the CEO makes millions, then why can’t the company offer a better coupon.

  2. In all seriousness, here are a few more possibilities why a garbage value like this might exist:

    *client was burned previously on a stacking/trade deal/coupon blog, now minimizes FSI value (knowing it’s hard to account for trade deals)

    *client wants to test FSI efficacy (as a media vehicle)
    *client wants to test/measure retail redemption volume & activity
    *client wants to measure sales change (volume and share) against promo activity at a market level (only FSIs realistically /efficiently allow for this)

    Long story longer – it ain’t about saving the cash-strapped consumer a dime off two units. I mean, eventually it is. Like reason #47 or so.

  3. And for the record, this is a garbage coupon – but “worst coupon ever” still belongs to the golf course that offered the 9/11 special.

  4. You’d be amazed how many of my CPG clients dropped coupons for a variety of strategic reasons, none of which having anything to do with actually helping out the budget-strapped consumer of their product(s).

    The CPG manufacturer’s customer is the RETAILER (who marks up, and resells, these brand items), not you or me or the shopper. We are the end user, the customer of their customer.

    CPGs want to keep their retail partners happy. Don’t ever, ever forget that.

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