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If you missed it last month, the newest addition to the collection of coupon inserts that appear in your Sunday newspaper is coming out with another edition this weekend.

Alongside your regular SmartSource and RetailMeNot Everyday inserts, which feature an assortment of coupons from a variety of brands, you’ll find a Unilever Super Saver, a newly-branded standalone insert featuring only offers on Unilever products like Suave, Degree and Dove. This weekend’s second edition comes seven weeks after the debut edition dropped on August 2nd.

It’s new, but not-so-new; uncommon, but not nearly unprecedented. The Super Saver, published and distributed by RetailMeNot Everyday owner Valassis, is really just a rebrand of Unilever-specific inserts that had long been issued several times a year under the standard RetailMeNot Everyday name (and RedPlum before that). But the name change is still notable, since it’s a throwback to a time when big companies were clamoring for the opportunity to issue their very own branded coupon inserts.

Procter & Gamble’s brandSAVER, which is also distributed by Valassis, is the best-known and longest-lasting branded coupon insert of its kind. But at the time of its debut back in 2002, it was far from alone.

Coupon booklets are known in the industry as free-standing inserts, or FSIs. “Solo FSIs” are inserts featuring coupons from a single company, like Procter & Gamble or Unilever. And there used to be a lot of them. Kraft’s “Food & Family” was a monthly insert featuring coupons for Kraft products, that was distributed by SmartSource publisher News America Marketing for a few years beginning in the year 2000.

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Kraft and P&G were the biggest names offering their own branded coupon inserts most regularly, but other companies like SC Johnson, Nestle and, yes, Unilever, got into the act with several solo FSIs of their own. In 2002, Valassis published eight different solo FSIs, and planned ten more the following year.

“Larger companies typically use these tools because they have enough brands to create an effective promotion,” a Valassis spokesperson told Supermarket News back in 2003.

But as quickly as they became the hot new thing, the solo FSI fell out of favor. P&G’s brandSAVER has survived and thrived, but Kraft gradually shifted Food & Family’s focus from coupons to recipes before folding it altogether. And until Unilever’s Super Saver came along last month, no company other than P&G has issued its own branded coupon insert with any regularity.

You might think Unilever would be eager to promote its brand-new inserts. But the only publicity it appears to have done is paying for a sponsored video on a well-known coupon blog ahead of last month’s edition. Apparently uninterested in any free publicity, Unilever did not respond to multiple inquiries from Coupons in the News about its new insert. And a Valassis representative didn’t respond to a request for comment, either.

It’s a shame, because Unilever might have liked to know that the Super Saver insert has the potential to be a whole lot more popular than it could ever have imagined. A print publication that carries the new Unilever insert has posted its latest edition online as a high-quality PDF, compete with articles, ads, and the entire Super Saver insert – coupons, bar codes and all.

Which is a problem! Entire coupon campaigns have been invalidated when ignorant, or avaricious, shoppers have gotten a hold of non-serialized PDF versions of printed coupons, enabling them to print off as many copies as they’d like, duplicate them, save them, share them and even manipulate them, without ever having to buy a newspaper to get a hold of a legitimate paper edition. The terms and conditions printed on the coupons forbid any of this, so you’d be advised not to try it. But there are enough couponers out there who don’t follow the rules, that publications have long been cautioned against reprinting coupons in their online editions for this very reason.

So don’t go counterfeiting Unilever’s coupons and potentially cause the company to pull the plug on the Super Saver insert before it even has a chance to catch on. Otherwise, this solo FSI – a once-favorite marketing tool of the past – may not have much of a future.

One Comment

  1. Sigh. It’s published and distributed by Valassis—which means we probably won’t get it in Southern California. We do get P&G BrandSaver, but not in the Los Angeles Times, which carries no Valassis inserts. My other two papers carry P&G, but didn’t carry the first Unilever insert and no longer include the RetailMeNot inserts. What a shame—you’d think that Unilever would want to reach a rather large market (!) and that Valassis and the papers wouldn’t want customers here to resort to purchasing coupons from online sellers—which, after all, is the type of thing they want to discourage in the first place.

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