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First on Coupons in the News:

Procter & Gamble’s monthly brandSAVER coupon insert marked its 20th anniversary this year. It won’t make it to a 21st. The next brandSAVER, scheduled to be distributed in Sunday newspapers over New Year’s weekend, is going to be the last.

“We will be discontinuing the standalone brandSAVER paper insert after the end of the year,” P&G spokesperson Victoria Schooler told Coupons in the News. “Our individual brands may still choose to participate in other coupon flyers, such as SmartSource and Save,” so paper P&G coupons may not disappear entirely. But the brandSAVER, unique for its breadth of product offers and its longevity as a one-stop-shopping source for coupons from a single manufacturer, will soon be but a memory – another outmoded casualty of the industry’s rapidly increasing shift to digital coupon formats.

“We will continue to make coupons available to shoppers in a variety of formats,” Schooler reassured couponers. P&G’s website P&G Good Everyday, for one, features a selection of print-at-home coupons. “Shoppers can also find digital coupons for our brands through their favorite retailer app, website, or loyalty card program,” Schooler said.

But old-school couponers are sure going to miss their monthly fix of P&G savings delivered right to their doorsteps. The brandSAVER debuted in March 2002, as the most notable example of what’s known in the industry as a “solo free-standing insert,” or “solo FSI” – a single insert devoted to multiple brands owned by one manufacturer. Over the years, other manufacturers like Kraft, SC Johnson, Nestle and, lately, Unilever, have offered solo FSIs featuring their owned brands. But none has been as long-lasting or as successful as P&G’s.

Consider this – quick, name a few brands owned by SC Johnson? Or Nestle? Now name a few P&G brands. Tide, Bounty, Charmin, Crest, Pampers and others roll right off most shoppers’ tongues. In many ways, P&G has the brandSAVER to thank. For more than two decades, the insert was as much about brand recognition as it was about savings, reinforcing a message to shoppers that all of the household products they need could be obtained from one trusted manufacturer, who just happened to be offering them discounts on their next purchases within the pages of a glossy advertising circular.

“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,” a P&G spokesman said back in 2004. “We find it a very successful and effective vehicle of distributing coupons,” another company spokesperson offered that same year.

But times have certainly changed. Just five years ago, a rumor that the brandSAVER would be discontinued seemed preposterous. “P&G has no plans to discontinue our brandSAVER coupon circular,” a company spokesperson told Coupons in the News at the time. As far-fetched as it might have seemed then, though, some early signs of impending changes were already there.

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Around that time, P&G began withdrawing brandSAVER inserts from certain regions identified as reselling hot spots, where inserts were getting stolen and sold online by the thousands. Later, it began removing fabric care coupons for products like Tide, Gain, Downy and Bounce from some regions’ brandSAVER inserts, directing shoppers to find printable versions online instead – a test that became permanent earlier this year.

It was a slow and methodical process that appeared to be ultimately aimed at weaning shoppers, and P&G’s own brands, off the brandSAVER altogether – since the last time P&G tried to end paper couponing much more abruptly, it didn’t work out so well.

Back in 1996, P&G launched what became known as a “zero coupon test” in upstate New York, withdrawing all paper coupons from multiple markets. Coupons were “wasteful,” one company executive explained at the time. “I don’t like couponing. Period,” another said. “We decided coupons have to go,” a third executive declared.

But P&G likely didn’t anticipate the consumer uproar, the calls for boycotts, the negative national news coverage and the antitrust lawsuit brought by New York’s attorney general, which P&G and other companies accused of colluding in the test settled for $4.2 million.

“Couponing is inefficient,” a P&G spokesperson insisted after the zero coupon test ended and the paper coupons returned to upstate New York newspapers. “Long term, we will continue to reduce our reliance on couponing.”

And five years later, after most of those coupon-hating executives had moved on, P&G’s new leadership did precisely the opposite of reducing couponing, by introducing the brandSAVER insert.

Nowadays, eliminating the brandSAVER isn’t synonymous with “zero coupons.” In the 90’s, paper coupons were the only types of coupons, so eliminating newspaper insert coupons essentially meant eliminating coupons altogether. Today, eliminating brandSAVER insert coupons allows P&G to push digital coupons and print-at-home alternatives that didn’t exist three decades ago.

So longtime couponers and the less digitally-savvy will not welcome the demise of the brandSAVER. But it’s unlikely to generate a large-scale consumer uproar, calls for boycotts, negative national news coverage and certainly not an antitrust lawsuit. Savings won’t be impossible to find – they’ll just be different.

“We will continue to explore and implement new ways to make coupons available to shoppers, including ways that are simpler, more convenient, and more relevant,” Schooler pledged.

The industry’s march toward digital-only discounts has been years in the making, but so far reports of paper coupons’ demise have failed to materialize. After January 1st, though, the day of having “zero coupons” in paper form could seem that much closer to reality.

30 Comments

  1. All of you people whining about this change seriously need to get with the times! The world has gone digital, folks! Banking is online, tickets are electronic, airline boarding passes on your phone, etc. The coupon industry is woefully behind.

    All of the offers that won’t be available on paper will be digital. In fact, brands will likely increase face values and lengthen expiration dates because digital coupons are very secure; paper coupons are not.

  2. Yea let’s eliminate savings for people when inflation is at it’s highest. I don’t think they realize how much this will effect their bottom line. Hundreds of thousands of couponers will switch to persil or other brands unless they do update their website and make access to more than just 2 of each coupon once a month, it’s ridiculous.

  3. New adventure in digital.

  4. I’ll just wait and see how digital coupons will grow in customer use.

  5. Just started teaching my niece how to coupon. I’ll really miss PNG’S.

  6. Unfortunately I believe this move became a necessity due to all the underhanded couponing done. Inserts being sold, coupons used for not item or size intended, and stores not enforcing limits printed on coupons. There are whole communities out there teaching people how to cheat the system. They have spoiled it for the regular folks

  7. I was always a loyal Tide customer, as well as Downey. When CORPORATE GREED took over, I ended my love affair with P&G. Digital coupons are a joke. I only have one way to fight back. My wallet, my choices. I will Never buy their products again. Plenty of other great choices out there!

  8. P&G and Wegmans plotted over 25 years ago to eliminate their coupons in Central & Western NY. They got in trouble for this, where we consumers paid more for their products than the rest of the country. We got large value coupons as restitution from them, but Wegmans for one HATES manufacturer coupons. Wegmans is one chain that doesn’t offer manufacturer e-coupons. Why people are loyal to them is beyond me. Never trusted P&G after that

  9. I have been couponing since 22, when my mother died at 63 I found her coupon book in there was non expirering coupons, I will be 63 next yr and still use coupons!!!!!! just because p&g is gone there are other coupons to use. I will switch to ones that help with cost of products, I won’t get hooked on a product just due to it had a coupon, I buy what is on sale. Same as food or paper products. I think they offered the book with great savings just to get you hooked. Just as good of products officed with other coupons.

  10. I guess I will be using other products then. With the cost goin up, up, up. I cant afford their products without coupons anymore. Yes, u can print a couple, but they have to be used same day. Not only that, no ink in the printer. Goodbye p&g

  11. I’m fine with at home prints. But change the f’n date to at least a week to use and not the same day. Give us at least 3 days. Agree with most. Just bought 5 persil this week instead of p n G. Items. I’m not brand loyal, used to be, but now give me some kind of deal since inflation is out of hand.

  12. For Aprox 3 months I have stopped buying tide and gain products and other pg products.The printable coupons are a joke and never work on the correct products they are intended for. So that being said that’s there loss. I will sit back and wait and watch there products fall in sales. Bye Dawn hello Palmolive. 🙂 Bye Gain and Tide hello Persil , Arm and Hammer and All.

  13. I just cut out and used coupons from the insert. Do all stores use coupons you print yourself?

    • No. Many may have policies that say they accept internet printables, but they leave it up to the store managers who usually say, “No. We are not taking internet printables.” It’s hard to find stores that will take them.

  14. A lot of us stopped using all proctor and gamble products when they took away paper coupons this year. I for one, can’t manage with the print situation. This is discriminatory and it will blow up in their faces. Watch a class action pop up in 6 month’s. Massive boycott is coming! I’ve been reading the stocks and they have been taking losses for the 1st time in many year’s. I’m pretty sure PG is scrambling to recoup losses and blaming couponer’s instead of their exorbitant prices and poor management. The expectation that people will stay brand loyal is wholly misguided.

    Most of us couponer’s moved over to Reckit and Benson and others who have continued to not only distribute paper coupons but even higher value at greater rates. My household moved over to persil and all and snuggle. Despite not loving the brand.

    Everybody I know said well that’s OK we can use that instead even the tide exclusive household’s. That is about 40 people minimum. Not including the thousand plus couponer’s online that I’ve seen learning to cope with the loss of tide and gain.
    I can assure you, if there isn’t a paper coupon or such a spectacular deal I will not be buying any new proctor in gamble products. Even if they provide the most incredible “digital savings” in the universe.
    I CANT STAND DIGITALS!
    Proctor and gamble’s products are exorbitantly high and they do not have good enough savings for the sky rocketing prices. They can’t keep up digitally vs paper coupons. Other brand’s just haven’t done the same inflationary practices that they have and I’m certain it will doom their company.
    It’s robbery and they know it. What better way to rob people than entrapment? Good thing we have other options.
    I have been couponing for 6 years. If anyone wants to reach out I’d love to speak more.

  15. Kudos to breaking the news first. It’s interesting how executives always think they know more than their customers. In this sensitive economic period, brands need to adjust to what customers want and need. Talk to Ron Johnson, the ex CEO of JCPenneys, about thinking you know more than your clients

  16. Great to see Coupons In The News break this story first! And smart move by P&G in continuing to lead the transition to digital coupons!

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