They may not be glamorous, but coupons drive a huge amount of the social-media buzz behind packaged-goods brands. Now digital agency Rockfish Interactive is looking to make it easier for brands to put their own coupons into that digital conversation everywhere from blogs to Facebook using a do-it-yourself coupon creation and analytics engine called Coupon Factory.
The tool, which Rockfish Chief Marketing Officer Dave Knox likens to Google AdWords for digital couponing, allows marketers to create their own digital, print-at-home coupons or fully digital versions that can be scanned from a smartphone at checkout or loaded directly into a shopper loyalty account.
The initiative comes from Rockfish Labs, the new-business incubator of the agency, based in Rogers, Ark., with offices in or near Dallas, San Francisco and Cincinnati.
Rockfish also is creating its own coupon-distribution network through more than 800 mostly mommy bloggers who are available to post coupon offers on their blogs. A Coupon Factory widget allows them to be printed without the visitor leaving for a company or couponing website and can be adapted for use on Facebook fan pages and newsfeeds, said Wade Allen, VP-retail at Rockfish.
Consumer packaged-goods marketers and national retailers are the initial market for the product, he said. But Rockfish also intends to roll it out as a solution for local retail and service businesses that lack many options for distributing digital coupons and may not be a fit for the likes of Groupon, which accepts only a limited number of businesses for its deal-a-day service. Mr. Allen said Rockfish has had preliminary talks about working with Groupon rival LivingSocial.
Among brands already using Coupon Factory in beta tests are White Cloud, a private-label toilet paper sold only at Walmart; Campbell Soup Co.'s Goldfish brand and Mott's juices, Mr. Allen said. John McPherson, director of marketing for Kruger Products, marketer of White Cloud, said he encouraged Rockfish to develop the tool because of dissatisfaction with tools provided by another coupon distributor for creating and managing coupons hosted on the brand's own website.
"They were charging us extensively for it," Mr. McPherson said. "And it wasn't easy to work with." Making changes in the coupons would take five to 10 days using the other distributor's system, he said, vs. instantly through CouponFactory. He also likes the back-end monitoring and analytics capability.
White Cloud distributes digital coupons through nine bloggers and its own email database. Ultimately, Mr. Allen said he hopes marketers will be able to use the tool to create and manage coupons distributed via such sites as Coupons.com and SmartSource.com.
Digital coupons still represent less than 1% of CPG coupon distribution, but a bigger and growing share of redemption. They accounted for nearly 10% of redemptions in 2009, the latest year for which such data have been published by NCH Marketing, a unit of Valassis Communications. The redemption rates for CPG coupons printed at home last year was 15.8% vs. only 0.7% for free-standing inserts, according to NCH.
Couponing drives a major share of the digital and social-media buzz about many CPG brands. Of the 10.3 million Google results for Kimberly-Clark Corp.'s Huggies, for example, 24% also mention coupons. Of the 10,300 blog posts referencing the brand in the past 30 days, 35% mention coupons, according to NMIncite's BlogPulse. For Procter & Gamble Co.'s Pantene, 12% of Google hits and 25% of blog posts mention coupons.