Why Coca-Cola’s Invention of ‘Coupons’ Transformed the Marketing Industry As We Know It Today

By Grit Daily Staff Grit Daily Staff has been verified by Muck Rack's editorial team
Published on February 24, 2020

We use them everyday. We search for them right before we order that pizza or pair of sunglasses off sites like RetailMeNot . But we’ve never taken the time to stop and think about how they came about or when they were first utilized. Coupons.

Marketing has many faces and many different forms, especially in today’s era of digital content. Brands want to be unique in the way they advertise their products, but that’s not always the case. Same thing can be said about price reductions, which is where discount codes or coupons come into being.

You Can Thank Coca-Cola for the Global Success of Coupons Today

Originating to the late 1800s, the concept of coupons was first introduced in 1887, by arguably the most renown brand in the world: Coca-Cola. Thanks to Atlanta businessman, Asa Candler, one of the co-owners to Coca-Cola, transformed the company into a market-dominating drink, literally hand-writing tickets to customers offering them a “free glass” of Coca-Cola.

But what sparked this then-novel concept? At the time, Coca-Cola was the little guy, not really on the map. When Chandler decided that it would be valuable if the company handed out (literally) ways for its customers to taste its product, the idea of giving out “free bottles” of Coke took over.

Between 1894 and 1913, an estimated one-in-nine Americans had received a Coca-Cola, for a total of 8.5M free drinks, according to TIME Magazine. By 1895, you better believe Coca-Cola was already being served in every state.

With the global success Coca-Cola enjoyed from its coupons, a new concept sparked from it in the early 1900s: “discounts.” Thanks to the success coupons had on the general public because of what Coca-Cola had done, discounts soon began appearing on cereals, of course growing extremely popular during the Great Depression.

In September 1997, the U.S. celebrated its first-ever National Coupon Month, with the purpose of spreading awareness to consumers about the value of using coupons.

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Then, the renown RetailMeNot.com came into existence in 2006, which is now the world’s most widely used coupon site. Four years later, Target became the first national chain to put mobile coupons on customers’ cell phones.

While most people don’t use discount codes or coupons all that often, there is a small group of customers that is willing to go to great lengths to save even the tiniest amount of money on their shopping. To do that, they use coupons and other discounts, both online and in traditional stores.

Their tactics were so interesting that a reality TV show following their everyday lives was created, called Extreme Couponing, created by Gomez Eli. Extreme couponing is an activity that combines shopping skills with couponing in an attempt to save as much money as possible while accumulating the most groceries. This term was first used in the media by The Wall Street Journal in March 2010.

Of course, ‘extreme couponing’ is only really known in America, and it’s unlikely that it will catch on anywhere else. Yet, it’s still interesting to know that there is a small group of people that take coupons really, really seriously.

When You Shop Online, You Should Be Using Discount Codes

Chances are, you’ve probably done some online shopping. In fact, it’s one of the most popular forms of shopping today. The question is: have you ever redeemed any discount codes?

If not, you should definitely give them a shot, considering the financial benefits of taking advantage of them.

To Each Their Own: Find the Right Loyalty Program for You

One of the most popular loyalty programs in Canada issues ‘money’ as means of reward for every dollar spent in the store. The company is called Canadian Tire and their ‘money’ is very similar to actual Canadian currency, both in terms of size and design. So much so that it is accepted in a small number of other stores.

Is it a full-fledged currency? Not really.

However, it looks so similar that it can be mistaken for actual money. In 2004, one of Canadian Imperial Bank cash machines withdrew 11 Canadian Tire bills instead of actual Canadian bills.

Now, if the sophisticated machinery treats coupons the same way it treats money, who are we to say otherwise?

Coupons for Cars?

The 20th century was a time full of turmoil and unrest, both social, international and economic. Governments knew that people wanted to increase their standard of life, but the economic realities of certain countries rendered that dream impossible. That did not stop certain states to attempt to help the people get the things they want.

When Volkswagen Beetle was first introduced, its aim was to provide German families with practical, cheap and reliable form of private transportation. However, the German economy had still been suffering the consequences of World War One.

What was the idea that would help millions of Germans get cars? Coupons, of course!

The plan was simple: give people a sort of payment plan that had to be paid in monthly installments and after a few short years, a car would be paid off and ready to be delivered.

The condition was that the installments had to be paid regularly. You miss even one and you have to start all over and go to the back the waiting list, which took years by the way. After making all the payments, you would receive a coupon that would allow you to pick up your brand-new Beetle.

The truth was that the Nazi government needed money to develop military technology and the Beetle was a decoy that would make citizens part with their money each month without really thinking twice about it. Only a handful of people actually got their cars that way.

So, you still think coupons and discount codes are simple? The history behind it is fascinating.

By Grit Daily Staff Grit Daily Staff has been verified by Muck Rack's editorial team

Journalist verified by Muck Rack verified

Grit Daily News is the premier startup news hub. It is the top news source on Millennial and Gen Z startups — from fashion, tech, influencers, entrepreneurship, and funding. Based in New York, our team is global and brings with it over 400 years of combined reporting experience.

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