Branding Beat - Cut Through the Noise

5 Dos and Don’ts of Creating Coupons for Your Business

Coupons are commonplace for businesses, but they’re not always done right. You have to think long and hard before you broadcast sales or savings to customers; otherwise, you could end up losing money and a whole lot of credibility.

How do I know this? Read on.

Here’s a big shocker for anyone who knows about my shoe obsession: I used to work at Shoe Carnival. The job was as ridiculous as the name implies. One day after Thanksgiving, the place was predictably a…well, carnival. People were packed to the rafters starting at 6:00 AM using their “Buy One Pair of Shoes, Get Another Pair Free” coupons, which expired at noon that same day. While manning the cash register at 12:00 PM, I was a firsthand witness to the carnage and outrage created by a midday-expiration coupon.

Not only did those crazy coupons expire at noon, but the registers were programmed to lock them out after that exact time. So, the solid 50-plus people who were in line before noon but didn’t check out until after noon practically revolted. Shoes were left on the floor right where people stood. Managers frantically tried to calm customers down. Nothing could be done to calm the angered masses. It was probably an hour before things got back to normal.

This was the first “don’t” on my list, and it’s a prime example of how NOT to extend coupons to your customers. Coupons that expire in the middle of the day are never a good idea!

Here are four more dos and don’ts you’ll want to consider:

  • DO – Get your coupons to your customers in an appropriate amount of time. If I receive a coupon in the mail for a two-week sale that has only one week left, I’m not even going to bother. On the flipside, if I get it too early before the sale, I’ll most likely forget. Timing is everything.
  • DON’T – Exclude everything you sell from the coupon. Guitar Center sends out frequent 10% off coupons…that are good for virtually nothing in the store. It’s not good for the guitars, amps, drums, or basically anything name brand. Why even bother? As a result, I don’t even look at Guitar Center coupons anymore. Throw your customers a bone!
  • DO – Make the savings worth your customers’ time. A coupon for 25-cent savings off of $20 isn’t going to cut it (I consider this more insulting than anything). If your offer isn’t fair, then it looks like you’re begrudgingly offering a coupon because you feel as if you have to. Don’t be that guy!
  • DON’T – Overload your customer with coupons. For everyone but Bed, Bath, and Beyond (who allows you to combine offers) bombarding someone with coupons is a surefire way to lose the “specialness” of the offer. Coupons should make you want to shop somewhere, but if I know I’m getting one coupon after the next, I won’t feel the urgency to shop, and most likely forget all together.

So there you have it. These guidelines are what I feel coupons could and should be. Coupon creation takes a lot of precision that some businesses just don’t seem to have! First and foremost, you have to put yourself in your customers’ shoes before implementing a new offer. If you wouldn’t be spurred to action by the terms and conditions of your coupon, then perhaps it’s time for a few tweaks.

I love using coupons in the right situations. I won’t walk into a Bed, Bath, and Beyond without a stack of them. I just wish all companies could be generous with their offers instead of using sly marketing tricks all the time…

Do you have any more dos and don’ts? What’s the most you’ve ever saved from a company’s coupon offers? Which coupons are seriously lacking?


Bubba is the Quality Logo Products mascot. He may have started out as "just a stress ball," but he's come a long way since the company's launch in 2003. Bubba has been immortalized in numerous vector artwork designs for internal and external promotions, and you can see him change outfits on the Quality Logo Products homepage whenever a holiday rolls around. Oh, and he thinks pants are for the birds. You can connect with Bubba on


  1. Peemo

    An important lesson learned from this blog…

    Jeff loves Bed Bath and Beyond.

    • JPorretto

      This is a fact. And it’s ONLY because of the coupons. They’ve made themselves a standout business because of it.

  2. cyberneticSAM

    Hmmm good post! I get lots of coups in the mail, but all too often does my significant other throw them out in the mailroom before I even get to look at them… I would like to be a super saver. In fact, I donated $15 to a charity so that I would get those coupon books in the mail, but I forgot to cancel my subscription and now am paying $25 for coups that I don’t even get to see. My darling partner thinks that coups are stupid and says to not even bother with am and there they go. 🙁 As you can see, this is something that irks me to no end…. sorry sweets, I love you and didn’t mean to sell you down the river, but people have to know about your deliberate lack of interest in saving a dime!

    • JPorretto

      Tell your sweetie to get on board! Sure coupon clipping for $0.05 of a box of cereal is pointless and annoying, but the BIG savings are where it’s at!

  3. Vern-Matic

    I hate those coupons for 50.00$ off of brake work (obviously you can tell I used it by looking at my car) but when you get the bill it really didn’t make much change to the overall price. At least make it worth while to “hunt” for the coupon

  4. Jenna Markowski

    I agree with all of these DOs and DON’Ts. When I used to work at Old Navy, I experienced a lot of the dos, but a few don’ts as well. I remember that there was a swimsuit sale that started at 7 a.m. and ended at noon. Needless to say, that was a nightmare. But Old Navy was really good about sending out coupons at the right time, and getting customers excited about each new offer.

    As far as coupons go, no one does it better than Bed Bath & Beyond! I recently read that not only will they take pretty much any coupon that they have ever created at the same time, but they will take coupons from other stores as well! If a store like Linens ‘N Things or Buy Buy Baby is selling a similar product, Bed Bath & Beyond will take their coupons because they want your business. Brilliant! 🙂

    • JPorretto

      Ah, you’ve felt the same pain/ shock/ horror as me with the time sensitive coupons. It’s an experience that is not easily forgotten.

      Dear Retailers, STOP DOING THIS.

  5. Joseph Giorgi

    Bed, Bath, and Beyond’s coupons seem like the best of the best. I need to find some of those. They’re still good after the expiration date, right? That’s practically unheard of. 🙂

    I’m surprised that Guitar Center is so stingy with their coupon offers. How are the coupons NOT good for instrument purchases? That’s just asinine!

    Awesome tips here, Jeff!

    • JPorretto

      Thanks Joe!

      Guitar Center coupons are basically only for house brand items, and almost EVERY instrument is name brand…. pointless.

      And yes, BBB coupons are good for ever. I just used one from 09 last week =)

    • cyberneticSAM

      You need some BBB coups do ya? Well if you get any I’ll just pitch ’em cause coups are pointless right!? ;D

  6. Jill Tooley

    Great list, Jeff! The coupons that irk me are the ones that force you to use your store credit card in order to redeem them. I hate putting things on my credit cards because the interest rates are so astronomical that I’ve paid the difference in fees by the time I remember to pay it off! However, I will say that stores like Kohl’s and Victoria’s Secret are good about things like this. Kohl’s makes me use my credit card to get the discounts, but then I can turn around and pay off the balance in the same transaction if I so choose. Awesome! 🙂

    Where do you even find coupons for Bed, Bath, and Beyond? I want to stack some and get wicked sweet savings!! Hook me up! 😉

    • JPorretto

      I just get them in the mail just about every week. I could probably just be your hookup 😉

      There’s 20% off, $10 off $30, $5 off $15, etc. You gotta use your math skills to get the best deal!

    • Amanda

      I agree Jill! The coupons that only apply when you use your in store credit card are annoying! Unless you pay your bill 100% that month, the interest overtakes the coupon savings. =(

  7. Mandy Kilinskis

    One store that knows how to use coupons is Michael’s. Those guys get me every single time. They start by printing a 40% off one single item coupon in their ad, and then when you use it at the store, it prints off another coupon for 50% off one single item that you can use next week. There was a series of months when I was at Michael’s at least once a week using these never-ending coupons. Michael’s made a mint off me! Without that first coupon, I would’ve never gone in the store in the first place. Granted, I got some sweet craft supplies at 50% off, but I don’t think I’ve even used all of it yet.

    • LK

      Ahhh! I totally forgot about Michaels coupon craze. I was in the process of scrapbooking my college years and everytime I went a received a new coupon, so I’d go back and get more stuff, get ANOTHER coupon. They hooked me in too, but not in an annoyed way which was successful for them!

  8. QLP Kid


    a good post I do declare…

    Happy Bubba Day!!!

    -QLP Kid

    “It’s How the Midwest was Won…”

  9. Juliette

    I think I need to start checking out these BBB coupons!

    Lately the ones that I really like are from Jo-Anns. They almost always have one in their mailer for free shipping or 40-50% an item (and if you’re going for expensive fabric, that’s the time to buy). The only ones that really bug me are ones I get in my email that tell me they are only good in-store. Borders does this quite often and it drives me nuts as there’s only ONE Borders left within an hour drive. 🙁 It’s much more awesome to make sure (especially if folks are getting the coupons because they purchased at your online store and signed up for emails) that the coupons are good for both in-store and online.

  10. Jana Quinn

    I understand the need to put expiration dates on coupons; you don’t want people to file it away to use it “later” and never get around to it.

    On the other hand, if I made the effort to clip your coupon, go all the way to your store, pick out my stuff, and wait in line, and the thing happens to be expired, I will be annoyed if it’s not honored. The expiration dates are arbitrary; they’re not going to explode after a certain amount of time has passed. Just give me the discount and don’t create a negative customer service experience where there doesn’t need to be one.

    • Andrew

      I agree that retailers like the example in the article ‘could’ be flexible for retailer coupons, but manufacturer coupons are risky to the retailer if accepting expired offers. So I can understand policy for not accepting ANY expired coupons if its possible for your business to honor both retailer and manufacturer coupons.

  11. AS

    I love coupons of any kind! I clip and carry them with me so I have them on hand. I would like to start using more of them, but sometimes I can’t find very many in the newspapers, and printing them online has given me a hard time too….so I just use them when I can. I’ve been recording and watching Extreme Couponing recently, and I am very intrigued! I would love to have stockpiles like that! I am still searching for which stores offer double coupon days. I’ve found one so far. =)

    • Amy

      That show is crazy!! When and how are people going to use 100 tubes of toothpaste that they stockpilied?! I love couponing, but I’ve got my limits haha

  12. Shu Arvilla

    Thanks for the advice. I’m researching making coupons for my business.

  13. Omar Haleem

    The best off would be the one that allows for a blanket discount on any purchase made in any store.. I guess that’s the one whose card will hold a universal coupon,Is inclined to believe this concept is more integrated with web apps and website based businesses now then ever before. Thanks for the interesting input.

  14. Mea


    This is a great article! Do you have any suggestions or list of companies that I could contact if I was interested in providing coupons to my consumers? Thanks.

  15. Troy

    I’m definitely keeping this story in mind when I create more coupons for my business. Anyway, 25 cents off of $20 seems completely trivial. Are there really businesses that offer these?

  16. Menda

    Amazing post! Much appreciated for composing this. A considerable measure of valuable advice!

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