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Comparing Couponing to Bar Code Marketing
By Rob Cummings Bar Code Service works within coupon promotions, as an alternative to coupons, or in addition to couponing.

This article compares Bar Code Service (BCS) with couponing, discussing the key features and benefits of Bar Code Service, defining the key differences between these two marketing/promotional approaches, and explaining how they can work together and/or concurrently.

The similarity between BCS and couponing is that both can encourage the consumer to try a new product, both encourage brand awareness, and both can increase brand loyalty. The difference is in the mindset, the reward, and the process.

For the consumer, couponing involves finding, clipping, sorting and then redeeming the coupon at checkout to obtain a cost savings. In this process, the consumer must also locate the product at the store, marry the appropriate coupon with it, and present it at checkout. The reward and end result in couponing is either (a) the ability to try a new product at a cost savings, or (b) achieve a cost savings on a product the consumer is already familiar with and loyal to.

With BCS, a consumer told to 'enter the product bar code at' (via any number of means including coupons if desired) goes through an entirely different process that begins with finding the bar code number and then entering it for some sort of 'reward'. This process provides a number of significant benefits unavailable in coupon promotions yet uniquely inherent in BCS.

The words 'enter the bar code at' cause the consumer to first look for and find the product in order to get the bar code number. This process involves either (a) hands-on product interaction, or (b) asking another for the bar code number who has hands-on product interaction. Hands-on interaction with the product and the product packaging is a major benefit that is inherent in the BCS process. Next comes the 'reward', which can vary depending upon the promotion. The reward can be simple, complex, ever-changing, or unknown. It might be a web page with a contest, promotion, sweepstakes, recipe, printable coloring book, cents-off coupon, a prize, or additional product information.

When compared to couponing, Bar Code Service promotions can include many elements that have proven to be successful with consumer promotions including mystery, intrigue, magic, and adventure.

Secret codes have long been entertaining to children and adults alike. Finding the bar code number on a product, entering it at, and being rewarded with a special web page as a result can be compared to decoding the 'secret code'. The process is entertaining (much more so than couponing), and the reward is greater - even if it is simply a colorful web page.

In terms of time and effort, the BCS process may be more or less time consuming than couponing, yet it can be far more appealing to an audience that may not be as interested in couponing (and its singular reward of cost savings) and is more interested in the entertainment, mystery, magic, adventure, and entertainment value of the BCS process and the result.

To the bar code owner, the additional advantage of BCS over coupon promotion is that there are no costs associated with redemption and clearinghouse services, and no budget variables in relation to redemption since the cost of BCS is based on an annual flat fee subscription. 

By integrating Bar Code Service with other marketing and promotional efforts, even adding the words 'enter the coupon code at' to the coupon itself, can add a level and intensity of brand awareness and brand loyalty far greater than couponing alone.

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