It is extremely important to recognize that, for better or for worse, Discount Coupons can have an extraordinary influence on people and their behavior. This influence is what makes a discount coupon very powerful and extremely valuable. Coupled with social media, a coupon can be leveraged to influence the behavior of whole communities in extraordinary ways. The ability to manipulate coupon values is tantamount to the ability to manipulate the value of money itself.
However, coupons, in the marketing world, function as a form of price discrimination that enables vendors to offer a lower price to people who would otherwise go elsewhere. Since coupon customers are price sensitive and not necessarily loyal to a brand, coupons tend to reward ambivalence in a community rather than trust, commitment, or long term relationship. Normally, one would seek to create incentives for loyalty, quality, and trustworthiness. Instead, such transient market can act against both product quality and new value creation.
Another use of the term “coupon” arises from finance where coupons are used as proof of ownership for a bond, “bearer certificate”, or similar financial instrument. Possession of the coupon is considered conclusive proof of ownership of a tangible asset. Money, in fact, is simply a coupon representing ownership of a unit of a productivity. Ownership is a cornerstone of all forms of Capitalism, including Social Capitalism.
As such, it is of little surprise that the Internet Coupon industry is exploding with huge valuations of Groupon by Google, The emergence of Google Offers, and Yelp Coupons, and many more. What is very interesting is that this explosion is happening concurrent with similar innovations in Travel, Currency, and Gaming deemed the “Great Integration”.
The next obvious step is for coupon exchanges to form where holders of one type of coupon can trade value with holders of another coupon not unlike one can now trade Coca Cola stock for shares in The Boeing Company. Coupons today have limitations on their usage, but over time, continued innovation in “Coupon Currency Games” will result in powerful mechanisms for the storage and exchange of value.
There is a classic business game that plays out in markets everywhere. Suppose that a vendor offers to discount all prices by 20%. A competitor simple has to say “We’ll match any price”. After a day or two, the resulting stalemate is inefficient because it simply resolves to both vendors losing 20% with no net shift in market allegiance, only increased transcience. This is a the divergent force that weakens ties and introduces susceptibility to disruptive innovation.
Meanwhile, The Value Game uses coupons to leverage relevant communities around physical assets such as airplanes, zip cars, alternative energy, and public infrastructure. This will be the convergent force that strengthens community ties and introduces huge opportunities for social entrepreneurs to create new value.
As a result, the strategic use of Coupons will play an important role in both the acceleration of innovation disruption AND the subsequent creation of new value. In fact, if used strategically, coupons may help usher out the old economy and bring in the new. The Domino Effect.
(Editors note: The above post is #3 in a series , , , ,  introducing The Value Game to a new class of business methods. The first real world application is Social Flights; a collaborative production / consumption game being deployed to the market. If this works, the new business method class will be generalized throughout the economy to catalyze the convertibility of social currency. Please join us at The Future of Money and Technology Summit in San Francisco on february 28th 2011 where we will unveil the work to the technology community)