The Effects of Coupon Incentives on Children’s Healthy Choices in a Developing Economy
We examine how coupons—a classic marketing incentive—affect children’s healthy choices in the understudied context of a developing economy. We partnered with UNICEF to launch three field experiments in Panamá among 2,242 children to examine four critical factors of coupon-based interventions on children: What to discount (product selection), how to discount (message design), whom to target (children’s age), and whether to discount again (repetition). We uncovered four previously undocumented insights: (1) Reconciling conflicting predictions in the incentive and child development literatures, we found that coupons alone can increase demand among children 6–11 years old; (2) Product selection based on relative price—a particularly critical factor in developing regions—drives opposing post-intervention effects: Ironically, marketers should not discount expensive healthy options but rather moderately priced ones; (3) Different from prior literature’s practice of directly communicating final prices, discount messages that require older children to derive prices are more effective; (4) Repetition can amplify or undermine discounts’ efficacy depending on message design and children’s age. Our research offers valuable guidelines for researchers and practitioners, uncovering both positive and negative effects of coupons on children, and shedding light on coupon intervention designs that most powerfully nudge children of different ages to act.
Michal Maimaran, Szu-chi Huang, Daniella Kupor
Maimaran, Michal, Szu-chi Huang, and Daniella Kupor. 2022. The Effects of Coupon Incentives on Children’s Healthy Choices in a Developing Economy.