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Dissecting the Mint’s Handling of Presidential Dollars
By Mike Unser

Second-guessing the United States Mint is exceptionally easy to do. They’re the "big guys" with an array of products and programs that make them a bullseye for attention. They’re also a government entity and it’s not exactly easy or prudent for them to respond to criticism, making arm-chair judgments against them more likely to go unchallenged.

An aggressive marketing campaign by the Mint along with early and embarrassing mint coin errors has provided public notice of the new Presidential $1 Coins. While the Mint should be held accountable for errors or mistakes in decisions, how much criticism do they merit for the lack of progress in getting the new Presidential Dollars used in daily circulation?

Despite the fact that the Mint has already reported nearly 760 million presidential coins minted without the Madison dollars, a significant portion of the public has never received the new coin in daily change. I live in one of the largest cities in the nation, San Antonio, and have yet to experience someone handing me one. Further, asking for and getting the coins at many banks has been a challenge in itself.

Is the Mint steering the ship forward correctly in marketing the new Presidential Dollars?
The U.S. Mint just released a myriad of new products containing Presidential Dollars and there’s talk in the blogging world regarding their approach. Is the Mint on the right path doing what they can to achieve success with the new dollars? What can help build the Presidential Dollar "brand"? How can the Mint get the coins out of vaults and into banks and stores so more of the public will not only collect them but actually see and use them?

For starters, by following and continuing the marketing strategies they’ve clearly undertaken:
Brand the Presidential Dollars
Wrap the dollar coins within established and successful programs
Increase offerings through the presidential coin product line
Don’t give up - keep the advertising dollars flowing and make adjustments by monitoring the results
Branding the Presidential Dollars
Creating awareness and identity for something new is essentially giving it a brand. The Mint has been quite good at branding the Presidential Dollars with targeted events, advertising campaigns and valuable website space for the public education of the Presidential $1 Coins.

Wrap the dollar coins within established and successful programs
The Mint accomplished another marketing objective by including the Presidential Dollars into their annual proof and mint sets. Why is this important? As one example, these sets are often given as gifts to those who don’t activity collect for one reason or another - they may be too young, they haven’t yet been introduced to the Mint or collectible coins, etc.

During the Christmas season alone, many for their first time will get a glimpse at the new Presidential Dollars and they’re see within their best light. Plus, the sets will usually get passed around so everyone can partake in their wondrous shine and detail. Throw in birthday and other gift occasions and the Mint buys free viral marketing for the new dollar coins simply because they’re within the annual mint and proof sets.

Increase offerings through the presidential coin product line
For the Presidential $1 Coins to succeed, they need to stand out as their own product or brand. Offering a product with varying options and price points can increase its awareness, product brand identity and selling success.

There’s a reason manufactures produce and grocery stores place on valuable shelf space brands of cereal, ice cream, coffee, etc., each with their own varying sizes, packages and price points. Everyone wants options and we’ll pay for them.

Check out the new Presidential Dollars products the Mint recently announced:

Presidential $1 Coin Uncirculated Set™
United States Mint Presidential $1 Coins - Individual Proof Coin™
United States Mint Presidential $1 Coin & First Spouse Medal Set™ (Madison)
The United States Mint Annual Uncirculated Dollar Coin Set™
The Official United States Mint Coin Album - Presidential $1 Coins™

While those less familiar with introducing a product or have never had to brand one will many times argue throwing more options out simply dilutes and confuses (and it certainly can when done incorrectly), it’s harder to achieve an objective of building a successful coin "brand" by not having specific products that include those coins - and only those coins - in a highlighted fashion.

Going back to the cereal example from the grocery store again, you can find small boxes of General Mill cereals - Golden Grahams, Frosted Cheerios, Cocoa Puffs, Trix, Honey Nut Cheerios, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Cheerios and Lucky Charms - all packaged together for a single sale price.

However, nearly everyone would cry out if they couldn’t buy their favorite box of cereal by itself. So why does General Mills offer small boxes of varying cereal brands to be sold together in one package? To offer more options, and to expose lesser known brands to the public.

A "dedicated" Cheerios eater may have never tried a newer cereal, like Honey Nut Cheerios. Because it was in the package, they may try it out and like it. The next time they go shopping they may just buy both boxes of cereal.

If you’ve made the connection, throwing the Presidential Dollars in the annual proof and mint sets gets a similar "bump". It helps build their brand, like also discussed in the earlier gift example.

But at the same time and more important, you can’t solely rely on this type of packaging in most instances. If the Presidential $1 Coins are to be considered a product of their own, as the law for their creation dictates and a significant amount of monetary dollars is dedicated to, it makes complete sense to have an option to purchase them not just in bags, rolls and annual sets, but in unique offerings like collectible proof and mint singles.

Don’t give up - keep the advertising dollars flowing and make adjustments by monitoring the results
It’s rare for any product to kick into overdrive and achieve complete success overnight. An important thing the Mint should always remember - even when faced with criticism - is that it takes time. They must continually monitor their efforts and make any necessary adjustments that are always inline with the main goal - building and driving the success of the Presidential $1 Coin program.

The Mint is in a terrible bind in that the new dollar coins are competing against a foe they can’t win against - the dollar bill. However, a successful collectible program that can help broaden the dollar coin’s appeal can make the coin more viable going forward.

To date, they’re mostly hitting the necessary marketing marks. In this day and age, you can’t always stick to what worked 10 years ago. You have to come out with fresh approaches and take chances when the odds are stacked against you, like they are with the dollar coin vs. the dollar bill. The Mint is taking chances.

The Presidential Dollars will do fine with new collectors. They can also still achieve a respectable "2nd place" for use in circulation. That battle won’t be easy. The Mint has an upward climb.

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