Sep 08, 2017
Virtual currencies have been big news for years in the tech world. Now, the Russian wing of one of the world’s biggest fast food chains is trying to cash in on the virtual currency trend – by debuting its own cryptocurrency backed by the Whopper.
Russian Burger King’s virtual currency is called the WhopperCoin, according to The Verge. Customers who purchase food at Burger King earn one WhopperCoin in their digital wallet for every ruble they spend. A Whopper can be redeemed for 1,700 WhopperCoins. The currency can be traded and transferred online using the Waves blockchain platform.
Since the currency can only be spent at Burger King for food items, the WhopperCoin promotion looks more like a gamified loyalty program than real money. There have been one billion coins issued, however, and the opportunity to trade and have WhopperCoins appreciate in value appears to be real.
How long WhopperCoin will stay in circulation remains to be seen, but according to The Verge, Russian Burger King plans to launch an app for the currency this month. Whether it will encourage currency speculators to buy Whoppers is a different question.
But the real story when it comes to Burger King’s foray into cryptocurrency isn’t about the value of money, but the value of the public relations associated with it. Had Burger King merely launched a points program, it’s hard to imagine it garnering the kind of viral coverage that has come with the WhopperCoin announcement.
And the over-the-top tone of the announcement seems on-point considering other cryptocurrencies that have launched based around memes and inside jokes. The satirical Dogecoin, for instance, now has a market cap of $232 million, according to a list of ridiculous cryptocurrencies published on Benzinga.
As cryptocurriences have grown more popular, they’ve also grown controversial. The opportunity to invest and trade in them has opened up a new world of Ponzi schemes, according to an article in The Atlantic. Conceptual complexity, wholesale lack of regulation and the promise of making it big on speculation has created an easy space for scammers to defraud investors.
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Is there unique promotional value in positioning a loyalty points program as a cryptocurrency? Is this a tack other retailers and QSRs should consider? Are there any downsides to Burger King (in Russia or elsewhere) pursuing such a strategy?
“This is a glorified loyalty program with points you can transfer to others, just as you can do with many airline or hotel schemes.”
“…each local market/franchisee will be able to evaluate if this is a PR Play, Loyalty Program or a good business decision.”
“I don’t see how this is going to do anything to further the cause for cryptocurrencies in general or for this variation of a loyalty program.”