Isn't McDonald’s MacCoin just a glorified coupon?

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Background

Guess what? The Big Mac has turned 50. Vegetarians (and most people), please try to appreciate that this is a really big deal for some folk!

McDonald’s decided it wouldn’t be right to go without a celebration for its biggest burger based on sales (I think), not size (goodness knows if it’s physically its biggest burger), so it invented the MacCoin.

The Big Idea

I know what you’re thinking…This must be some really innovative digital currency inspired by cryptocurrencies which allows you to pay for a Big Mac simply by using an AR filter that turns your face into a burger and replaces your Facebook profile for just 50 seconds; allowing you to eat lunch merely for the price of selling your social soul for less than a minute?

Actually no. It’s a coupon. In the guise of a golden coin. When you buy a Big Mac, you get a coin meaning your next is free. Understand?

What They Did

On 2 August, MacCoin launched around the world and McDonald’s broke the news with a short video explaining the highly complex concept.

McDonald’s giveaway is clearly doing a brand job. It was timed to coincide with what would have been the 100th birthday of the inventor of the Big Mac. The inspiration came from the Big Mac Index that – believe it or not – is a real thing (invented by the economist as a simpler way to understand exchange-rate theory). Nicey nicey PR, a shiny coin and an effective brand activation that’s hard to dislike.

Review

American press coverage likened the MacCoin to a cryptocurrency even though it bears no resemblance at all. It seems McDonald’s went to no effort to disguise it as one so I’m not sure how much it predicted that all the press headlines would have jumped on the crypto comparison. But they did, and in the end it’s worked out well for McD. As is so often the case in this industry, the results are all that matter.

But not to me! We are here to review the creativity at the heart of campaigns and I’m sure I’m not the only one left wanting (creativity, not a Big Mac, that is).

This is an expensive endeavour for McDonald’s so perhaps you can’t blame it for playing safe. What it will do for the brand will need to be measured over the course of the next few months (the coupon may be active for a year) but for the sake of this review we have to mark against creativity so this isn’t a birthday with a bang I’m afraid.

We also need to talk about cheese. Not the special sauce or the near-plastic slices, but the cheese oozing out of the launch video. The MacCoin promo is the height of cheese (you should check out the guy’s grin when a lady in pleather trousers chucks him a coin). It’s soooo cheesy, I wonder if anyone seeing this content online will think it’s just another PR spoof for headlines. I honestly might have done. Maybe it’s just me.

The bad news. The coin isn’t coming to the UK. You’ll have to travel to get your hands on one… if it means that much.

In Hindsight

I don’t want to come across as anti-burger – I’ve had my fair share. American pick-up of the story seems solid and it has reached the UK even though it doesn’t really affect anyone over here. I can’t imagine the pressure associated which such an expensive, global activation and I’m sure more innovative ideas didn’t translate to the breadth of territories they had to hit. 

Still, my creative appetite isn’t quenched.

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Oliver Francis

Oliver Francis

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