- McDonald's is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Big Mac with a limited-edition global currency, the MacCoin, the company announced in a news release. MacCoins can be shared, collected and redeemed for a free Big Mac at certain locations worldwide.
- More than 6.2 million MacCoins will be available in five different designs that each represent a decade of the Big Mac and touchstones from that era, like art, music and pop culture. For example, the 1970s coin highlights the decade's "flower power," while the 2010s coin portrays the evolution of communication. The coins also feature seven different languages. MacCoins can be obtained through giveaways, with each country that's participating celebrating in a unique way.
- The idea for the MacCoin was inspired by The Economist's Big Mac Index, which the publication created in 1986 to compare international currencies in a lighthearted way, using the Big Mac as a symbol for purchasing power. The timing of the MacCoin also coincides with the 100th birthday of the creator of the Big Mac, Jim Delligatti.
Despite the name, the MacCoin is an actual brass-colored coin — not a cryptocurrency — but by billing the offering as the "first fully food-backed global currency," McDonald’s could still tap into the surge in interest around digital currencies like bitcoin.
The marketer could also be testing the waters for a genuine crytpto-based rewards program, which isn't unheard of in the fast-food category. KFC Canada launched a Bitcoin Bucket promotion in January, which let consumers purchase meals for $20 worth of the cryptocurrency bitcoin. Last year, Burger King's Russian arm also tested a "WhopperCoin," a reward program that offers tokens in a digital wallet that can be traded or redeemed for the brand's signature burger.
With the celebration of the Big Mac's anniversary, McDonald's is looking to drum up excitement with consumers as its business continues to struggle. Recent promotions, namely around the chain's revamped value menu, haven't been especially successful in courting more frugally-minded consumers. In Q2 earnings reported last week, McDonald's saw its slowest U.S. growth since Q1 2017, according to Ad Age.
The MacCoin follows McDonald's announcement last week that it would give away free orders of fries every Friday through the end of the year, which is an effort to beef up its mobile app users, as customers have to spend at least $1 on the app to get the free fries. McDonald's has been investing more heavily in mobile ordering and in-store technology to meet the growing demand, mostly from younger consumers, for convenience.
Fast-food chains have often struggled to draw in millennial consumers, who tend to prefer fresher, healthier foods, and are banking on mobile ordering and other tech-focused features to attract them. McDonald's announced in June plans to add self-service kiosks and mobile ordering to 1,000 restaurants every three months for the next two years, as well as curbside delivery for mobile purchases.