The battle of the burger giants’ rewards programs just got more interesting. Burger King, which was the last major burger chain to offer a national customer loyalty program, is looking to leapfrog the competition with the help of an unlikely source: cryptocurrency. This month, BK Royal Perks and Robinhood Crypto members can win up to 20 bitcoins (valued at $1.25m) and more.
Crypto is now the hottest item on the menu for Burger King. Or at least that’s Burger King’s hope as the No. 3 burger chain looks to kickstart its nascent BK Royal Perks rewards program.
Burger King customers can enter to win 20 bitcoins, 200 Ethereum or 2m DOGE if they spend more than $5 in-store, or on the app or website. To cash in on the crypto prizes they have to join the BK Royal Perks program, which launched nationwide September. They must also open a Robinhood Crypto account.
The burger giants have been working to quickly scale up their loyalty program schemes in an effort to better connect with fickle consumers who are increasingly leaning into digital ordering. BK Royal Perks, for example, offers the chance to earn 10 crowns for every purchase. Crowns can be redeemed for free food and drinks. Members can also get exclusive limited-time-only products and free daily perks.
“Whether it’s offering bitcoin or having celebrities push meals, the goal is to get customers to turn left into a Burger King versus right somewhere else,” says Robert Passikoff, president of the brand consultancy Brand Keys. “The center of the whole thing is advertising isn’t driving people to the restaurants. So, they’ve had to turn to promotions, which exist in its entirety to drive behavior. Promotions work.”
Indeed, during the chain’s earnings call last week, Burger King chief executive Jose Cil said that marketing efforts have offered disappointing returns and that the chain will be placing greater emphasis on the Royal Perks digital program.
Burger King was the last of the burger giants to offer a national loyalty program – although it wasn’t far behind MyMcDonald’s Rewards, which debuted in July. Wendy’s Rewards launched in July 2020.
Chipotle, meanwhile, has trumpeted Chipotle Rewards as one of its secrets to success during the pandemic. It regularly targets its more than 20 million members with special offers and messages.
Prizes aside, these programs help build one-to-one relationships, which is something many chains have struggled with in the past, says Karen Freberg, professor in strategic communications, University of Louisville. “We are increasingly in a hyper-paced social and digital world, even more so since the pandemic. Fast food brands are catching up on that with not just loyalty programs, but with merch and swag items as well. They realize it’s not just their products people want, but their brand lifestyle and what it means to others. It’s better to be late than never.”
Leveraging crypto to achieve these ends is noteworthy because cryptocurrency “is still viewed as volatile and unknown. So, there is a tendency [for marketers to] be cautious, even if it means missing out being an innovator in the field,” says Freberg.
Robinhood, which gained notoriety due to the GameStop meme stock movement, is likely to get a brand boost from the promotion. As will crypto itself, which is now being touted by everyone from Matt Damon to Tom Brady. Fast food companies “are realizing this is going to be a trend [and want] to be a part of it as brands like Adobe and NBA are leading in partnerships in cryptocurrency,” says Freberg.
Robinhood head of partnerships Vikram Grover says: “Cryptocurrencies have become an important part of the financial world over the last decade. However, many Americans interested in this asset class don’t know how to start their journey or feel that the system isn’t built for them. [This promotion will be] reaching a new – and existing – audience for us, and we hope to help people start their crypto journey and take their first bite into crypto.”