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NO MONEY NEEDED – Alternative currencies

Thousands of transactions are made daily around the world and the majority of them involve money changing hands. These transactions tend to be meaningless, cold and impersonal.

Seeking new ways to create meaningful interactions with customers, an increasing number of brands have introduced alternative payment methods. Not only do consumers get their ‘free’ product, but actions such as tweeting, performing a dance move, making a promise of doing a good deed or doing a few sit-ups, can be very entertaining.

From a brand perspective, these actions can be used to immerse consumers in your brand universe whilst bringing your core values to life. Interacting with consumers in a novel way makes encounters with the brand more memorable and adds value to the relationship with your clients.

Let’s look at a few examples:


As part of their #MakeItCount campaign, Nike Mexico developed an online auction system which allowed participants to bid for the brand’s products using neither dollars nor pesos, but the kilometres accumulated on their Nike+ account. In order to get a higher bid, you had to run further. The aim was to prove that ‘your sweat counts’.

This payment method encouraged healthy competition and motivated people to exercise by rewarding their behaviour. The campaign resulted in more than 25,000 unique visitors in 2 weeks, with a total of 1,334 kilometres bid. The first product was sold for 332 kilometres – the equivalent of running from London to Paris!


Nutrient-enhanced water brand Activate strives to inspire people to live life at 100% and claims to make it easy and convenient for consumers to Get Activated. To bring this proposition to life and to support the fight against obesity in the USA, Activate opened a pop-up shop in Los Angeles in August 2012, which tested visitors by giving them the opportunity to pay with “Calories or Cash”.

Activate incentivised those willing to get active and healthy – by participating in 1 of 3 physical activities in store – offering them free bottles of the beverage. This idea helped Activate to instil the satisfaction of earning something rather than buying it. Consumers not only received a free sample of the product, but also enjoyed the physical benefits of being active



Last September, Kellogg’s UK opened the first ever Tweet Shop. For four days, the brand bridged the gap between social currency and real-life money by allowing customers to pay for Special K Cracker Crisps with a tweet about the product.

Using the twittersphere is always a smart move as words spread faster than anywhere else; however, it is also risky as brands can’t control what is being said. Luckily for Kellogg’s, twitter users were very active, not only with tweets from consumers claiming their free snacks in-store, but also spreading the word about the innovative shop. While the pay-with-a-tweet concept has spread quickly amongst brands, the Tweet Shop was truly original for it was the first example of an activity which involved such a level of consumer interaction.


Kinect technology has revolutionised the world of home entertainment, so Coca-Cola South Korea recently decided to embrace the endless possibilities of this product and created a vending machine that rewarded people who danced in front of it.

Equipped with webcams and Kinect sensors, the machine invited passers-by to dance, shout and cheer, showing as much passion as possible. The closer that people mimicked the dance moves of famous Korean dance duo 2PM, the more bottles of free Coke they got.

The video of Dancing Vending Machine went viral within days. Once again, Coca-Cola successfully delivered its message of happiness, this time with a great example of how the use of alternative currencies can strengthen a brand’s positioning.


Danish chocolate brand, Anthon Berg, believes that “you can never be too generous” and to convey this message to consumers, they created a pop-up store in Copenhagen, smartly named The Generous Store.

At The Generous Store, instead of cash registers, visitors found iPad stations where they could ‘pay’ with random acts of kindness. To redeem their box of chocolates, customers had to log into their Facebook account and post a promise of good deed on the walls of both the giver and the receiver of the deed.

This method of payment allowed Anthon Berg to create interaction with its clients and their friends in a very relevant way, while raising awareness and the profile of the brand.


In 2010 Australian beer Tooheys NEW launched a campaign called ‘The Beer Economy’. The fully integrated campaign was based around the insight that in Australia, beer is constantly used as currency. Whether it’s helping a friend move house or helping install a dishwasher, you can always get things done with a case of beer. An app called The Beer Exchange Calculator even allowed users to calculate the number of beers they were owed by answering a few simple questions.

This campaign differs from the others in that it encouraged consumers to use the product as an alternative method of payment, rather than encouraging them to pay for the product with something other than money. The message was clear, Tooheys NEW is the official currency of ‘The Beer Economy’. So if you need your friends to help you get something done, pay them with a Tooheys New!