Pay With Posts: The Future of Social Currency

Forget paper money and credit cards!

That’s what Marc Jacobs said last weekend when they opened up the doors to the Daisy Perfume Pop Up Shop in New York City. Consumers could leave their wallets behind because the store was accepting a new type of payment.  Customers exchanged posts on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram with the hashtag #MJDaisyChain in exchange for branded products like perfume, jewelry, and even handbags.


The store (on 462 West Broadway) was only open to the public from Friday, Feb. 7 to Sunday, Feb. 9, which fittingly coincided with New York Fashion Week.  The opening event including a stellar guest list, with stars like  Anna Kendrick (Actress, Pitch Perfect), Meghan Markel (Actress, Suits), and Jamie Chung (Actress, Believe), to name a few.

Daisy is one of Marc Jacobs’ most popular lines, and the brand is very active on Facebook and Twitter.  Check out how they promoted the pop-up shop on the streets of NYC.

But, why would a brand give away so much product for free?  Well, by using social currency, the brand is gaining something that is extraordinarily valuable: word of mouth (WOM.)  It’s such a crucial part of maintaining a successful brand that, in fact, 2 out of 3 marketers say it is actually more effective than traditional marketing.  Marc Jacobs could have produced some commercials, put some print advertisements in a magazine, but instead, they created these pop-up shops that improved their social media impressions and garnered media attention from sites like Mashable, Forbes, and more. 

This idea of social currency, however, is not entirely new.

Kellogg’s opened up a Tweet Shop in London back in 2012 during Social Media Week, where consumers exchanged tweets for 100-calorie snacks!  This gave consumers the chance to actually get their hands on the product and encouraged them to share their thoughts on the brand with family and friends.


But even before that, the book “Oh My God What Happened and What Should I Do” had the idea to start a campaign called “free-for-a-share,”where they gave free downloads to individuals who tweeted about the book.  The idea earned them a CyberLion at Cannes and you can still go to the website to download a free copy of the digital marketing book (only if you tweet about it though!)


So, what is the future of social currency?

While social currency is awesome, don’t expect it to replace actual money.  After all, businesses need to make a profit.

The examples here show that, for brands to try to use social currency to gain social media impression, they need to be well-established with loyal customers and a strong social media/online presence.  The items that are given away need to be small and low-price, yet significant, and should only be available for a tweet for a limited amount of time, in order to spark a sense of exclusivity and urgency.

I expect we’ll see more of these one-time, short-term “free-for-a-share” campaigns from brands in the upcoming years.


The Brand that Launched A Thousand Virtual Stores

Let’s role-play for a minute.

Imagine that you were born and raised in South Korea (fun fact: South Koreans are the 2nd hardest working people in the entire world.)  You really pride yourself on your dedicated work ethic.

In fact, you’re so busy working hard and being super successful at your job that you barely have time to do simple chores.  And when you do manage to make time to wash the dishes or grocery shop, you are usually so tired from a day at the office that you find the task at hand tedious and frustrating.

Oh, and you are always on your smartphone.


Now, let’s switch it up.

Imagine that you are Tesco, the #2 supermarket in South Korea.   And it is your mission in life to beat out the South Korea’s #1 grocery store, E-Mart.


The problem?

E-Mart had more stores in South Korea.  So, what are you to do?

That word is important.  “Do.”  Messaging can be effective in persuasion, but words can’t make someone suddenly enjoy doing something that they hate.  You (Tesco) have identified a problem that cannot be solved by messaging.  You have to do something.

But what?

How can you (Tesco) make South Korean people  shop at your grocery store, when they:

1. Barely have the time to go there and

2. Don’t actually enjoy it.

Tesco knew they had to find a way to make grocery shopping more convenient and less stressful!

And then, there was the light bulb moment!

Wait…what if, instead of bringing the consumers to our store, we bring the store to our consumers“- someone at Cheil, Tesco HomePlus’s ad agency (probably).

Right then, in 2011, the idea of a virtual store was born.


Tesco Homeplus  decided to bring their grocery stores to the consumers by placing “virtual stores” in subway stations in Seoul. While commuter were waiting for their train home after work, they could  scan the QR code of the items they wanted to purchase (using the smart phones the South Korean people are attached to) which would add the items to their online “grocery bag.” These items would be delivered to their house by the time they got home from work.  This idea let consumers shop on the go, and turned “waiting for the time” time into shopping time.

What makes this idea so special was that it was the first virtual store, and it inspired many other brands, like Toys-R-Us, Kate Spade, EBay, Peapod,, etc. to execute their own virtual stores of sorts.  Check out this list for other QR virtual stores (check out which one is #1!)

And just like Helen of Troy’s beautiful face launched a thousand ships, Tesco’s big idea launched a thousand virtual stores.

It’s almost poetic.

But Tesco didn’t just create a virtual store.  And they didn’t just create the first virtual store.  What they created was a new shopping experience: one that focused on understanding consumers and making their lives easier.

And although it was a guinea pig project, it was pretty successful.


Through this campaign, 10,287 consumers visited the online Tesco (Homeplus) mall using their smartphones. The number of new registered members increased by 76%, and on-line sales climbed 130%

Tesco Homeplus also placed virtual stores in the UK airport in 2012, and the people couldn’t get enough!

For years to come, Tesco will be remembered as the King of virtual stores.  The mother of all stores virtual.  It’s quite a legacy to have.

Watch this case study video to see how the idea came to life:

Who’s jealous that they didn’t come up with this idea first?