The release of the Grimace NFT Collectibles is more than just holding digital images of the mascot on the blockchain.

Mc________. If your mind automatically completes it with ‘Donald’s’, you are right. With a brand value of US$196.5 billion, the global fast food chain is well known for their selection of fries, burgers, and ice cream which sate our cravings when it strikes, with the golden arches stand out like a beacon of savoury hope.

Recently those same golden arches of McDonald’s also stood for another word – Minting. With more brands exploring the digital metaverse and its potential benefits of brand building both globally and locally on the island, McDonald’s Singapore has also taken the leap of faith by launching 2,000 exclusive Grimace non-fungible token (NFT) collectibles for fans of the fast food brand to mint as part of a new Web3 engagement.

An image of the McDonaldLand mascots in a single photo

Grimace, the friendly rounded purple mascot in the McDonald’s franchise, is a familiar character to kids of the 80s and 90s. First introduced in the 1970s as part of a new McDonaldland campaign, the original Grimace iteration had two pairs of arms and often stole milkshakes from citizens of McDonaldland, before transitioning into the lovable, slightly dopey, character we know today.

The purple mascot, along with other McDonaldland characters like Birdie and Hamburglar, were unceremoniously shelved at the start of the new millennia as McDonald’s began shifting its focus to target adult consumers who wanted more from the quality of their food. This meant distancing themselves from the McDonaldland they had built to target their child-based consumer audience, while also placing less emphasis on child-like foods like Happy Meals and chicken nuggets.

But it seems that McDonald’s has recently pivoted their marketing direction towards nostalgia by dusting these mascots off the shelves. Recently, the Hamburglar mascot promoted the revamped Big Mac burgers in the United States, and social media was flooded with Tiktoks and Youtube shorts of people embracing the newly released berry flavoured Grimace milkshake on-screen, before being subjected to a macabre ending of fainting or worse in the second half of the video shorts.

One of the many TikTok videos portraying the grim fate of Grimace milkshake consumers

With prominent Singaporean brands like DBS Bank and real estate giant CapitaLand hopping onboard the Web3 train to engage their customers, it was only a matter of time before McDonald’s Singapore followed suit. Its latest marketing initiative brings together both McDonaldland nostalgia and Web3 technology with the release of 2,000 limited edition Grimace NFT collectibles for the fast-food chain’s fans to mint and collect.

To bring the campaign to fruition, McDonald’s Singapore worked with Bandwagon Labs to launch the digital collectibles on Polygon, the Ethereum Layer 2 scaling solution which is also the common choice of network for launching Ethereum-based NFTs, as well as the integration of the minting process into the McDonald’s app.

Through the launch of these digital collectibles, the McDonald’s team hope to create a memorable participatory experience for its customers, a tactic which thus far has fuelled the success of its viral campaigns like that of the Grimace milkshake content, as well as allowing fans to own a piece of McDonald’s history.

The Inspiration Behind The Design

Browsing through the Grimace NFT collectibles, you find the Grimaces wearing several different paraphernalia of the fast-food chain with some wearing items such as staff name tags and the iconic red cap or wearing shades and sling pouches. The simple yet pleasing designs of the Grimace NFTs is the artistic brainchild of The Hidden Walls, a Singapore-based artist that has worked with Web3 technology as her main medium, and whom McDonald’s Singapore collaborated with to bring the purple mascot to life on the blockchain.

The Hidden Walls artist designed the images for the Grimace NFT Collectibles
The artists behind the Grimace images, The Hidden Walls

The Hidden Walls’ artworks incorporate a common theme that draws from elements that define Singapore’s culture and historical elements, along with a Web3 narrative and a fantasy, sometimes dream-like, artwork style.

“I always wanted to draw from my past memories, places, experiences that I’m familiar with.” Said The Hidden Walls when asked about her unique art style. “I chose illustration as my medium because with illustrations, you can make anything happen and imagine a whole new world without any boundaries.”

The artist also took a slightly different approach with the Grimace digital collectibles by applying her Doodverse art style for the collaboration, which is characterised by their whimsical, colourful, and sometimes mind-boggling, art style.

“I kept it playful, bearing in mind the need for it to be child-friendly, and incorporated a little crypto homage traits where I could. Also, I wanted to imagine what Grimace would be like today, so I dressed him in outfits that people might love.” Said The Hidden Walls.

Grimace NFT Collectibles Post-Mint

The minting event for the Grimace NFT collectibles kicked off on 21st August with early access minting available for Instagram contest winners on Instagram. The event was then opened to the public with the NFT collectibles being fully snapped up within minutes. But what benefits have the NFT holders enjoyed since the initial mint? In the words of our editor who FOMO’ed (fear of missing out) into the mint process, “Not much”.

The Telegram messaging chat is busy with comments from participants.
A snapshot of the Grimace NFT Collectibles holders Telegram chat.

A peek into the Telegram chat comprised solely of Grimace NFT collectibles holders reveal that the perks so far are a free ice cream cone, a McDonald’s milkshake, and a weekly hash brown perk in September. Nevertheless, more perks for the NFT holders are currently in the works, and the community chat is thriving as its members carry on the conversation around their latest dining experiences at McDonald’s, as well as the occasional banter about the Web3 space.

NFTs Are The Answer To Deeper Engagement

This brings the question to mind: how do brands engage the community with NFTs? The digital asset offers two key benefits that current customer relationship platforms do poorly – direct targeted engagement, and proof of belonging to the community.

Here’s a quick refresher on how NFTs are written to the blockchain. The minting process does this by recording information about the digital asset onto a blockchain, and this process involves adding the transaction hash to a block on the network chain, having the information validated by a validator, and storing the records on all nodes present.

Each NFT is unique as they are given an individual identifier and this information is also stored permanently on-chain. This means that even if there are multiple similar digital assets being minted at the same time, they are distinguishable from each other not just by visual comparison, but also by their encrypted hash.

So how does NFTs bring about direct engagement between the brand and its community? These digital assets do so by acting as badges of loyalty, and allow brands to create a defined community through these badges. While companies such as McDonald’s have a large customer base, there are always customers with varying degrees of interaction with the brand which could range from casual diners to avid supporters who are always first in line for the new collectible or burger when it is released.

Such NFTs then give brands greater customisability in their outreach to these avid supporters. This particular fanbase would naturally be more interested in collecting such digital collectibles, and in turn, McDonald’s team spends less effort to cultivate customer loyalty since they are more likely to become ambassadors of the brand.

An image about the process of using Starbucks Odyssey NFTs on Polygon
The Starbucks Odyssey campaign utilises NFTs for customer engagement.

For example, Starbucks launched their Starbucks Odyssey NFT-based loyalty programme which gamifies the reward process with interactive games, and users earn journey stamps that are essentially redeemable NFTs through such interactions. Avid fans of Starbucks would naturally clock more stamps since they purchase drinks more often, and they stand to enjoy rewards that lets them engage the brand in a memorable manner like being able to attend coffee-making classes or being able to travel to coffee farms.

Moreover, McDonald’s can also customise deals to each NFT holder based on their activity, instead of having to do a spray-and-pray campaign towards its entire customer base. The best part? Grimace NFT collectibles would theoretically be able to own their dietary and personal data, along with the choice of choosing to share it with McDonald’s.

For example, NFT holders may choose to link their digital asset through their Metamask to the order machines, which is a choice on their part to share their dietary behaviour with the fast food brand. The brand can then create customised deals or coupons based on their food or behaviour and share it specifically to the individual customer’s application.

Genuine Interactions For Genuine Fans

Another key factor for the ubiquity of NFTs in customer engagement is its transparency. Yes, NFT transactions and ownership are placed on a publicly accessible dashboard which shows the digital collectible linked to a particular address, and you can know who owns it if they have registered the wallet in their name. And it’s this verifiability that lets brands gatekeep particular experiences by affording it for their genuine fans.

But why would brands want to monitor the access to brand experiences? Simple, because there are others seeking to profit off the interaction between brands and customers, and we usually have a name for them – Scalpers. Experiences between brands or celebrities with their fanbase have always been marred by such opportunistic bad actors, and we can refer to the recent Taylor Swift The Eras ticket sales as a shining example. The inefficient ticketing process was a mess, and scalpers looking to take advantage of the process by selling not just the tickets, but also the queueing spot, has left a bad taste for fans of the popular singer.

Carousell listings that are selling the McGriddles hoodie for a much higher price.
One of the many listings reselling the McGriddles hoodie for exhorbitant prices.

McDonald’s too have their own fair share of scalper stories too. The limited edition McGriddles hoodie caused a stampede earlier at McDonald’s Kallang on 3 Aug, and those looking to make a quick buck were already selling them for $500 on the secondhand goods platform, Carousell. With verifiable badges such as the Grimace NFT collectibles, brands can identify their longstanding fans easily and give them priority access to the items or experiences which they will more than likely cherish instead of reselling the merchandise immediately.

The launch of the Grimace NFT collectibles may seem like yet another unnecessary marketing endeavour, but its potential utility could go beyond the issuance of the occasional free hash brown if navigated correctly. As Web3 adoption amongst brands become more ubiquitous, using NFTs to target and customise experiences for users and customers will become the norm in the future.

What do you think of having NFTs as a digital ticket for your favourite brand to engage with you? Let us know your thoughts.

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