Cryptocurrency Watch: From Kodak to KFC, From CES to Toronto and Tokyo


KFC Canada Bitcoin Bucket

The world has gone a little bit(coin) crypto-mad this week. Case in point: shares in Eastman Kodak soared nearly 120% after the photo firm revealed plans at CES 2018 in Las Vegas to mint its own crypto-currency, the KODAKCoin.

The U.S. firm is teaming up with UK-based WENN Media Group to carry out the initial coin offering (ICO). Kodak and WENN Digital, in a licensing partnership, announced the launch of the KODAKOne image rights management platform and KODAKCoin, a photo-centric cryptocurrency to empower photographers and agencies to take greater control in image rights management.

It’s part of a blockchain-based initiative to help photographers control their image rights. Kodak plans to install rows of Bitcoin mining rigs—called the Kodak KashMiner—at its corporate headquarters in Rochester, New York.

“For many in the tech industry, ‘blockchain’ and ‘cryptocurrency’ are hot buzzwords, but for photographers who’ve long struggled to assert control over their work and how it’s used, these buzzwords are the keys to solving what felt like an unsolvable problem,” stated Kodak CEO Jeff Clarke. “Kodak has always sought to democratize photography and make licensing fair to artists. These technologies give the photography community an innovative and easy way to do just that.”

Cryptocurrencies are indeed one of the buzzwords at this year’s CES, which is hosting the CoinAgenda Summit and Digital Money Forum double-header event for startups and others in the virtual currency and blockchain space.

As Swarm Fund CEO Philipp Pieper told us as CES was just getting underway, “Bitcoin was the story that dominated the end of 2017, and many of us in the market see 2018 as the year that cryptocurrency and blockchain truly achieve validation and become much more part of the mainstream.”

Financial institutions are watching and dipping in their toes. Ripple, a blockchain-based cryptocurrency backed by some major international banks and financial institutions, partnered in November with American Express and Santander on a blockchain pilot to expedite cross-border payments between the U.K. and the U.S. This week, Ripple announced a trial with U.S. money transfer giant MoneyGram to test international cryptocurrency payments.

The crypto craze (which still has skeptics such as Goldman Sachs, even as J.P. Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon comes around) is reaching far beyond CES and Las Vegas.

Japan Virtual Currency Girls - Kaso Tsuka Shojo / 仮想通貨少女

Japan on Friday saw the launch of Kaso Tsuka Shojo / 仮想通貨少女 (which translates as Virtual Currency Girls), a girl pop band—call them crypto-pop instead of J-pop—designed to educate the public about cryptocurrencies and warn about abuse.

The group staged their first performance in Tokyo on Friday to promote the idea that virtual currencies are an innovative technology “through entertainment” — and admission was only possible, of course, to attendees who paid using crypto coinage.

Japan Virtual Currency Girls Bitcoin crypto band
Each of the eight girls in the band portrays a character representing a virtual currency such as Bitcoin, Ethereum or Ripple. Wearing character masks, frilly mini-skirts, maid aprons and knee-high socks, their tunes included their hit song, “The Moon and Virtual Currencies and Me,” warning against fraudulent operators and urging attention to online security.

“Our brains are fried as we are studying every day” about virtual currencies, said the group’s 18-year-old leader Rara “Bitcoin” Naruse, above, to AFP.

The band is the creation of Japanese entertainment company Cinderella Academy, which manages other J-pop bands. Fans at their first show paid 0.001 bitcoin (around $15) to take a picture with one of the performers and chat virtual money. As noted by the Financial Times, Bitcoin is recognized as legal tender in Japan and close to one-third of global bitcoin transactions in December were denominated in Japanese yen.

While lacking the flashy costumes, KFC Canada also announced this week it’s accepting bitcoin for a cryptocurrency-themed bucket of chicken, in a limited time promotion.

“The Bitcoin Bucket” complete with a Facebook live-tracker, costs about $20 Canadian and the chain is accepting Bitcoin via BitPay as one option through an online check-out page. The Bitcoin Bucket will then be delivered to the customer’s address for an additional $5 fee. The Bitcoin Bucket contains ten chicken tenders, waffle fries, a medium side, a medium gravy, and two dips.

On Facebook Live, KFC Canada updated its deep-fried currency in real time, every 5 minutes for almost 4 hours.

KFC Canada admitted on Twitter: “Sure, we don’t know exactly what Bitcoins are, or how they work, but that shouldn’t come between you and some finger-lickin’ good chicken. Not a bull market, this here is a chicken one. We could maybe be persuaded to someday accept DogeCoin.”

The company drew parallels between the secret chicken recipe concocted by Colonel Sanders and the creator of Bitcoin, Satoshi Nakamoto. “Was Satoshi the Colonel all along?”

Not all are amused. Carl Miller, research director of the Centre for the Analysis of Social Media at Demos and author of upcoming book ‘Power: Liberation and Control in the Twenty-First Century’ said of the promotion, “The marvellous, terrible way that a system deliberately designed to undercut the economic world order is neatly turned into a branding opp.”

Marketers are born to market—and when something is as hot, and mysterious, as cryptocurrency, it’s understandable that it would inspired some branded entertainment.