It was good while it lasted, but the consumer love affair with rewards programs is over. Conventional loyalty is the wildcat money of the modern age – and we’re here to change that.
For a period of almost 50 years back in the 19th century, banks in America were regulated at the state rather than the federal level. Without federal oversight, banks took it upon themselves to issue their own currency, backed by whatever assets or securities they wanted. Some of these notes were worthless, and many changed hands at a discount to their face value due to the difficulty in redeeming them or their perceived lack of worth. (If you’re interested in the history lesson, ‘Dixieland’ as a nickname for the southern states may have arisen from the $10 bill issued first by the Citizens State Bank in the French Quarter of New Orleans, which was considered to be of unusually high quality for wildcat money and featured the French word dix for ‘ten’ on the back.)
Mark Twain makes reference to this practice in his autobiography:
‘The firm paid my wages in wildcat money at its face value.’
With the rise of federal bank regulation, such private issuance of currency ended, along with the injustices of cash that could devalue in the blink of an eye. Right?
Well, not exactly. There’s nothing new under the sun and a lot of companies now issue what can effectively be considered wildcat money*. These ‘currencies’ have notional value and can be redeemed for goods and services, albeit within limited scope. They’re not backed by anything, typically cannot be transferred or traded, and the issuer can devalue them at a moment’s notice. We don’t call them money, let alone wildcat money but – to change animal metaphors – they walk like a duck and quack like a duck, so that’s effectively what they are.
History has proven time and again that consumers get the short end of the stick when dealing with the modern-day wildcat money that is conventional loyalty points. Loyalty programs like frequent-flier miles are corporate issued currencies. Advertising executive, Paul Kemp-Robertson believes that corporations can can leverage their trusted brands into creating more dominant currencies, especially in a time when people are becoming less trustful of banks. When a company is squeezed for revenues, the easiest way to cut costs and liabilities is to reduce the value of any new and outstanding reward points. And, of course, if a company goes bust, it takes the value of those points with it anyway.
Incent was conceived as the antidote to the shortcomings of traditional loyalty. INCNT can be accumulated from a growing number of merchants, so there’s no single point of failure and it won’t disappear overnight. There’s nothing to stop a new merchant coming on board and joining the Incent network. As a blockchain token, Incent can be transferred to other users (something we make really easy with our platform) and even traded on the open market. We don’t control the value of INCNT, and we don’t want to. INCNT value is set by the free market, just like other commodities like gold and silver that trade openly.
You can sign up for an account and start trying out our platform with one of hundreds of online stores, or with one of our bricks-and-mortar Sydney partners – earning INCNT just by going about your daily shopping!
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*"Wildcat Currency: How the Virtual Money Revolution Is Transforming the Economy" by Edward Castronova