As Isis prepares for its nationwide launch, it is getting marketing help from a significant merchant: McDonald's.
A thirty-second TV spot stemming from this partnership appears to be a commercial for McDonald's until, about halfway through, it abruptly turns into a demonstration of how to use the Isis wallet at McDonald's counters. The marketing alliance stands in sharp contrast to the many fast-food sellers deploying their own closed-loop mobile wallets.
Isis, a venture of AT&T, Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile, began rolling out their joint marketing about a month ago. The video, on Isis' Youtube channel, indicates it was made for Isis' test cities, Austin and Salt Lake City.
The video depicts two young strangers, a man and a woman, sitting far apart from each other at a laundromat. The man, a true McDonald's devotee, falls more in love with the woman with each McDonald's product he sees her eat first a breakfast sandwich, then a hash brown and finally, to his amazement, an orange juice to wash it all down. After the scene is interrupted with a quick demonstration of Isis (presumably depicting the man buying his own McDonald's food), the woman starts to develop her own attraction to him.
"Next time," the ad's narrator says, "Use Isis and pay with your phone. Who knows? You might even impress someone."
Isis has not yet revealed any other marketing ties with fast-food chains. Such expansion would be beneficial for Isis, since many chains have been preparing for their own mobile wallet apps. Starbucks and Dunkin' Donuts have had mobile payment apps for some time, and Wendy's, Subway and Sonic are in the process of deploying their own.
Burger King, using Firethorn technology, launched a mobile payment test in Salt Lake City in June of 2012, a few months before Isis finally got its testing off the ground in that city.
The McDonald's marketing campaign could breathe new life into the Isis initiative as it prepares to launch nationwide.
"There was a lot of excitement in the industry when Isis first announced its plans [two years ago]," says Brian Riley, senior research director and analyst with Boston-based CEB TowerGroup. "But since then, it's been a case of seeing where the juice is on this."
Getting McDonald's, the nation's most prominent fast-food chain, on board with a national rollout could give Isis that needed "juice," he says.
Isis and McDonald's did not respond by deadline to inquiries about the testing.
As Isis prepares to expand, several terminal makers have agreed to support its Smart Tap specifications, giving Isis much broader acceptance at the point of sale.
AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile will preload the Isis Mobile Wallet application into their new phones by the end of the year, Isis CEO Mike Abbott said in a presentation this week at the Money2020 conference in Las Vegas.
With many other mobile wallet ventures rely on software-based mobile payments technology, Isis has steadfastly clung to Near Field Communication chips for contactless payments.
In a past interview with PaymentsSource, Isis business development executive Tony Abruzzio said Isis plans to "ride the NFC tail wind" because the infrastructure for the technology is already in place with merchants.
"Why would you bet against the card brands?" Abruzzio asks. "NFC is what they are doing, and it's a huge scale and infrastructure being built by the card brands, from terminals through phones."
Isis has potential to gain traction because of the significant players involved in the scheme, but other wallet ventures such as the retailer-driven Merchant Customer Exchange are currently showing more potential for growth, Riley says.
Still, all mobile wallet ventures have a long way to go "to prove their worth," Riley says.
"When I go to McDonald's, I am inclined to put the purchase on a debit card, so I solve the payment question myself," Riley says.
In the same vein, if consumers are using prepaid cards or debit cards most often, they may not feel compelled to need a mobile wallet, Riley adds.
However, Isis has indicated that consumers using the mobile wallet during testing have tended to use their phones in place of cash for low-value transactions, much like they would use prepaid cards.