GO
Loading...

Bitcoin—the world's best boost to a brand?

Getty Images

The debate may continue to rage over whether bitcoin is a viable alternative to the dollar or just another Ponzi scheme, but there's no denying of its ability to boost a brand's awareness.

Billionaire entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson announced on CNBC's "Squawk Box" Friday that his commercial space flight venture will accept bitcoin as payment. His tweet confirming the move received nearly 500 retweets and the corresponding story on CNBC received over 4,000 Facebook shares and was one of the most read articles on the site that day.

(Read More: Richard Branson: Buy your space flight with bitcoin)

The viral nature of the cryptocurrency is also evident at a much lower level. A university in Cyprus, a sustainable grocer, a travel website, a delicatessen and a guitar repair shop are just some of the businesses that have received attention online with their decisions to accept bitcoins as payment. A simple tweet showing a business in Soho Village, New York was now accepting the currency received nearly 200 retweets.

Bitcoin is a "virtual" currency that allows users to exchange online credits for goods and services. While there is no central bank that issues them, bitcoins can be created online by using a computer to complete difficult tasks, a process known as mining.

Stephen Early, the director of a small chain of public houses in the U.K. told CNBC that it was the "best accidental marketing campaign" he had ever done. His five drinking establishments started accepting bitcoin in June and now receive around £1,000 ($1,630) of the digital currency each month.

Early said he frequently appeared on U.K. television during the summer and between 30 and 40 journalists had contacted him regarding bitcoin. He also saw an increased amount of punters that came to the pub wanting to use the new technology, he added. "It certainly gives (businesses) a fair bit of coverage," he told CNBC via telephone.

(Read more: Bitcoin accepted by university in Cyprus)

Richard Branson is wise to start accepting the currency too, he said, adding that a rise in the amount of bitcoin millionaires - with the price passing $1,000 per bitcoin on Wednesday - means there might be more potential customers looking to spend their riches.

Garrick Hileman, an economic historian at the London School of Economics agrees, saying that bitcoin is rapidly minting a new class of affluent consumers around the globe, and businesses are keen to market themselves to this community.

"We're already seeing savvy, risk-taking entrepreneurs, like Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic, accept Bitcoin," he told CNBC via email.

"I expect more high-technology companies, particularly ones with unique and or expensive products that can be purchased across borders, to adopt bitcoin as a means of payment. For example, given Elon Musk's prior history as a payments system entrepreneur I wouldn't be surprised if we soon saw Tesla automobiles priced in bitcoin."

(Read More: Baidu division now accepting bitcoins)

Christian Ward, a media and marketing editor at research firm Stylus said that price speculation has meant bitcoin has failed to prove itself as a viable currency as yet.

"On the one hand, it's good to see companies accepting bitcoin, because it moves bitcoin out of the realm of investors and speculators," he told CNBC via email.

"On the other hand, until a significant number of consumers start trading, then companies only really have the publicity boost to benefit from."

By CNBC.com's Matt Clinch. Follow him on Twitter @mattclinch81

Squawk Alley