Whenever I mention that I’ve just started a marketing firm for cryptos, the response I get is a raised eyebrow — as if crypto is a fad that’s already had its day. There was that mystery about Satoshi, a wave of speculation, a terrifying bear market, and then a crash: Cryptowinter, and soon to be gone.

Except it’s not.

There’s still over $133USD billion of liquidity in the crypto market today with some $30 billion sloshing through 2100+ coins. (Nearly half of it in Bitcoin.) New coins continue to join the parade, some still raising funds via ICOs (Initial Coin Offerings), others engaging markets with private offerings, Reg 501.6 C or D or CF securities that are “tokenized,” and there are hundreds of law firms and investment advisories ministering to them.

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(Above: imagery from Fidelity Digital Assets website)

Meanwhile, a score of experiments by the most trusted names in institutional finance and digital business continues to grow. This week, Fidelity introduced a custodial fund for clients who want to own Bitcoin, as did IBM. JPMorgan recently announced its own stablecoin. Facebook put out a brief to hire 60 employees to drive introduction of a stablecoin to WhatsApp’s 1.5 billion daily users. Starbucks and IBM (through Bakkt) are angling to put crypto into Starbucks stores. Lolli is closing new business every day with retailers like Sephora, Walmart, CVS, etc. And that’s just the tip of a very large iceberg in the US. The global landscape reveals much, much more investment, and most of it is accompanied by far more institutional money and status than what is taking place in the US, especially in Asia. 

A COIN IS NOT A BRAND

Oddly enough, there is very little marketing activity in crypto, and little to distinguish it from the shittiest, spammiest affiliate and influencer marketing. Indeed, much of what exists today was propelled by the burst bubble of ICO activity, a survival from a time when crypto entrepreneurs believed they had found a way to raise funds directly from consumers without screwing around with VCs. Or regulators. In that twilight, marketing — indeed customers and markets full stop — was and for the most part still is considered at best a tertiary concern. (To read more about my views on this, have a look at my story Crypto Marketing Myopia.)

In those halcyon (sic) days, all one needed to cadge money from the markets was a whitepaper, website, and a Telegram community. With even a modest investment from your yet-to-be-issued token, you could promise bounties or airdrops of your coin to grow your community to 10,000 Telegram users, and convince an exchange that you were worthy of being on their platform. If you were lucky, investors (frequently Asian investors who saw the exchanges as little more than craps tables) working with market makers made you millions. Caveat emptor: According to an Ernst & Young report, fully 71% of these “projects” never even produced a product.

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A year later — a year of volatile price swings and dramatic change in regulatory perspectives — ICOs are gone, and the culture of raising funds for non-existing products with leaden dependencies has been almost entirely banished. In its place though, we still have the overhang of crappy marketing, serving as a placeholder through the current period of regulatory and commercial fog.

So: a shitty, spammy past; bleak, foggy present; much ballyhooed, furtive future — why should anyone even care? Why start a marketing firm for cryptos?

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Above: Not really.

The first answer is that crypto is not going away, although it is migrating to a new era of accountability.

A year ago, the only crypto tribes that mattered were traders and developers, with the occasional institutionally-aware investor in the mix. Consensys, founded by Joe Lubin, seemed to have been born fully-formed, with a sprawling vision and a mature marketing model, although of late it’s looking more and more like a traditional enterprise software company, which is after all, what it is. But most cryptomarketing still conforms to the notion that the only product-market fit that matters is from crypto products to investors.

Most cryptomarketing still conforms to the notion that the only product-market fit that matters is from crypto to investors

To more experienced marketers, this looks like nothing less than what Ted Levitt once called “marketing myopia.” For while it was beyond debate that cryto's first customers were indeed visionary investors and devs, and the second cohort of customers were pragmatic traders looking for arbitrage opportunities, the early majority of crypto customers are still waiting to be found. To put this in Silicon Valley terms: they are non-consumers, still casting a wary eye on cryptohype to see if any of these coins can deliver something other than trading or arbitrage or just about anything the visionaries cherish. What the early majority cares about is how crypto solves for the fundamental failure of trust we experience every day in our most basic institutions: personal finance; health care; media; education, government.

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THE BRAND OF DECENTRALIZATION

Crypto was born to do this. Decentralization — not just geographical distribution, but a release from the centralization of power — literally the fiat of money (fiat, Latin for an authoritative decree) — is its “brand promise.” Crypto was born from the hands of engineers and hackers who believed that they can optimize and align the relationship between network owners and network participants through cryptologically secured blockchains. These blockchains and the trustless currencies they power are creating superior transactional security, more financial accountability and governance for stakeholders, and more innovative and (perhaps) egalitarian investment and business opportunities than offered by traditional fiat currencies and financial institutions. This is not socialism, not a crypto co-operative, but rather innovative market designs that aim to move power away from monopoly-seeking monoliths (Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, Google, Apple) to commercial entities that invest power and money back into their stakeholders.

Crypto forces us to ask if we trust our broken institutions more than our ability to tame the complexity of finance, medicine, and polity with algorithms.

Crypto innovation forces us to ask if we trust our broken institutions more than our ability to tame the complexity of finance, medicine, and polity with algorithms. Do we prefer the dumb money in our wallets to stable, safe, more secure blockchain-based financial capabilities that could give us greater greater access to liquidity, better credit, more convenience, and more responsiveness to our needs? Do we prefer the messy medical records our broken health system has misfiled in imprecise, handwritten, paper based records? Do we believe that the only contract a government can make with its people is a once-every-four-year (or two year) election? Do we trust advertisers, media and retail to respect the boundaries of our personal data? Or do we prefer immutably recorded, censorship resistant blockchains that are immune to falsification, do not store accounts in a centrally owned and hackable database, and create new opportunities to share in and through the incentives embedded in these systems?

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The philosophical debates are likely endless but the realities of cryptos are not. Today, there are over 2000 listed coins and some 2600 dApps (distributed apps). Despite the best efforts of engineers to program them with rewards, inflation, and even interest — e.g., Blockfi now offers 6% on a crypto investment — they do not sell themselves.

And that’s where marketing — and Blockhouse — come in. The 4Ps haven’t gone away. The virtues of capitalizing on growing willingness to pay haven’t faded. The genius of story isn’t dead. Cryptos require more than just marketing intelligence; they need marketing imagination — not brand advertising, but deep insight into customers’ needs and how they can fulfill them, as products, as services, and through marketing, the access they get to those products through all kinds of media.

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To survive, cryptos need marketing imagination.

Blockhouse helps cryptos drive marketing imagination while mitigating marketing risk with high value go-to-market services that establish product-market fit, design and drive stakeholder journeys for attention, develop, distribute and optimize content (written, audio, or video) for any language and any territory. We use incentives (including bounties and airdrops) to maximize community participation, and we see the use of incentive as part of a continuous relationship of driving access to products and services.

Lastly, our aim is to design measurable outcomes that correlate marketing signals — signals of access, responvisveness, and customer participation (ARC) — to token growth. We want to usher in a new era of accountable cryptos that expand access to secure digital money, identity, and media throughout the globe. Come have a look at our website, read our collection of cryptomarketing articles, and stay tuned. (And yes, we are also open for non-crypto business as well!)

Come build your house with us.

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