By Kayleeann Maritz
Crypto service firms have achieved the impossible: Be hugely successful while breaking every single rule in the marketers’ handbook.
Yes, firms offering services in this space are hugely guilty of failing in branding, marketing communications, digital PR and customer relations. However, who cares? Crypto has been a resoundingly successful global phenomenon.
And here’s the rub.
With 60 central banks venturing to develop their own digital currencies and the ECB posturing at a digital Euro, the behemoth that is crypto has gone mainstream, and so we need to question whether its marketing culture is fit for its wider global adoption.
Crypto’s origins give rise as to how its marketing went rogue. Its early adopters were true fanatics, speculators, risk takers, pioneers – not general Joe public. This is what gave it its disruption, and legendary / notorious status it holds today (depending on your perspective). It didn’t start with a carefully planned and executed marketing strategy, because few members of the public understood it to begin with. Crypto still suffers lack of wide stream understanding and it’s this point which operators in this space really can capitalise on.
But let’s first deal with Brand Crypto…
When crypto is discussed in public, or among friends, you get cliché responses. One is the scepticism of a ‘pyramid scheme’ or gambling or “isn’t that really volatile?” and another is “yeah I have a few quid in Ethereum”, or “I’m trying my luck with SHIB”. The latter is becoming more commonplace – and this is where questions need to be asked by management and marketers at the helm.
Banks on brand
Crypto fanatics hold banks in gleeful scorn, but one area these age-old financial institutions hold good sway is trusted branding. Don’t get me wrong, banks have been through their fair share of public scrutiny, not least in the past 15 years, but, it’s still where we choose to keep our money safe. That’s also not changing any time soon.
There are a couple of handfuls of bank brands, yet their job is to market themselves, not their currencies as they are all selling the same tool – Sterling – which is trusted and understood. Banks focus on marketing their service provision, they don’t need to instil trust in the pound.
The opposite is true of crypto. There is no country or central bank to which its tied, no long-term evidence of its stability, it’s not pinned to gold sitting in a vault (though a few crypto firms have actually ventured to do this), no senior central fiscal controllers to whom there is accountability (yet) – it doesn’t represent a socio-political economy.
Breaking bad marketing habits
So this requires a very back-to-basics marketing response, and it goes like this: ‘Get dressed before you go out’. There are hundreds if not thousands of crypto wallet operators/exchanges. Their job is do one thing. Create trust in their service provision and objective understanding/trust in cryptocurrency.
Visiting a typical crypto firms website isn’t fun for a seasoned marketer. This only leaves to question how more mainstream investors taking their crypto baby steps will feel.
It goes without saying to stay within FCA guidelines, but so many firms have pushed the envelope, only to get fined. It’s not crypto’s fault. Its early fanatics were bloggers which bypassed traditional media channels and the scrutiny of journalists. That no longer works, as rigged reviews are frowned on. Now more than ever, crypto needs the media to give fair and balanced accounts minus the hype and controversy. Companies that break guidelines in marketing their services do the industry no favours.
Messaging needs to be simplified, brought to layman’s terms in many instances.
Benefit-led copy fail
Price/fees/numbers aren’t everything, yet that’s the first thing many operators have blaring across their screens when you hit their website. Clever content about sane, grounded, useful information and education will get noticed and valued.
People. Who are the individuals running these companies? Do they put a face to a name, do they have a track record in their careers? Too many ‘wallet’ sites just plug the service and provide scant details on the people behind them. Like companies run by entrepreneurs who are accountable, members of the public will feel better dealing with companies where they can see the individuals running the show.
Communication. A number of off-shore firms are guilty of hugely aggressive sales call tactics. I have a close friend that got on a ‘bad’ target list and is relentlessly spammed by smart and opportunistic sales callers who refuse to remove him for their lists despite his ‘not interested’ plea. Listening to clients is key.
For all those who get their marketing wrong, there definitely are mainstream exchanges and wallets that have won hearts and minds of loyal customers, and to them I take my hat off. For a large swathe of others, there is a long haul to go.
Crypto is haunted by its old PR. High speculation, booms and busts, rampant AML and big investor manipulation. However, it’s here to stay and it’s much-loved. It’s made citizen-investors a pile of cash in a way the stock market could have only dreamed of over the past 120 years. Now that it’s reached the mainstream, let clever marketing instil the trust factor to secure crypto’s future.
Kayleeann Maritz is a chief marketing officer who has executed global marketing campaigns across various industries over the past decade. https://www.linkedin.com/in/kmaritz/