Blockchain technology has huge potential for use across different industries, such as agriculture or security, and the cryptocurrency industry has attracted lots of attention in recent years.
However the industry players have a serious branding issue, manifesting in a few different ways.
- Many people still don’t know what blockchain actually is. If you stopped random people on the street and asked them a simple question: “What’s blockchain?”, there is a 90% chance people would either say Bitcoin or － if you are lucky enough － cryptocurrency.
- People are still not sure what “blockchain” technology is and many non-crypto blockchain companies are struggling with explaining themselves to their audiences.
- ICO’s and new cryptocurrency developers are paying the price for the bubble created by scam or failed ICOs.
Being involved in many tech start-up branding and pitching projects, I can confidently say that these problems are posing a great risk to many bright blockchain start-ups across the industry.
So what can blockchain companies do to solve this issue and attract people － including investors － and create a positive and clear brand perception?
Shift Your Focus from Technology to Value and Vision
Since the early days of the blockchain industry, everyone has focused on “decentralization” and claimed it makes things safer and easier. Although this might mean something to the tech-savvy, it is not so clear to the rest of the population, and can be confusing for people not involved in the tech world.
This step is separated into crypto and non-crypto companies, but this doesn’t necessarily mean that one shouldn’t focus on the other. It is wise to have a holistic approach, taking everything into consideration.
Non-Crypto Blockchain Companies: Value
As the technology is still fairly new to many people － and in general we all have a tendency to fear or avoid things we don’t understand － it’s important to bring people closer to blockchain. In practice, this means that you should stop talking about process and start talking about the end result: in other words, the value.
The value people get from the product is more important than the technology creating that value. Why? Simple human psychology.
- Show the value and help people understand what they will get as an outcome.
- Explain the process in simple language avoiding jargon.
- Finally, talk about why you created this and why they would possibly like to be a part of your vision.
Cryptocurrency Companies: Vision
It’s clear to anyone the value that owning cryptocurrency can possibly create. Besides, quite naturally and in its simplest form, cryptocurrency is just digital money to many people. In this sense, cryptocurrency companies don’t struggle with explaining the value and opportunity.
There are three main objectives for cryptocurrency companies.
- Attract early adopters and turn them into investors. This is not different from asking a stranger on the street for money.
- Convince sophisticated investors that not only will cryptocurrency be the future of finance, but also that your currency will survive to be part of it. This is a long shot.
- Avoid the negative connotations that scams and failed ICOs have created in the market. This requires a shared mission across the entire industry.
All three of these objectives can only be achieved through messaging that clearly states your vision: the future that people are becoming a part of. The investors will see this as an opportunity to become an “investor of the future” and regular audiences will be fascinated by the excitement of the idea.
Create Multiple Sub-messages for Micro-Audiences
Now that you’ve focused on the value and vision instead of the technological process, you need to convey this both visually and verbally. In this step, we focus on the latter.
When forming your marketing message, there are a number of things to look at: your business preposition, your audiences’ problems and motivators, the competitive landscape, etc. Your core message should focus on what you do, what value you produce and how you aim to make your audience feel. Don’t try to squeeze “blockchain” into your messages enthusiastically as it might put people off for reasons we discussed above.
Your micro-messages should be more considerate about the pain points and expectations of a specific group of people. Micro-messages are gateways to convincing people you can deliver on your promises and solve their problem. The next thing they would like to know will be how you do this － so be prepared to explain the process afterwards.
Let’s look at an agritech company, and consider their core message and micro-messages.
We make technology for agriculture. (You are a tech business.)
Micro-message for farmers having productivity issues:
Improve productivity on your farm by 45% using our technology. (Blockchain, whatever it is, is a good thing as it helps me make more money.)
Micro-message for investors who are hesitant about blockchain:
Invest in an agritech company developing first-to-market products using innovative technologies. (The alarm bells are not ringing, and they are curious what those products could be and what technologies you would be using. You will mention blockchain further into the pitch, preparing them with the value and vision first.)
Don’t Use Industry Generic Visuals Anymore
I see lots of high-tech businesses in the blockchain industry relying on illustrations and it’s great. However, abstract graphics are not effective for audiences that cannot interpret their meaning like a series of purple cubes connected to each other with glowing teal-green lines.
Blockchain, and even software technology in general, is already abstract. Using this style in visual representation is making things even more confusing for your audience. Remember that the most powerful language you can use to communicate is visual －so it needs to be perfect and understandable by people who are not familiar with blockchain.
When creating brand identities, many people think the brand identity should reflect purely the business. Wrong. You also have to communicate that you understand and know your audience, too.
Try to understand the environment of your audience, focus on your core message or sub-messages, and show some empathy. You should avoid visually abstracting something people can’t really see or feel.
To sum up, blockchain companies should try to make the idea of blockchain more approachable and easier to understand for their audience; talk less about decentralization, limit the industry jargon, and stop using abstract visuals. Instead, start talking about the value of this high-potential technology.
There is no single voice that the entire blockchain industry can embrace and use to empower their own brands. Therefore, each blockchain company needs to find ways to educate their own audience in order to save the brand image of blockchain collectively.