Just as the Apple brand is for technology, McDonald’s is for burgers, Nike is for sneakers and Coke is for cola, so the Bitcoin brand is for cryptocurrencies.
“Whoa … hold the phone!” You say. “Bitcoin is not a brand. It’s a currency. Currencies are not brands! “
Well, that’s a traditional view. And Bitcoin is anything but traditional.
Think of it this way: Blockchain is a technology. Coins are an asset in the blockchain. Bitcoin is a brand that brings its unique selling point to the blockchain.
To be clear, Bitcoin is no ordinary brand. That’s what I call a user-generated brand (UGB). In the absence of a centralized brand owner or chief marketing officer, Bitcoin is shaped by a large ecosystem of founding members, technologists, investors, miners, commentators, thought leaders, innovators, journalists, and more. Still, the cumulative effect of its brand values as UGB stands for something.
Still skeptical? Consider it:
- Bitcoin has a history that revolves around a movement to correct the injustice of centralized finance. And it has a founder who embarked on a hero’s journey to solve it (more on that in a moment).
- It has iconic brand qualities. When was the last time you saw someone wearing a t-shirt with a dollar or euro symbol on it? Or watch 12,000 people come to a city like Miami to spend days doing nothing but talking about the evolution and future of a currency.
- It has an identity. The iconography “₿” is as ubiquitous these days as a thumbs-up emoji.
- It is synonymous with the category. People sneeze into Kleenex, not “face tissues”. In previous decades, we would “xerod” pages to make copies. Ask an outsider to name a cryptocurrency and they will say “Bitcoin”.
- It has a leading market position. Being a first mover and dominant player creates significant competitive advantages – not least through high awareness and brand loyalty, which lead to strong network effects.
- It has a unique selling proposition. Above all, a limited supply of coins, which increases its attractiveness as an inflation protection and at the same time creates a new form of ownership.
What also makes the Bitcoin brand so fascinating are a few other, less trivial factors:
- Its founder is a pseudonym and disappeared years ago without a trace. I would argue that the mystery of Satoshi Nakamoto only fuels the narrative and mysticism. As we like to say in advertising: When people talk about our brand, it’s very good.
- Any day, you can find what is known as an expert who predicts that the price of Bitcoin will hit $ 300,000 by the end of the year and another who foresees a drop below $ 20,000. Aside from their obvious interest in investors, ongoing debates like this only fuel the fire of branding exposure by both professionals and newbies. Such different views make people talk and – you know the practice – when people talk about our brand, it’s a very good thing.
Okay, you’re on board: Bitcoin is a brand. A user generated brand. The next question you might ask yourself is, so what? Consider this:
The contract – A great brand at the end of the day is a promise (a “contract”) that the sum of what it stands for and how it behaves provides trust and comfort that if you trust it (by buying, investing, advocate, etc.) you will be rewarded. For all of the above reasons, Bitcoin is in an enviable pole position, especially when it comes to wooing institutional investors and their allotment committees, which, once fully purchased, would represent a real turning point in the race to launch Bitcoin . In order to advance this as UGB, the vocalest believers in the community must not only talk to one another (as they do), but to the masses in a way that makes this promise clear to them.
The community – A great brand lives from the passion of its most active users. In fact, passion is the fuel that ignites any brand’s fire. While Bitcoin as UGB does not have a Chief Marketing Officer, it does have an army of de facto Marketing Officers (many of whom read this magazine). Collectively, they believe that Bitcoin and its underlying technology is a true force for good in democratizing finance, and have many forums to share this point of view. It is important for them to get the word out: the main purpose of Bitcoin is not to make money, but to make a change. And as with any movement, the rubber hits the road when its story can be told in calm and simple words, using analogies that everyone understands.
The coat tails against the contrarian – Project founders, foundations and decentralized autonomous organizations of all sizes and shapes have a decision to make: regardless of their technical or functional relationship, do they ride Bitcoin’s coat tails or do they throw it off as a fine but flawed product that is ripe for a malfunction? It will certainly vary from case to case, but conflicting people should be forewarned: Brands with the community, contract, passion and purpose that Bitcoin has are impressive. While a small group of insurgents may be delighted at the thought of dethroning the king, most of these conflicting efforts are completely rejected by the Bitcoin community, as previous hard forks have proven.
The conventional wisdom – Dominant brands are usually expected to act in a conventional manner. Indeed, it can be argued that it is the shackles of category conventions that lock them up and allow challengers to undermine or overtake their position. So is Bitcoin a conventional player in an unconventional category? Barely. Conventional behaviors come with time and a sense of dominance that is considered an impenetrable trench. This leads to a risk-averse defensive attitude and possible stagnation. But Bitcoin is still in its infancy and at the center of a tsunami of innovation. To the UGB community that is pushing boundaries and questioning the status quo, I say: “Rock on!”
In summary: For some, the thought of traditional, centralized marketing in the Bitcoin space is in contrast to this category. As with any radical change in conventions and norms, this is to be understood. But even as a user-generated brand, Bitcoin marketing certainly has an impact that is sure to evolve over time. As advertising veteran Regis McKenna famously said, “Marketing is everything and everything is marketing.”
While metrics like Reddit subscribers, hourly social comments, Twitter followers, website traffic, and community size dominate the brand health discussion today (and are being watched closely by investors), there will certainly be other, perhaps more influential, metrics like the roles, megaphones and motivations of the most important voices – decentralized and central – in the ecosystem continue to develop.
You can be sure that Bitcoin will be at the forefront of this trend. Because if it looks like a brand, how a brand works and how a brand works, then it’s a brand. That it is a UGB simply means that you can’t expect the same rules that have applied to branding and marketing for the past 25 years to apply.
This is a guest post by Rich Feldman. The opinions expressed are solely their own and do not necessarily reflect those of BTC Inc or Bitcoin Magazine.