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BLA: How branding fuels the cryptocurrency craze BLA: How branding fuels the cryptocurrency craze
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BLA: How branding fuels the cryptocurrency craze

Choose your coin, choose your identity

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In the past year, Bitcoin has grown massively in value. But the booming cryptocurrency has over 1,000 competitors. These ‘altcoins’ range from copied and pasted Bitcoin code to truly innovative, secure software platforms. And guess what, these altcoins are also a story of grassroots branding. Hooray! So, Brandhome took a deep dive into the world of blockchain technology and summarized this long read from Fast Company for you. Enjoy!

Utopian second economy

You may have heard about the fact that you can get ridiculously rich with cryptocurrencies these days. Some say that in 2018, it will become a $1 trillion industry. But there is more to it than just money to explain the rise of cryptocurrencies. Some of their success can be attributed to the ethos they embody. For many, cryptocurrencies represent a utopian second economy, where money is managed by people rather than banks. In a way, it seems like an egalitarian reboot of the global economy.

Wow, that sounds like a very noble purpose. Yet, many of the initiatives we see today don’t seem that serious at all. There’s a coin for pot smokers called Kushcoin. A coin promising to make America great again named TrumpCoin. And many, many coins for purchasing pornography, such as Titcoin and Spankchain. It’s likely to say that most of these currencies will wither away as the market matures. Yet, one thing is clear: cryptocurrencies, through their names, websites, logos and brands resonate with people in ways far beyond getting rich quick.

In a world where most of us feel helpless amidst big corporations and indifferent governments, we may define ourselves by the type of money we spend and the special culture that our chosen coin represents. Today, identity is defined not only through what we buy, but also the currency we use to buy it. 

Turning currencies into brands

2017 was the year of Bitcoin, which ballooned from $1,000 per coin to around $14,000. But the story of cryptocurrencies is much larger than any one coin. According to Coindesk, 300 different cryptocurrencies raised a total of just over $4 billion (!) selling their coins to new investors. But how do you know which altcoin to buy into? For many, the name is the first step. A brand name determines the kind of story you want to tell. But in case of cryptocurrencies, similar to apps in the App Store, the first objective of the name is to stand out and get noticed.

This is what Randall Stone, who has led the identities of Starbucks and Samsung, has to say about the branding of these cryptocurrencies: “They’re almost like bad, trendy startup kind of names. ‘No Limit Coin.’ ‘Zcash.’ A whole bunch of them… Some of the branding is just so juvenile and primitive, while others are really sophisticated. It does look like, eventually, these altcoin sites, these could be part of your cyber identity. ‘What coins do you pay with?’ is going to be an expression of who you are.”

Branding war

Who is going to own the customer? In the end, it will be like: ‘Are you an Android or Apple person?’ If one altcoin is really only as valid as another, the weight of adoption – to get people mining, trading, and even cash-buying it – requires the same strategy that Procter & Gamble uses to sell you one of many indistinguishably different dish detergents. It can come down to a funny name, or slogan, or look. It is going to be a branding war. 

At the same time, a lot of these cryptocurrencies feel like fly by night. Here today, gone tomorrow. No real sense of legitimacy. And while you may find some of the initiatives hilarious, which in all honesty they are, they actually undermine the legitimacy of the entire cryptocurrency industry. As Bitcoin goes from this weird anomaly in the marketplace and becomes more mainstream, this sense of reassurance that the company is legitimate needs to be better expressed.

In the end, marketers that are serious about building a brand around their cryptocurrency still have a long way to go in order to gain the trust not only of the nerds, but of the general public. But hey now, we all know that these guys can no longer be underestimated.