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Brand Strategy Cryptocurrency Web3

Does crypto need a rebrand – or is it too late?


By Sam Anderson, Network Editor

November 13, 2023 | 8 min read

Following the conviction for one of its figureheads, the cryptocurrency movement is on the skids. Is the game up, or is this a bump in the road to inevitable world domination? We ask leading marketers.

A 'dogecoin', over the head of an American president on a bill

Crypto: ripe for a rebrand, or dead in the water? / Kanchanara via Unsplash

Cryptomania is behind us for now, hastened by the downfall of exchange FTX and, now, a hefty guilty verdict for its founder, Sam Bankman-Fried.

At the height of the last few year’s web3 excitement, blockchains and cryptocurrencies were thought (by some at least) to be the cornerstones of a glittering new future. There are still plenty of faithful out there, but for many this promise has been tarnished.

Can crypto bounce back from its annus horribilis? Does it need some marketing nous to pivot associations away from fraud and lost fortunes? And how has the vision of the crypto future been altered by a year of disappointment? We asked five ad execs from The Drum Network.

Alistair Robertson, creative partner, Nucco: “Cryptocurrencies face a huge mass market reputational challenge. To pivot from this negative image, strategic and creative marketing and content is going to be essential.

“But by emphasizing the underlying technology’s potential for innovation, and if governments around the world continue toward some form of central bank digital currencies (CBDC), the established currencies could yet again find themselves as respected and worthy of mass consideration. Marketing efforts should focus on education to demystify the technology for the average consumer – highlighting the still-true benefits of blockchain, like transparency and security.

Showcasing real-world applications and success stories could help reshape public perception. Collaborations with reputable financial institutions and compliance with regulatory frameworks would also lend credibility. Consistent, transparent communication and community engagement will be crucial to reframe the narrative and long-term viability.”

Jon Hewitt, creative director at Re, part of M&C Saatchi Group: “Say what you want, but the rise and fall of web3 has truly captured the cultural imagination. The bubble has burst and, in less than two years, we've gone from a Board Ape on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine to NFTs being lampooned in The Simpsons.

“Now out of the public eye, with the hype machine moving on to AI, there’s room for these technologies to find their feet. There was always a group of people using the tech for less glamorous things like tracking items through a supply chain, validating transactions, or authenticating authorship of academic papers. We might not call it web3, but it will be a presence in our lives just as previously overhyped tech like the ‘internet of things’ means that we can now see how busy our commute will be before we set off, or switch on the heating before we get home.”

Joe Madden, head of content, Don’t be Shy: “Sam Bankman-Fried’s spectacular flameout has vindicated those who’ve long decried Bitcoin, Binance, Ethereum, et al as representing glorified Ponzi schemes, fueled by greed, wherein the sole aim is to pump, pump, pump the value of inherently worthless assets – then cash out before you’re the last bozo left holding the bag.

Crypto’s brand image is in the toilet, and there’s probably no fishing it back out again. When it launched in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, Bitcoin was touted as a utopian alternative to the corrupt global banking system. In 2023, Bitcoin no longer conjures images of self-sustaining cyber-societies, but of cokey tech-bros in Lambos.

Crypto could maybe regain some of its mid-2010s momentum if it were to realign itself with its original purpose of being actual currency; a way to buy stuff, digitally and instantly, anywhere in the world. Unfortunately for crypto, such a thing already exists – ‘money’ – and it’s pretty much cornered the market.”

Jason Snyder, global chief technology officer, Momentum Worldwide: “I see a parallel in the evolution of consumer trust: it's not just about marketing shifts but foundational integrity.

“We can harness blockchain's inherent transparency and traceability to rebuild trust in the technology. To reposition crypto, we need to underscore and amplify blockchain’s potential for creating secure, seamless, and customer-centric experiences. By advocating for rigorous standards, transparent processes, and ethical governance in crypto, just as we do with other technology-enabled, connected commerce methods. By focusing on crypto’s capability to deliver value beyond speculation, we can realign the vision of crypto and web3 to be synonymous with innovation, reliability, and a customer-first approach to connected commerce.”

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James Crooke, chief technology officer, Rawnet: “Trust in cryptocurrency is at an all-time low, with prevailing negative sentiments in both media coverage and public perception over the past few years. A crucial turning point for the industry seems contingent upon renewed investment from major corporations in web3 technologies and a broader acceptance and regulatory framework for cryptocurrencies by governments. Until such developments materialize, it’s hard to see a significant upward trajectory for cryptocurrencies.

“Nevertheless, Bitcoin stands out as a beacon of stability in this uncertain landscape, often referred to as ‘digital gold’. Its finite supply lends an air of security, positioning it as a comparatively safe investment within the cryptocurrency sphere. When considering alternative cryptocurrencies, the viability of holding a particular token often hinges on the coherence of its tokenomics and the existence of a valid use case. Without these foundational elements, a cryptocurrency may be relegated to the realm of speculative gambling or, worse, a pump-and-dump scheme awaiting exposure.”

Brand Strategy Cryptocurrency Web3

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