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You probably heard of some big PR moves that crypto giants like Crypto.com, Tezos, Binance, or now-bankrupt FTX made before the last crypto winter crept in. This trend will persist throughout an upcoming bull run.
Industry giants actively engage in expensive mass marketing campaigns, while mid to small-sized companies with modest budgets are forced to settle for category ads of dubious quality. Both approaches are ineffective due to an enormous educational gap and lack of distinctiveness that make big ones much less recognizable and limit smaller ones in their capacity to stay creative. Without solving this problem, we won’t be able to escape the slippery slope that plunges crypto marketing professionals into a brand communications crisis.
Crypto giants engage in severe games with mass marketing
In 2021, Crypto.com partnered with Matt Damon, who later explained that this “move” was needed to get financial backing for his non-profit Water.org initiative. The same year, the company entered into a $700M naming deal with the owner and operator of Staples Center, now widely known as the Crypto.com arena.
A great deal of sound sponsorships also reached my ears through the announcements on top-tier media outlets over the last few years. Tezos once struck a multi-layer sponsorship deal with the Formula One world champion Red Bull at the end of 2021. The same year, now-bankrupt FTX teamed up with Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team. In the summer of 2022, the largest exchange, Binance, tapped into TikTok superstar Khaby Lame to educate on crypto and web3. Not so long ago, they launched an NFT collection with Cristiano Ronaldo (who later faced a lawsuit over Binance ads). I’m not mentioning Lindsay Lohan’s promotional tweet about the crypto asset that she posted without disclosing she got paid for it. Or that of Akon (“Smack that” guy), who promoted TRX on social media and has recently been charged by the SEC for violating the federal Securities Act.
Simply put, crypto giants are wowing the world with the money they are ready to spend on high-level celebrities, be it a sponsorship, a famous endorser, a long-lasting partnership, or a one-time deal.
“I consider my followers as my family, and I am always looking for new challenges and interesting content to share with them.” — the social media sensation Khaby stated in the press release on his collaboration with Binance. Though the initial idea to educate through influencers looks great, I can hardly imagine myself being family to a person who plays basketball with Snoop Dogg and shoots fun videos with Robert Downey Junior.
In the marketing language, crypto giants are betting on mass marketing, thereby trying to communicate with a broader audience. Such communication aims to work with those currently not looking for ways to start using crypto, but once they are ready, they will recall the brand and choose it over others. However, this scenario is possible only if a company has distinctive brand assets. Unfortunately, it’s not something that crypto businesses consider—most brands in the same niche look pretty much alike. Without being distinctive like Coca-Cola (where you can wipe off the name and still recognize it as Coca-Cola), mass marketing campaigns aren’t going to pay off. But most importantly, due to the enormous educational gap, the mass audience will even fail to pay attention to your mass marketing campaign, let alone remember it.
For obvious reasons, we end up in a paradigm where mass marketing efforts of crypto giants fail to tap into a wider audience and instead only raise brand awareness among the crypto community that already knows they exist. It means that engaging with overpriced initiatives and sponsorship contracts at this stage proves nothing but the company’s high standing and points to enormously deep pockets.
Nothing but humdrum category ads
While crypto corporations struggle to get recognition through mass marketing, let’s look at the persistent problem that smaller companies are left with. Not having enough funds to play mass marketing with Khaby Lame or Matt Damon-like endorsers, small and medium-sized businesses are limited only to their segment and fall into the trap of generic category ads with the industry voices and no decent STP strategy (segment, targeting, positioning) to make it work.
Influencer marketing has become one of the most promising channels with a huge buying potential. Given that performance channels impose multiple restrictions on promoting crypto, it’s natural that industry players are relying on it for both user acquisition and brand communication. Though some opinion leaders in the domain happen to produce high-quality content, the format itself lacks the creativity to fuel brand communication.
A standard collaboration is often limited to creating a promotional segment, recording a screencast, or placing a logo in the corner and a link in the description. In some cases, if the product is designed specifically for an advanced crypto user, such an approach may prove workable, even though the competitors will act like piranhas fighting for food in a cramped fishbowl. But suppose you have a solution for the broader audience with no or scarce crypto background. In that case, you won’t stand a chance to talk to them for one reason: there’s an educational gap that will cut you off the quality channels and opportunities for creative execution and lock you up within the crypto bubble with fiercely competing rivals and category ads that are all alike. Add a lack of distinctiveness and a boom of “innovative” startups with “no competitors” atop, and you will see that things worsen with each upcoming bull run.
Why is breaking the bubble so crucial for industry marketing?
There are two main marketing problems that would disappear if the educational gap were narrowed.
1. Marketing professionals would improve the quality of brand communication within the industry.
Several unfortunate factors plunged the industry into a brand communication crisis, as due to the educational gap, the crypto universe is falling short of opportunities for creative execution compared to other sectors. Micro and medium-sized influencers with a broad, loyal audience and a knack for creativity would be pivotal in crafting creative commercials and popularizing digital assets. However, they are mostly out of reach for crypto startups mainly because of the existing gap in education and reputational issues the crypto industry is prone to.
According to Kantar’s study on advertising profitability, brand size and share multiply profit by 18.0, while creative execution gives a 12.0 boost. In the meantime, an accurately chosen target audience results in only a 1.10 profitability increase. The research proves that without creativity and effective brand communication, smaller businesses are deprived of the tools to make a breakthrough in user acquisition and retention, let alone foster crypto adoption.
Having an abundance of ways for creative execution, the quality standards for the niche industry voices will also be elevated, as brands will have more options to choose from and access to a broader community that is ready to listen. As for now, opinion leaders within the crypto domain are not much worried about competition, as due to strict advertising policies, it’s getting more complicated to start a new crypto channel. At the same time, the quality of produced content and price formation leave much to be desired.
2. With the educational gap narrowed, marketing would positively impact the popularization of digital assets among the mass audience.
For the conservative majority that is threatened by anything new, it’s crucial to form a sense of belonging and a safer environment through a much more personalized communication than a world-renowned celebrity or Khaby Lame-like influencer (let alone someone from the crypto bubble) can grant them.
An average user will more likely believe a lifestyle or travel blogger, local entrepreneur, or an opinion leader whose social status, income, and way of living are closer to theirs. Due to a scarcity of channels caused by the education gap, we are limited in our capacity to popularize crypto and turn it into a mainstream topic. People need to hear about it from those they trust and align themselves with. If we solve the problem of the educational gap, we will build the bridge between a mass audience and the crypto world and foster faster mass adoption of crypto.
For as long as the gap between the tech-savvy crypto community and the mass audience exists, the problem will prevail. The industry needs to focus on tackling the issues not just to stimulate faster adoption of the technology but also to give businesses and marketing professionals tools to make crypto look more visible and less intimidating to a broader audience. The more we invest in education, the more we will harness in the future. The more brands focus on providing their audiences with high-quality information, the faster we will speak the same language.