Blockchain – Is branding a blind spot?
Imagine a world where there were no banks yet your money was safe. Imagine that everything was super secure, you could trust anyone, even if you didn’t know them and that all this was cheaper – because of fewer middlemen! It’s coming: blockchain technology is here.
I’ve been advising on marketing and branding in the fintech world for 3 years and recently have had many conversations with blockchain entrepreneurs. They have helped me understand how far reaching blockchain is and that it will challenge the way we think about many things, including branding.
Blockchain technology is essentially a ledger of digital transactions spread across multiple computers which cannot be altered. The financial world, supply chain transactions, government databases and much more will all be radically disrupted by this new tech.
Branding in a decentralised economy.
Some organisations working with blockchain, (let’s not call them companies, as they won’t operate in the ways in which we are familiar), are pushing the decentralised, voluntarist even anarchic way of operating to its limits. With no bosses, just volunteers who can, in exchange for possible reward via tokens, or increase in the value of purchased tokens, just do what they think might enhance the organisation. Nobody telling them what to do; they choose to do what they want and when they want to. Sounds great! And it is great; coders can add things they feel fit, promote sites for a return, get friends to sign up, even run digital campaigns…. But at some point in the evolution of these enterprises potential purchasers will need to make informed choices and how will they do that?
Historically “brands” have helped identify, differentiate, and position products to targeted consumers – but what now? I think it is clear that decentralised organisations will find “branding” as we know it today more challenging. Maybe “owning” tokens will enforce some form of brand loyalty as “points” and “miles” do for companies today. I’m not sure I have an answer yet, nor do I think we need one yet as these types of organisations are still in early infancy. But I do think this question needs exploring.
The journey to decentralisation:
However there is a second group of organisations where I believe the need to understand consumer targets and brand positioning is more critical - now!
There are many companies, for these are “companies”, who are utilising blockchain technology to disrupt and improve existing services by removing the middleman, or using blockchain to provide new services. These companies have varying degrees of centralisation, Swissborg.com for example is already democratic in that it holds “referenda” on important decisions, and is an example of a company on the journey to become a “Decentralised Autonomous Organisation, (DAO).
There are already some good examples of currently more centralised companies that are trying to establish a brand; there is a clearly stated business goal, target consumer group, and a set of values; peerspoint.com and gimli.io are good examples.
So why do we need branding for blockchain products?
Brands exist to allow consumers and customers to identify and differentiate between offers. Blockchain products will be no different. Cryptocurrencies, exchanges, services using blockchain technology will need to be branded properly. This second group of companies should move quickly to ensure their brand is established in their consumer’s consciousness.
The first group, well, personally I’d like to know more, explore more and better understand how totally decentralised organisations will operate and survive in a world that may change beyond recognition.
Blockchain is here to stay. It offers the world a myriad of possibilities. Even with a decentralised, voluntarist, even anarchistic philosophy behind it, I believe blockchain needs branding to help consumers discover, and help owners position, their products. It is up to us as marketing and branding professionals in collaboration with the blockchain experts to find new ways to make this happen.
“Trust” might be a given for blockchain products but trust in your business is not automatic, it can be built, and lost, more quickly than ever before so don’t take it for granted, act now! It will be strong brands that survive.
The Branding Authority would love to engage with blockchain companies to discuss how position their brands to gain a real competitive advantage. There is a lot to learn and I am ready to accompany you.
We have over 30 years’ experience in branding and marketing and understand what it takes to build a great brands in the 21st century. Reach out to me now for a free chat about your blockchain project and let’s see if we can help you.
Thanks to Bernd Lapp at Swarm.city, Christophe Diserens at Swissborg.com and Johan Westrin at Technoelectro.ch for their valuable input.
Further reading May 2018 MIT Technology Review: