For the crypto market and in crypto marketing, it’s a tale of evolution.
By Darren Weiss, VP, Crypto and Blockchain
We’re in the business of words, but sometimes the best word is attribution.
In a January piece titled “Welcome to the New WIRED,” editor-in-chief Gideon Litchfield looked inward at how the revered publication should examine tech today in a climate that often demonizes it.
“To me,” he writes, “the answer begins with rejecting the binary” that technology can be either good or bad. “It’s not only possible, but normal, for a technology to do both good and harm at the same time. A hype cycle that makes quick billionaires and leaves a trail of failed companies in its wake, however, may also lay the groundwork for a lasting structural shift (exhibit A: the first dotcom bust).”
At SHIFT, we see this dynamic play out in many of the industries in which our clients operate, especially in emerging markets and those our clients are redefining. It’s also what kept percolating through my mind earlier this month when fellow SHIFTers and I were among the 17,000 in attendance at Consensus, a massive crypto conference in (sweltering) Austin.
The mood outside the conference? Whatever’s worse than “terrible.” Already facing its share of skepticism and headlines shouting “scam!”, crypto markets are now in a freefall that’s bringing companies and their employees down with them.
But inside the air-conditioned walls of the industry’s blue-chip event last week, optimism was as free-flowing as the swag. Nowhere in the few dozen talks attended by our team was there the slightest hint of FUD. The elephant was so far from the room it might as well have been in Greece.
On stage and in the halls, one infectious message prevailed among the designers, creators, engineers, developers, executives and venture capitalists: KEEP. ON. BUILDING.
Truthfully, in many ways, the crypto industry has gotten a bit over its skis. It rocketed into the global discourse and financial system so quickly that we often forget Bitcoind, the first cryptocurrency, literally did not exist until 2009 when the pseudonymous “Satoshi” wrote the seminal Bitcoin white paper that invented the dang thing. It wasn’t a bonafide economy until much more recently.
I’m old enough to remember the early days of the internet, especially its stage of evolution in which crypto now finds itself. Today we’d laugh at a 10-year-old “World Wide Web” — which really only allowed users to read things already on it — and fail to recognize the countless companies that disappeared long ago.
This is the fundamental and inexorable beauty of evolution. Good and not-as-good live side by side until the latter, eaten by whatever forces may be, fades away while the former survives long enough to thrive and pass on its good characteristics and thrive. They are codependent; One does not work without the other.
This is where we find ourselves with the crypto industry today and what I took back from Consensus. As tough as it may be, its evolutionary plight is working as it should. Some companies will end in this bear market, many others will escape its jaws to survive.
But the entire ecosystem will learn, grow, adapt, and evolve to come out collectively bigger and stronger on the other end. We need to accept that good and bad must coexist in such a nascent market whose potential long-term impact on our lives is unproven but mouth-wateringly inviting.
This is where we are in crypto marketing — or PR for any emerging market fending off any lingering “bad” perceptions. It’s where these companies should currently focus much of their brand building. It’s entirely possible to both acknowledge that shaking up an industry is a long and challenging process while also reinforcing the tremendous potential for positive change once the stated destination is reached. Do not bury your head in the sand at the first sign of rain but instead educate your audience (and the media) why the clouds have rolled in and reinforce again just how stunning the world will be once they’ve passed. Rome, they say, was not built in a day. Something as consequential and lasting as re-defining how the world’s financial system operates sure won’t either.
Ultimately, we the people are the majority shareholders in the destiny of what we choose to give our time to. As is often the case, attribution is the most appropriate word. Again, WIRED’s Litchfield: “Technology plays a starring role in all of these issues, but what’s clearer today than ever is that it’s people who create change, both good and bad.”