Blockchain branding has often been relegated to an afterthought. Perhaps the team designed an attractive website – but that’s as far as the concept of mindshare with an audience has often gone.
Yet in little more than a year, blockchain technology has been transformed from being the preserve of pseudo-anarchists and a handful of CTOs, to a mainstream tech that even your grandmother has heard of.
Recognising an opportunity, some companies have already begun to integrate blockchain into their businesses. At the beginning of 2017, the venerable photography company Kodak launched its own image rights platform; meanwhile IBM is busy developing a blockchain and consultancy service for companies to onboard Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT) quickly and easily.
Like it or not, blockchain is becoming a big business and as the sector grows, the developers involved are facing a new problem: how to distinguish themselves from their competitors and communicate to an interested, but not a necessarily knowledgeable, audience.
There’s a growing need for blockchain branding. Last month, Delphy announced it had hired possibly the best-known ad agency in the world, revered multinational giant Ogilvy, to help it rebrand ahead of its predictive markets platform launch later this year.
In a blog post published last week, a spokesman for the platform said the rebrand would give the platform an “identity and humane interface”. Delphy’s founder and CEO, Bo Wang, also said the rebrand would “illustrate” the company’s vision and would convey to the “public exactly what the platform is all about”.
What is blockchain branding?
“A logo, a name or some colours are not a brand”, says Christian Vatter, the founder of Rlevance, a Berlin-based marketing consultancy.
“To the outside, a brand is what people think and feel about your project…it is your inner compass, your guiding star that directs and channels your efforts, that unites you as a group of people.”
Like many people, Christian had vaguely heard of blockchain but only became familiar with it after the blockchain developer Lisk approached him last year to help rebrand their platform.
According to Christian, startups in general see branding as an afterthought, “something that you add on at the end”. However, he sees it as something that can give blockchain platforms an identity, which gives them direction and a focus on their target market.
“Projects are often by a new group of people, with a new idea in a new product space”, Christian says. “Here it is especially important to be clear and united about where you want to go.”
Cryptos Can’t be Cryptic
As the number of projects increases, blockchain branding is becoming more important. For Christian, it is no longer enough for projects to attract consumers by saying they work with blockchain; they now have to better communicate what their purpose is.
A strong brand can highlight and emphasise a blockchain developer’s skills and specialities as well as telling consumers what they offer, therefore attracting the right people.
With Lisk for example, Christian said they had based the rebranding on a vision to provide a blockchain platform that can be used and developed by a wide range of potential blockchain creators, not just developers.
“It was really important to deeply study and analyse our target users,” says Julian Alterini, Lisk’s Motion Designer.
In a rebranding project which took months, Lisk overhauled much of its frontend design and changed the platform’s original ‘Lisk Obelisk’ to a new, simplified logo intended to make the project accessible to a wider audience.
As well as hiring Christian’s Rlevance to determine the platform’s brand and direction, the Lisk Foundation also hired a communications firm, Wachsman, to develop the logo and the design agency Taikonauten to gain a better understanding on their user identity and experience.
“Instead of starting from scratch with a completely different concept, the decision was to pick up the branding and image that Lisk already had…to make the new design more appealing and universal”, says Julian.
The new brand was unveiled by Lisk at an event in Berlin in February.
“Establishing a brand identity with the public is important for any company”, says Julian. “It is usually a healthy balance of the company’s vision and the industry design code, but the latter is clearly lacking in blockchain apart from the already outdated ‘decentralisation’ cliches.”
The blockchain and cryptocurrency sector has strong potential, and this has led to the creation of companies that specialise in branding blockchain and cryptocurrency companies.
Oron Barber founded CoinPoint back in 2013 to combine a thorough understanding of blockchain and cryptocurrency with his experience and background in marketing.
Oron argues that CoinPoint’s main advantage is that it has the experience and know-how of the market which enables them to create accurate marketing campaigns.
Based in Australia, Oron said: “With the right brand you can leverage your ICO above others and do real business. With the right marketing channels and activities, you can track investors, which other ICOs can’t.”
Oron isn’t the only one. A cursory look across the Internet highlights that there is already a cadre of marketing agencies that are catering to blockchain branding needs and cryptocurrency developers. The Hong Kong based CoinsMarketing is currently developing marketing for eight ICOs; in London, Capsicum Technologies has worked with an ICO listing site as well as strategic market campaigner, Crypto Influencer; Searched, another London-based company offers PR, marketing and web design both for blockchain developers and ICOs.
Even industry giants are emerging: Transform PR, for example, explains that it represents 31% of the crypto market (by capitalization), while smaller shops such as Melrose PR in Los Angeles offer specialist blockchain branding strategy services alongside creative marketing and traditional public relations.
Agencies are usually the evangelists in a new marketing arena, but sometimes it’s the clients who recognize the need.
“Branding is a matter of understanding how to appeal to your targeted audience in order to grow your community. ” says POP Network Director of Marketing, Briana Wolf. “As a content-sharing platform and network that is driven by creators and fans, creativity in our social and community strategy will be key to our success as an alternative to subscription and ad-based video-streaming platforms.”
“It’s not just a logo.”
Although Christian admits that the challenge with branding blockchain is translating abstract thinking into a clear message, he doesn’t see much difference between blockchain and the other sectors he works in.
“Projects want to be there for people outside of their own community”, Christian says. “This requires translation into a language and metaphors that “ordinary people” or non-developers/non-blockchain fans understand.
“Blockchain is going mainstream, you are not talking to experts but talking to normal people and they need to make it clear what they are for”.
“It’s not just a logo, it’s not just a coating. We need to make people know what they’re about…If you can communicate what you are you will probably win: you can have the strongest project in the world but if you don’t communicate you will probably lose.”
Following the successful Lisk rebrand back in February, Christian says that other projects within the space have approached him to help design their brand.
At present, branding for blockchain is still very small, but could it rise to become big business? Although Christian and Oron differed on whether it will turn into a specialist field, they both clearly saw a real need for their skills within the sector.
Branding, which can effectively translate the technical know-how into the comprehensible, has a lot of potential. As blockchain goes mainstream, the ability to communicate to consumers and investors will become an important factor.
As Christian said, even the best projects can fail because of poor branding. An effective strategy and coherent identity is something developers will have to consider far more seriously if they are to expand outside of a select community of blockchain enthusiasts and tech experts.[/vc_wp_text]