written by @emylacapra
Since its foundational block, Bitcoin’s “marketing” has simply been driven by nothing more than word-of-mouth and independent advocates building atop what they believe in.
Bitcoin is open source and decentralized, and has no central control: a distributed repository of information, no central management, and, crucially, no central point of failure. People contribute to the growth of the network voluntarily, and as such have helped shape Bitcoin marketing; Bitcoin’s brand.
As newcomers are continually onboarded, Bitcoin has gained the capability of marketing itself that in quite unlike anything that has come before it. This is not like Microsoft iterating on the latest operating system, it’s a new opt-in monetary system based on digital trust. Those who truly understand this also wish to share it.
Brands Using Bitcoin’s Brand
This movement is technological and monetary disruption. It’s not a company, it cannot be compared to something like Netscape in the early days of the internet. It is a protocol, and thus more like the Internet itself.
Bitcoin has become a brand with which businesses seek to associate with when marketing themselves, as opposed to the inverse. For better or worse, it’s becoming a go-to for fintech companies that want to emerge, and a buzzword to empower the image of related firms.
Applications can be built on top of bitcoin, and centralized companies can build e-commerce layers or privacy on top of bitcoin, but a central marketing department cannot permeate the decentralized nature of bitcoin’s base chain. These companies can benefit from Bitcoin’s growth and recognition if they adhere to the consensus rules, or they can fall victim to its unforgiving nature if they attempt to control it.
Who Promotes Bitcoin, And Why?
Marketing implies that a brand is made to appear in a certain way and all choices and decisions will hang by that concept. That someone alone could decide a bitcoin marketing campaign is already an oxymoron.
Instead with bitcoin, every participant in the system helps shape and promote the values within the system that fit their unique position. The developer will build, promote, and hopefully implement the technological achievements. The miner will use resources to compete to win the hash battle for newly minted coins and fees. The user will partake as either a sound money advocate/saver or borderless censorship-resistant economic transaction executor (perhaps both). The merchant will enjoy no chargebacks or middlemen while advocating for innovative solutions to small fees and quicker transaction finality.
These are all metaphorical marketing departments for bitcoin, each a pillar of bitcoin’s decentralized structure. Everyone contributes to the growth and promotion of cryptocurrency with their own work.
Pillars of Bitcoin’s Continued Proliferation
If we want to give bitcoin marketing a shape and a strategy, where the natural marketing departments are built into its structure, four powerful pillars are price, protocol, trust, and education.
These are also the elements bitcoin is mostly known for.
- Price. Despite most being in the game for the tech, it’s undeniable that during price peaks the attention of the media and mass awareness reaches a fever pitch. The goal of any marketing strategy is to increase the popularity and sales of a product or a service and price movements just do that for bitcoin. Whether up or down, volatility keeps Bitcoin in the headlines.
- The Protocol. It’s robust, secure, distributed across a network of nodes, it has never been hacked and it has a hard cap of 21 million Bitcoins that will ever be issued. Think of this as Bitcoin’s mission statement.
- The Trust element and removal of third trusted parties. This is a conceptual core that has contributed to the attention around Bitcoin – not just in finance environments, but also in legal, administrative, medical, and educational industries. It’s undeniable that the buzzword blockchain has had a role in the public’s perception of Bitcoin, and vice versa.
- Education. Innovation is followed by awareness and education. This can be viewed as the promotion of bitcoin, driving adoptions in waves. The Bitcoin community is rich with early adopters become experts that have spent years sharing the benefits of the technology voluntarily. Some have gone on to become Bitcoin educators or promoters, gaining large social media followings, and hitting the mainstream media circuit.
Many believe that banks and government policies, like recent quantitative easing programs, are also bitcoin’s best marketing. If global currencies weaken, Bitcoin can potentially emerge as a global store of value in the long term. With time and contrasting ideologies, we may find that simply the continued existence of Bitcoin will convert even the most skeptical of investors.
Bitcoin Marketing History
Bitcoin’s marketing history can be illustrated in parallel with its history of events. If a marketing campaign’s success is measured by the volume of adopters then Bitcoin’s spike in popularity is driven by price throughout its history.
Without retracing the full history of bitcoin, we’ll just look through what has boosted bitcoin popularity over the years and which ‘marketing campaign’ has worked better.
The Satoshi Mystery
Let’s face it, the biggest marketing campaign for bitcoin was offered by Satoshi Nakamoto himself when he decided to timidly but effectively disappear. Not only was he a great cryptographer, a programmer, an economist, and a finance expert, but many would also paint him as a great marketing strategist.
The mystery instigated by an anonymous creator who built one of the biggest networks in the history of computers always resides in the minds of those who hear about bitcoin. Satoshi’s move was certainly enforced by the circumstances but remains just as well a fantastic marketing tactic.
Satoshi’s disappearance was just the first in a series of events that helped keep eyeballs on Bitcoin over the past decade. While this list doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface, we can point to a number of notable items.
- 2011 was the first tumultuous and captivating year for Bitcoin. With price highs and volatility, and the first Mt Gox hack, that was the year Bitcoin captured the world’s attention.
- The news of the Silk Road shutdown in 2013 shrank the price from $200 to just over $80 in a matter of weeks but by November 2013 it had reached new time highs of over $1000.
- In 2014, the second and most unfortunate MtGox hack further deteriorated the image that Bitcoin had suffered over the first few years of its life. Despite that initial negative perception of the cryptocurrency, more people gained interest in this new asset.
- In October 2015 The Economist published “Bitcoin, The Trust Machine” on the cover of their newspaper, giving the cryptocurrency a renewed boost in popularity.
- 2017 sucked the air out of the room as a mania ensued. Mainstream news began to include regular Bitcoin coverage, and the price topped out at around $20,000 in December. Demand was so great that one of the major cryptocurrency exchanges reported approximately 300,000 new users during the Thanksgiving holiday week alone.
With a new high of $14K last year, and with the most recent price increases, interest around the cryptocurrency has grown again and history seems to be repeating itself.
Despite the volatile price movements and controversial opinions around it, Bitcoin is nonetheless a machine. It continues generating new blocks every ten minutes for its growing user base.
The lack of a specific marketing department strategy leads to the necessity of mainly voluntary work. While other major cryptocurrencies rely heavily on the figureheads that created and launched them, Bitcoin relies upon its decentralized community. With more institutions, merchants, traders and the public embracing the technology, Bitcoin is being marketed in more ways than ever before and the network effect is unparalleled.
As companies are incentivized to continue innovating and making it easier for consumers to buy, hold, and spend Bitcoin, the volume has expanded dramatically. Combine this with a passionate and growing group of high-signal Bitcoin holders, and we can see that this network effect requires very little marketing strategy indeed.
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