Blockchain has a branding problem
It’s a zoo out there. The blockchain bonanza is in full effect.
A technology that started on the fringes now finds itself firmly in the mainstream, bringing with it the promise to transform enterprises, upend industries, and forever change the world as we know it.
In the decade or so since Satoshi Nakamoto introduced Bitcoin to the unsuspecting masses, we’ve witnessed massive growth in the blockchain and cryptocurrency space.
Today, startups and enterprises alike are looking to blockchain as the next big thing. Even Big Blue, now operating in its third century, has bet big (and won big) on blockchain. The business world has taken notice. If you aren’t already thinking about what it could mean for your industry, odds are one of your competitors is.
But before you rush to alert the world to your upcoming ICO, there’s one important detail you should consider that so many others skip:
Your brand strategy.
“Brand strategy?” you may be wondering, “what does branding have to do with my visions of a crypto-fueled future?”
Allow me to flip that question around on you: What does your blockchain business look like without careful consideration of your brand? Will you be able to rise above the noise? Will your team understand the fundamental purpose behind their efforts beyond pure profitability? Will you be you okay with being blockchain’s next flash in the pan?
Your brand is your reputation. What you’ll be known for. The essence of what you’re all about. Appreciating its importance is among the most important steps anyone—developers, entrepreneurs, investors, enterprise leaders—can take to ensure long-term success for their blockchain business. Here’s a couple reasons why:
A resonant brand story brings blockchain to life
Even if we all agree blockchain is the next big thing, work remains to convince the rest of the world why they should care.
Much of the business world is rightly skeptical of false promises when it comes to blockchain. Investors and customers alike—at least those that survived the bubble relatively unscathed—now expect more from blockchain businesses than a clever coin name and a Twitter feed.
Put it this way: success will ultimately depend less on the features you build into your technology, and more on the meaning you build into it.
The best brands have a story to tell. A real, compelling reason (hopefully lots of them) that real live people like you and me will benefit from the company’s success.
Clearly communicate how your blockchain came to be. Introduce the world to the team who built it. And articulate the mission, vision, and values that drive you. Taking the time to tell your story will put you lightyears ahead of the chainwashing enterprises flooding the market every day.
Consider our global economies. Most agree blockchain’s most disruptive potential rests within the financial sector. As an exercise, let’s consider two approaches to telling such a story:
Version A goes to great lengths to detail technical specifics—transaction speeds and finality, fault tolerance protocols, and consensus algorithms.
Version B paints a picture of blockchain’s potential. To forever change how individuals and industries transact. To replace antiquated fiat-based financial systems that centralize power and influence among the few. To bring prosperity to regions of the world starved for economic empowerment.
Which story resonates? Which is more memorable? It’s not to say tech specs don’t matter. “Speeds and feeds” certainly have a place in a brand’s messaging architecture. But when it comes to expressing at the most fundamental level what your brand is all about, there’s no substitute for a human story.
A clear visual system simplifies complex concepts
Blockchain technology is complicated—that’s kind of the point, isn’t it?
For a technological innovation of this magnitude—created by some of the most brilliant minds in cryptography, mathematics, science, and business—complexity comes with the territory.
Just because blockchain itself is complex doesn’t mean your brand has to be. That’s where having a thoughtfully designed visual system is crucial. Going to market with a cohesive, focused message will be made infinitely easier with a well-defined visual system to support it.
Success will ultimately depend less on the features you build into your tech, and more on the meaning you build into it.
The developers, entrepreneurs, academics, and businesspeople responsible for making blockchain what it is today have focused almost exclusively on building the technology itself. Across the entire crypto landscape, the visual systems many industry leaders employ leave a lot to be desired.
Creating marketing materials with the help of a designer allows you to see your content in ways you may never have envisioned. A few examples:
- Graphic design can help focus your audience’s attention on the most critical details.
- Motion design can help visualize abstract concepts more quickly than any dictionary could.
- Illustration and photography can play a crucial role in expressing your brand’s personality, incorporating a human touch.
- A thoughtfully constructed infrastructure diagram can clearly explain how all the pieces of your technology fit together.
Beyond the individual disciplines above, applying design thinking broadly across your organization will equip you with the ability to better identify, understand, and solve for the problems your blockchain was made for.
Getting started is easy with the Brand Layers
We know you’re busy. We know for you, change is measured in microseconds. A host of competing priorities—building your tech, securing investment, leading a team, attending events—quickly cannibalize whatever free time you hoped to have.
But before you put branding at the back of the line, ask yourself one simple question: am I in it for the long haul?
Taking the time to build your blockchain brand now will pay massive dividends down the line—for you, your organization, and the impact you hope to make in the world. Not to mention a measurable benefit to your bottom line.
The good news is it’s easier than ever to get started. New Kind created a simple framework we call the Brand Layers, designed to help visualize everything that goes into your brand in a simple, logical way.
The base layer: Your purpose
The foundation for any brand is a clear purpose. This is your why—beyond simply making a profit. This layer of the Brand Layers shouldn’t change often. The guiding truth that drives every business and marketing decision. This purpose can be artfully articulated through what we call the brand story.
The best stories guide strategic business decisions and marketing efforts. They’re simple, easy to recall, and fun to tell. Brand stories are written to give voice to both employee and customer values.
Your team’s marketing efforts will feel stronger and more cohesive when they flow from a deep understanding of why your company exists. Campaigns make a bigger impact when they sell your company’s products and services by connecting with customers’ human needs.
Discover and document your purpose. It’s the source code for a compelling blockchain brand.
The middle layer: Your personality
Once you’ve defined your purpose, look to your personality to bring it to life.
Much like that of a person, your brand’s personality is the outward expression of its true identity. Through your logo, color palette, typefaces, and imagery on the visual side. Through what you say and how you say it on the verbal side. All the elements of your personality break down into two categories: how you look and how you sound.
Your brand’s visual identity consists of much more than just your logo. As we touched on earlier, the most memorable brands develop a complete visual system that permeates the entire brand—and stems from the identity of the companies they represent.
Creating a robust, cohesive, and story-inspired visual system allows your brand to stand out in the crowded blockchain landscape. Such a system gives you the opportunity to communicate what you stand for very quickly. Intentional visual choices will help your story and messages resonate in ways they couldn’t alone.
How do you create a visual system that’s inspired by your brand’s guiding purpose? Create a Visual Organizing Principle: an internal, dynamic concept that defines and expresses your visual strategy. This 3-5 word statement is an extension of your brand story, drawing language that inspires a clear visual direction and brings your brand to life everywhere it lives.
How you sound is often referred to as your brand voice. This verbal identity expresses the tone you use when you communicate across every brand touchpoint.
Similar to your visual style, your tone grows naturally from your brand’s purpose layer. Assess the word choices throughout your brand story. Does your story evoke feelings of pragmatic innovation or humanity, empathy, and emotion? The words we choose say a lot about us as people—the same goes for companies.
Select 2-4 characteristics that represent your brand’s tone of voice. These personality traits can help guide your writing. Identify adjectives that align with and support your mission, vision, and values. Another tip is to identify a fictional “celebrity spokesperson” whose voice aligns with your brand personality. That way when you’re writing you can hear that person or character’s voice in your head and try to replicate it.
Little doubt remains blockchain is poised to transform our world. And as much as headlines may suggest this transformation is already well underway, in truth it’s only just beginning.
Organizations that build their brand with the same focus, strategy, and expertise they apply to building their technology will emerge as the lasting leaders of the blockchain revolution. Will you join them?