From “Mad Men” to Gorilla statues on Wall Street, marketing has always been a big game
Marketing in crypto can often be the biggest game. If you’ve ever looked at a pie chart showing a project’s tokenomics, you’ve probably noticed just how big a piece of the pie the marketing budget tends to be. It isn’t uncommon for marketing to be upward of 20-25% of a project’s total budget, and can be spent on everything from influencers & ad spots to billboards & “guerrilla marketing” physical memes. No one would blame you for seeing all of the crazy ways crypto projects spend marketing dollars and thinking that we’re outliers or unicorns, but in actuality crypto tends to be a microcosm of traditional markets. Things trend towards grandiose or bombastic but still along the same lines we’re already seeing in the meatspace. You see influencers getting paid huge sums to shill projects with the shelf life of a cut avocado, and it’s easy to think “man, crypto is crazy”, but influencer marketing in the US was estimated to be a $3.7 billion market in 2021. Unless we’re imagining that the knock-off Yeezys on Insta are somehow different from a jpeg or token, you have to realize that it’s all flowing from the same vein.
You can have the best product in the world, or the worst product in the world, but if it’s sitting in the dark with no eyes on it – you aren’t going to sell it, regardless. With millions of things competing for eyes & attention, the cost of new investor acquisition can be astronomical. The average cost across all industries for a Facebook ad clickthru, with 9-10% average conversion, is about $1.68. So customer acquisition always tends to be a costly endeavor, whether you’re a normie shoe company or a degen shitcoin. It’s all about bang for your buck, with virality being the goal of most campaigns. This is why guerilla marketing has always been a big part of the mix, in crypto. We are a market built on memes. Let’s take a brief dive into that history to show you what I mean.
Bitcoin Pizza: Marketing Gets a Slice of the Pie
You might not think of the billion dollar pizzas as a marketing campaign, but movements in price have always been heavily correlated to catalysts, and in crypto these catalysts are often tied to being the first to do or try something.
While Laszlo may have missed out on billions of dollars, the repeated viral cycles of the “Bitcoin Pizza” meme has arguably been one of the best marketing campaigns Bitcoin could have asked for. Suddenly, every time Bitcoin’s price rises you have a new dollar figure and a new batch of folks laughing about the moon rocket Las missed and the unspoken warning is: “Don’t miss out, too.”
Water for Doges
The Doge4Water campaign was an early endeavor at crowd-funding charity through crypto. The campaign raised some $50,000 worth of Doge to sponsor two clean water wells in Kenya. This was a collaboration with the nonprofit charity: water and began on World Water Day. One community member, @savethemhood, donated some 14,000,000 Doge to the effort, putting them over the top.
Aside from the obvious good it did, this also helped cement the Doge community as a legitimate force in the world, with the headlines being the first time millions of people ever heard of Doge. They didn’t stop there, though, and a short time after this concluded the community sponsored Nascar driver Josh Wise’s car at Talladega SuperSpeedway.
After that, I think some communities sort of lost the lead. It became more about pumping out any wacky catalyst they could think of just to get some attention or a few articles written about them. You had everything from Bitmex renting lambos to park outside a conference to the late legend John Mcafee getting a SkyCoin tattoo, to CZ sending cheap hoodies to every influencer on crypto Twitter.
Fast-forward to present. Every new niche or market cycle sees hundreds of projects rehashing the same strategies over & over again, to varying degrees of success. NFTs are no exception, and many are paying for billboards or physical installations to try & draw eyeballs. Usually the problem isn’t in the concept of guerilla marketing, but in the execution. They 1:1 copy old ideas, or just throw absurd amounts of money at ridiculous gimmicks just for the sake of “look at this dumb crap” virality. You can see this evidenced by the unimaginative BabyDoge rehash of the car sponsorship idea, the Bored Ape supergroups, and Sapien.Network’s 7-foot tall Harambe. History is nothing if not a seesaw vacillating between earnestness & irony. If you look at the success stories in crypto marketing, you’ll see that irony is what happens when projects run out of ideas. The earnest attempts & experiments are what we remember forever, and not as hilarious memories of half-hearted marketing attempts by eventual vaporware. Until next time, be mindful of marketing. A billboard in Times Square isn’t enough to moon most projects, anymore. If your project’s catalysts aren’t creative or well-executed, then it might be time to re-examine.