The crypto-fueled marketing blitz of 2021 might be over for now, but some companies are capitalizing on the market turmoil, referred to as a “crypto winter,” to double down on new marketing initiatives.
From $700 million stadium naming deals to Super Bowl ads featuring Matt Damon and Lebron James, crypto companies rode on all-time high coin prices and frenzied consumer optimism to break through into the mainstream consciousness last year.
But in the past few weeks, everything changed. Companies announced layoffs. Coin prices tanked. Then marketing budgets started getting the rugpull: Total digital marketing spend for some of the biggest players like Coinbase and FTX has dropped by almost 70% from mid-April to June 27, when the industry was still riding high, according to data from analytics firm Pathmatics.
One exception is Binance, which is hiring for 944 positions, 124 of which are in marketing and communications, based on its careers page. According to a tweet from Binance’s CEO, Changpeng Zhao, credit goes to Binance’s restraint from splashing money on showy marketing stunts.
—CZ 🔶 Binance (@cz_binance) June 15, 2022
Binance has now just announced a multiyear collaboration with soccer phenomenon Cristiano Ronaldo, in which Ronaldo NFTs will be sold exclusively on Binance’s NFT marketplace. The company also recently launched a trading platform aimed at “high rollers,” such as hedge funds and family offices.
Yi He, Binance’s CMO, said Binance holds regular AMA sessions, short for “Ask Me Anything,” so that its customers can get a transparent look into how the company operates.
Binance and OKX, another crypto exchange, both told Insider that they are currently focusing on education as well as launching new marketing initiatives.
OKX, like many crypto exchanges, hosts learning material on its website, to educate new traders and investors on the risks and rewards of crypto. But Haider Rafique, CMO at OKX, told Insider that these resources are “not enough,” and that instead there need to be active industry efforts to “break the culture of things going to the moon.”
“What really turned me off is when a number of different crypto companies started hiring celebrities, and the message was just like, ‘It’s time to buy crypto, and you buy it on this platform’,” said Rafique.
As part of its “crypto winter” pivot, OKX plans to launch a new brand campaign later this year that will also push messages of responsible investing, to highlight that there’s value in being conservative and in taking calculated risks.
Geoff Renaud, cofounder of Invisible North, an advertising agency that has worked with crypto companies, said most people don’t truly understand the ins and outs of cryptocurrency.
Smart companies are pivoting their budgets in this
to invest in content and experiences that help bring down the technical barriers that have made crypto so hard to comprehend,” said Renaud.
“The brand comes from the community, by helping people fix their problems”
Crypto companies have faced increased regulatory pressure from governments around the world, which intensified following the crash of stablecoin Terra in May.
But even with these headwinds, Binance and OKX are optimism that they can win consumers’ trust through skill of crises and responsible advertising.
“We rarely do sponsorships, and we don’t like wasting money,” said Binance’s Yi. “Binance’s brand comes from the community, by helping people fix their problems.”
OKX, on the other hand, has signed partnerships with the likes of the McLaren Formula 1 team, Manchester City, and the Tribeca Film Festival. But Rafique said that even though these deals provide exposure, trust is ultimately built on day-to-day customer interactions.
“Oftentimes the market gives us the opportunity,” said Rafique, recounting how OKX instituted emergency risk systems that would sell customers’ funds if a stablecoin were to break from its peg, as happened with Luna and Terra a few weeks ago. These systems meant that most OKX customers lost little to no money in the ensuing crash, and those that did were reimbursed by the exchange.
“I wish I could say that that incident alone will help us gain trust,” said Rafique. “I think it’s going to have to be tens of those incidents.”