Crypto Brands Reposition Themselves in Wake of FTX and Market Tumble
Roughly one year ago, a handful of crypto heavyweights made swaggering debuts on the Super Bowl ad roster, airing costly commercials with messages like “Don’t miss out” (FTX) and “Fortune favors the brave” (Crypto.com).
Then came the swoon in crypto and the bankruptcy of FTX.
Now, companies across the sector are using marketing and public relations efforts to defend their brands, distance themselves from dubious players like FTX and, in many cases, present a friendlier face to investors and regulators alike.
“The problem they face is a massive drop-off of trust as holders of assets that have value,” said
global principal at Wolff Olins, a brand strategy firm that has worked with top crypto brands. Companies in the sector are trying to continue growing—or stay afloat—while simultaneously reassuring both the crypto faithful and the government agencies under pressure to rein them in, he said.
Their marketing must evolve in turn, according to Mr. Wason. He compared last year’s burst of Super Bowl ads to those for dot-com startups in the 2000 Super Bowl, “where VC money [was] being burned for awareness.”
Rethinking the approach
Well before the FTX bankruptcy in November, ad spending by crypto marketers had dropped considerably. After it, companies had little choice but to review their strategy.
Recently, trading firm OKX scuttled its plans to buy an ad in Super Bowl LVII when FTX began to dominate the news cycle. “Consumers are responding better to sustained campaigns that emphasize transparency and trust,”
OKX’s global chief marketing officer, said of the firm’s decision to stay out of this month’s Super Bowl. Ad Age first reported news of OKX’s decision last week.
But top-spending brands
Coinbase Global Inc.
and eToro Group Ltd. raised their spending to $2.8 million and $1.9 million, respectively, on broadcast TV ads in December, according to measurement firm iSpot.tv. While the amounts are lower than a year ago, they have risen from paltry sums in the near past.
Their messaging has changed to fit the landscape.
Within days of FTX’s bankruptcy filing, Coinbase responded with a full-page print ad in The Wall Street Journal headlined “Trust us.” It also debuted a new slogan, “Ignore the noise. Keep building,” in a December ad in which it played up traits of dependability—as a listed, regularly audited company—and ran directly against the negative news cycle.
Coinbase aims to convey its confidence in crypto “while maintaining our position as the most trusted brand in the space,” Chief Marketing Officer
Bittrex Global GmbH, another crypto exchange, moved to reposition itself with a December campaign describing the Liechtenstein-based company as “the world’s most secure regulated digital asset exchange,” concluding with the new tagline, “Here today. Here tomorrow.”
“One of people’s biggest fears is that people who are participants in crypto are here today, gone tomorrow, and they may or may not have taken your money with them,” said Bittrex Global Chief Executive
That “rings more true than ever” now, he said. Bittrex Global’s marketing has matured since a 2021 campaign targeting so-called meme stock investors with the tagline, “Don’t let them tell you what to trade.” Nowadays, the company is emphasizing reliability, he said, adding, “Boring is not bad.”
EToro’s “Originality Is Overrated” campaign, which also began airing in December, uses the platform’s social media-like elements to set it apart, suggesting that crowdsourced insights might still be of interest to curious investors.
EToro will continue its marketing efforts throughout this year, according to U.S. Chief Executive
“We feel like this is the time to do it. You show up when things are a little rough for people,” she said.
Trying to avoid contagion
A few exchanges have acted like nothing has changed in the crypto arena, implicitly distancing themselves from the miasma that has enveloped the sector.
In November, Binance Holdings Ltd. launched its first brand campaign, kicking it off with an NFT collection featuring soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo. The campaign launched after FTX’s Nov. 11 bankruptcy filing, but was developed before it, Binance said.
Future marketing will focus on the products the firm offers, rather than distinguishing Binance from FTX and other suspect competitors or addressing head-on the increased scrutiny of its own business, said
chief strategy officer.
OKX has continued to buy ads on Twitter and TikTok and run its introductory “What Is OKX?” campaign on CNBC streaming properties to raise awareness of its platform, which is not yet available in the U.S. The spot hearkens to crypto’s earlier hipster-fantasy sensibility, featuring a centaur, space aliens, a wrestler and race cars, among other elements. Mr. Rafique said the company’s goal is to focus on responsible investing without directly addressing the recent upheaval.
Many crypto players have also shifted spending to public relations and lobbying in recent weeks, hiring new firms or expanding the remits of their current firms, executives say.
Businesses based in decentralized finance, which let users trade assets directly with one another on the blockchain rather than using an intermediary platform like FTX or Coinbase, are trying to differentiate their brands from those of centralized exchanges.
of dYdX, a decentralized exchange that deals in a type of speculative crypto derivative known as perpetuals, has worked to better define and promote so-called DeFi among the general business community by speaking to media outlets such as Bloomberg News in recent weeks.
In December, the company also hired
Rashan A. Colbert,
a former aide to Sen.
(D., N.J.), as head of policy to lead its lobbying efforts and counter the “potential regulatory backlash” prompted by FTX’s bankruptcy, Mr. Juliano said.
“I think that, especially after the FTX collapse, there has been a real need for that across the entire crypto space,” he said.
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