Cut the Jargon, Keep Your Promises: How Crypto Can Fix Its Image Problem

Consensus 2023 attendees argued that improving crypto's image requires a clearer explanation of digital assets and a focus on tangible, user-centric products and services

AccessTimeIconJun 8, 2023 at 1:44 p.m. UTC
Updated Jun 8, 2023 at 2:41 p.m. UTC
10 Years of Decentralizing the Future
May 29-31, 2024 - Austin, TexasThe biggest and most established global event for everything crypto, blockchain and Web3.Register Now

It's hardly controversial to assert that cryptocurrencies have an image problem following the spectacular blowups and scandals of 2022.

From Sam Bankman-Fried's alleged misdeeds at FTX to the collapse of Do Kwon's Terra ecosystem, anyone searching for reasons to mistrust digital assets has a robust menu to pick from.

This article is excerpted from CoinDesk’s inaugural Consensus @ Consensus Report, the product of intimate, curated group discussions that took place at Consensus 2023. Click here to download the full report.

But crypto dreamers yearn for broader acceptance – even mainstream adoption – of their revolutionary creation. If they’re to have success in that, improving crypto’s image is a prerequisite.

The question is: how? A blunt message emerged at Consensus 2023: Crypto must better explain the purpose of digital assets and offer tangible, easy-to-grasp products and services that consumers actually want.

"I would love for us to start talking about the technology more, and real-world use cases," said Michelle O'Connor, vice president of brand and global communications at TaxBit, a developer of tax software for crypto owners.

However, the industry struggles to talk about broader benefits in a way that resonates. Part of what keeps crypto out of the mainstream is the bewildering storm of jargon and memes spewing from the industry, the kind of talk that few bother trying to parse.

"How can you get people to buy into a system that they don't understand on multiple levels?" said Caitlin Cook, head of marketing and communications at Hxro Labs, a crypto derivatives trading platform.

There's irony in crypto's need to turn around its image. The whole point of its core technology is that one need not trust the person they’re dealing with; because blockchains are "trustless," there's no intermediary who could tinker with or block a transaction. So, in theory, there should be no capacity for bad actors to do harm, which means there should be no image problem.

But the blowup of FTX, Bankman-Fried's leading crypto exchange, and other 2022 collapses showed people really were putting their trust in organizations that may not have deserved it…

Get the Consensus @ Consensus 2023 Report

Complete the form below to access the latest trends, analysis and insights gathered from the intimate group discussions that took place at Consensus 2023.

*Required information

By clicking "Sign Up", you agree to receive newsletter from CoinDesk as well as other partner offers and accept our terms of services and privacy policy.


Please note that our privacy policy, terms of use, cookies, and do not sell my personal information has been updated.

CoinDesk is an award-winning media outlet that covers the cryptocurrency industry. Its journalists abide by a strict set of editorial policies. In November 2023, CoinDesk was acquired by the Bullish group, owner of Bullish, a regulated, digital assets exchange. The Bullish group is majority-owned by; both companies have interests in a variety of blockchain and digital asset businesses and significant holdings of digital assets, including bitcoin. CoinDesk operates as an independent subsidiary with an editorial committee to protect journalistic independence. CoinDesk employees, including journalists, may receive options in the Bullish group as part of their compensation.

Nick Baker

Nick Baker is CoinDesk’s deputy editor-in-chief and a Loeb Award winner. His crypto holdings are below CoinDesk's $1,000 disclosure threshold.

Learn more about Consensus 2024, CoinDesk's longest-running and most influential event that brings together all sides of crypto, blockchain and Web3. Head to to register and buy your pass now.