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

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…

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Nick Baker

Nick Baker is CoinDesk’s deputy editor-in-chief. He owns less than $1,000 combined of BTC and ETH.

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