An Open Letter to Decentralized Protocols Looking for Growth

Marketing expert Jeremy Epstein discusses the importance of the brand for blockchain startups in this open letter to the industry.

AccessTimeIconApr 7, 2017 at 11:35 a.m. UTC
Updated Dec 12, 2022 at 12:48 p.m. UTC

Jeremy Epstein is the CEO of Never Stop Marketing, a strategic marketing and consulting firm that focuses exclusively on helping blockchain-based technologies bring solutions to market faster and with less risk. Clients include OpenBazaar, Storj, and Fermat.

In this open letter to firms starting out in the decentralized protocol industry, Epstein offers his advice on the importance of marketing, arguing the protocol is the brand.

Dear teams developing protocols (within the blockchain tech stack),

One of the most exhilarating parts of doing what you are doing is the fact that you really are going to disrupt the way business is done... and the world works.

'Traditional' businesses, organizations and governments are not ready for what you are about to unleash on them. Frankly, even if they were ready, I'm not 100% sure they'll be able to adapt in time. Some will. To their credit, they will identify the threat and seek to reinvent.

Most won't be able to. Granted, this may play out over 10, 20, 30 or more years, but the genie of the Age of Decentralization has been let out of the bottle and it's not going back in.

Having studied marketing for 20-plus years, my request to you is to not 'throw the baby out with the bath water'.

There is a ton that can be learned from the way that 'traditional' brands and companies have operated. You should learn from them.

The one I want to focus on is that, in the Age of Blockchains/Decentralization, the protocol is the brand.

The distributed apps that hang off the protocol are all part of the ecosystem, but the brand is the protocol and vice versa.

I knew this, but it was driven home the other day when I was talking to Brian Hoffman, CEO of OB1 and project lead for OpenBazaar.

He lifted up his hoodie to show me a slick looking  bitcoin T-shirt.

He then said, "You know, I think pretty much all I own now are bitcoin T-shirts. It's like a brand to me. It's the only one I care about."

Granted, Brian is way early on the adoption curve, but he's the kind of passionate believer (like many others) who are driving the growth of bitcoin and evangelizing it.

What Satoshi did in his white paper was both outline a technical vision and simultaneously lay down a brand manifesto. Not quite Jerry Maguire, but inspired, passionate, and visionary.

You see this in some of the writing from ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin and Fermat's Luis Molina as well, but instead of sitting down, writing, and hoping for magic to strike, you can approach it like a brand manager would.

Build a Brand Platform. Now. Before You Need It.

And before you have to figure out how to get others to buy into your vision.

It's a long process, that requires work and deliberate thought, but great brands are eternal. They have a set of core values, a vision, a mission, a belief system. All of these are evident to everyone who works at the brand (traditionally) and for customers who engage with the brand (more or less).

In a blockchain/decentralized world where the protocol is the brand, you can lay down the same articulated vision using the same formula. (This isn't to say that a dapp developer isn't building a brand, s/he is. But, it's a brand that is – to some extent – dependent on the protocol brands it supports. A topic for a future article, perhaps...)

A brand platform is basically the 'genesis block' for the marketing of the protocol. It's the origin of how people will perceive you.

Just like the first line of code determines the second line and so on, your initial decision about how you want to be perceived is a marketing decision. Make it conscious. Make it intentional.

Don't short-change your marketing and make the same mistake that Des Traynor of Intercom did.

If you want a quick primer, you should familiarize yourself with Simon Sinek's "Start With Why". It's a classic.

You can also join nearly 100 other companies at the Decentralized Marketing Network to learn how to be a better marketer.

The bottom line is, if you are building a decentralized protocol, you are building a brand. Find someone to teach you how it is done and then go from there.


A marketer who wants you to succeed

Typeface blocks image via Shutterstock


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