For too many Web3 projects, marketing is often an afterthought. The prevailing wisdom is that a visionary founder will generate a killer idea that will get VCs frothing, use their funding to hire a superstar developer (or an entire team of them) and bring the vision to life via the medium of code.
Once there’s a minimum viable product (MVP) to showcase, the project needs a user base to make this thing into a viable product. At this point, it’s time to fire up the Magical Marketing Machine, which connects to your various channels to create a nonstop value-generating stream of leads and conversions, drawn in by the irresistible lure of the initial killer idea. Once they hear about it.
This mindset isn’t helped by the stories of often inexplicable viral success that regularly punctuate the crypto headlines. But viral success isn’t the same as success. Just look at Terra’s LUNA collapse, the Squid Game scam or SafeMoon’s pump and dump for several relatively recent examples of viral “success.”
Of course, a few exceptional viral cases have managed to achieve longevity. For instance, Bored Ape Yacht Club and SushiSwap are two examples of projects that leveraged initial viral success to attain long-term recognition.
There is no formula or algorithm to guarantee viral success. But marketing, as a value-generating function of a commercial organization, is different. It has a toolkit at its disposal, and the most powerful of those tools is the brand — the programming that conveys the message of an offering to a human audience.
Effective branding relies on good code
Successful firms know that branding and marketing don’t happen by magic or according to checklist-type formulae. When it’s planned and executed well, a robust branding strategy is analogous to computer code. Blockchain developers use programming languages to translate their applications into a set of instructions that the blockchain can execute consistently. The branding strategy tells everyone in an ecosystem what messages they should be using and how to deliver them in a way that’s comprehensible and engaging.
Programming involves choosing the correct syntax and functions to generate a particular outcome efficiently, while branding involves selecting messaging that resonates and choosing the most effective ways to convey it. Solidity is Turing-complete, in that it can be used to program virtually any task. In this sense, branding as a programming language is also Turing-complete, as it can be used to craft any message you choose.
Beyond text, which already contains all the richness of tone and language, you send a message with every choice in the presentation of your offering, from colors and logos to advertising outlets and collaboration partners. Every nuance conveys the messages of your brand that will be decoded and disseminated by the world.
This is where you must beware. A Turing-complete language can also easily create unintended consequences. In blockchain terms, a bug in the code, a typo or an unknown eventuality created by an attacker may result in hacks, stolen funds and a loss of good reputation.
Marketing gaffes — a result of anyone being able to go out there and say whatever they like — can end up as PR disasters. No stolen funds, but irreparable damage to your brand will quickly hit your revenue source with precisely the same net result.
But more often than not, the worst outcome of bad branding is a massive loss of opportunity. Do you want to maximize the impact of your marketing budget? Start with your brand and its strategy.
A critical success factor or an afterthought?
It’s time for a mindset shift. Your branding is your product. After all, without recognition, the most amazing invention in the world is not a product — it’s just something someone dreamed up.
Despite the fact that branding is unquestionably a pivotal factor in commercial success, it’s baffling that Web3 founders tend to treat it as an afterthought. I’ve come across projects due to launch next month, where basic marketing planning is only just underway. I’ve also seen projects where the team is operating entirely on junior staffers with little prior experience in Web3 or marketing — let alone developing a brand from scratch.
It’s hard to imagine any founder leaving their programming to chance. How will the app perform if the only programmer has a high-school knowledge of coding? Or, what kind of quality could a star team of coders produce, given only a month for building and testing?
The more extensive and sophisticated the underlying code, the more powerful and impactful the technology. The same applies to branding.
Evaluating your stack
Ultimately, my message to Web3 founders is to examine your current branding approach and consider whether it accurately reflects the image you want your project to convey.
This may mean reexamining your overall strategy. For instance, is there a clear and consistent set of brand messages that forms the basis of all communications?
Are you confident that your marketing plans are rooted in the best possible practices for your offering and audience, and not simply a checklist of channels and touchpoints?
You may also need to evaluate time allocated to marketing and branding activities. Are there sufficiently available person-hours to generate interest and engagement ahead of a launch?
Assessing your approach may also involve evaluating your marketing talent and leveraging expertise as required. Do you have the right skills on board to develop and execute a branding strategy?
Finally, does your plan allow for activities such as testing campaign materials with target audiences or refining messages on different channels?
It’s true that all of the above activities will take time and effort and may uncover a need to invest further. But once your branding code is as robust and rigorous as your product code, you’ll already be ahead of the competition.
German is co-founder and chief relevance officer of THE RELEVANCE HOUSE, a branding and marketing agency focused on blockchain and Web3.
This article was published through Cointelegraph Innovation Circle, a vetted organization of senior executives and experts in the blockchain technology industry who are building the future through the power of connections, collaboration and thought leadership. Opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of Cointelegraph.