How do you market "free" money? Branding.
Why is branding in crypto marketing paramount? Find out in Brad Michelson's recent interview with Dan Hennessy, Creative Director at BlockFi.
The interview was first published in Brad's weekly newsletter "Market Mix". Subscribe to Brad's newsletter here
A company’s brand is like their personality. Everything the consumer learns about the company as a company is seen, heard, inferred, and intuited from that voice. In crypto, these signals are even more important. Unlike most industries, trust is paramount to all else.
Well, for one, you’re dealing with people’s money here. They’ve got to trust you.
But in an ecosystem where spectrums of “trustlessness” is a key value proposition, being able to provide additional reasons (even subconscious reasons) for the user to trust you is important. And, in a young industry like ours, the battle lines of best practice for things like voice, branding, design, and so on are still being defined.
That’s why, this week we’ll be digging into crypto brand and design with Dan Hennessy, Creative Director at BlockFi.
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How do you describe your role at BlockFi?
Hmm... I would say, the Michael Scott of CeFi: I get to have fun at work everyday, entertain a community of extraordinary individuals and geek out over the cool stuff my team creates.
I’m the creative director for BlockFi, my team is referred to internally as the memeteam (designers, copywriters, animators, video and social media). I’m very fortunate to earn a living creating content and advertising for the most radical, face-melting piece of technology our society has experienced, Bitcoin.
In your mind, what role does brand play in marketing?
Brand is everything. If people like your brand and product a ton, they’ll find others who like your brand and product a ton and form a community. Community can be one of the most powerful assets a brand can leverage.
Apple pioneered community / brand marketing. Think of all the elements that make Apple, Apple: product mystique, grandiose events, community message boards, leaked photos, limited availability and general product and design snobbery. It’s all part of their brand - and we love them for it.
Why is good brand design so important to crypto companies?
It’s the easiest way to standout and differentiate your offering from a competitor. Bitcoin did it first, now others are taking the formula and running with it.
Bitcoin (The OG): Created by a mythical person or persons. Bright orange logo, simple, iconic Bitcoin B
Uniswap: Hot pink unicorn logo with a magical aesthetic. Very memorable.
SushiSwap: Sushi motifs: CEO Chef Nomi, sushi roll logo, themed products like the “Bento Box”
What are the most important things to consider when building a creative strategy for a brand?
Education: Just because you know a lot about Bitcoin, don’t assume everyone else does. It’s difficult to sell someone the idea of earning 1.5% back in Bitcoin when they aren’t sold on Bitcoin yet. Education shouldn’t feel like education. You shouldn’t have to pay someone to consume your educational content.
Attention: 70% of people doctor their photos to reflect the golden ratio (or something like that). Big eye and high cheek bone filters are the precursor to posting. We consume content in 10 second videos while sitting on a Zoom call.
Present information in a clear, concise and aesthetically pleasing way. At the end of the day, your content is competing for attention with the high cheekbone, big-eyed photos in their feed.. and puppies… lots of puppies.
Where do you draw inspiration for your work?
The 1970s - early 2000s
BlockFi is currently running a number of out-of-home (OOH) campaigns, advertising on billboards and in airports across the country. Design-wise, how do you approach these real-world placements, in contrast to the usual digital placements?
The billboards were an internal collaborative effort from the entire marketing team. Lots of research and testing, many rounds of feedback and simplification. Believe it or not, a ton of energy went into the very straightforward design and animation - and a lot was left on the cutting room floor.
Bitcoin Rewards are a very new concept — so we wanted to clearly communicate the product.
Since you can’t choose who walks or drives by your billboard, go with an aesthetic that would appeal to a wider audience. At 70mph you have to find a way to simply deliver your message.
Fun fact: We actually started with some sweet creative featuring the Bitcoin wizard surfing on our credit card - definitely a little too niche for a broader audience.
How can up-and-coming brands look to design as a way to build trust and acquire customers?
Think of your brand as a person, a person you would enjoy getting stuck in an elevator with…
Be authentic, human, on-trend, reliable and approachable.
What are some creative best practices that you’ve discovered during your time at BlockFi that other marketers can leverage for their own work?
1. Figure out who your audience is and listen to them.
2. Diversify your audience with different social platforms.
3. Create custom content strategies for each platform.
4. Be unique, take risks and get weird.
For young marketers looking to get into crypto marketing, what tips can you give to help them land their first crypto job?
Be a student of the technology. Consume every piece of information you can find on cryptocurrency. Get involved in the community and follow the players in the space. You can’t successfully market something you don’t fully understand.
Fun fact: I got my job with BlockFi by DMing Zac Prince from my anon twitter account. Be bold.
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About Dan Hennessy: Dan is an award-winning Executive Creative Director, possessing expertise in crafting experiences for the world’s leading brands. He's currently a Creative Director at the US-based crypto investment platform, BlockFi. Prior to BlockFi, Dan spent over 7 years managing all things creatives at the global media giant Forbes.