Interesting article here in Marketing magazine about so-called ‘cryptocurrencies’ and their implications for brands.
Bitcoin is the most celebrated example of a phenomenon which transcends our expectations about what a currency actually is. Uncontrolled by any government, it raises the kind of issues that could keep economists, sociologists and business school professors occupied for years.
But what about its practical application in the world of marketing? Javier Marti of consultancy Bitcoinglobalinvestments.com is unsurprisingly enthusiastic, explaining that it comes with low transaction fees, adds convenience for consumers and attracts people who may not have access to traditional banking. Fair enough. But how many brands are actually going after consumers who don’t have access to conventional methods of payment? Even in the developing world, the emphasis is likely to be on targeting people in the burgeoning middle classes, who’ll happily pay in a conventional way with Rupees or Renminbi.
For me, an important issue is that Bitcoin itself is a brand. In many people’s minds, the associations are probably with geekdom or even the darker underbelly of the web. Over $28m worth of Bitcoins were seized by the FBI when the agency shut down Silk Road, for instance. Until this rather murky perception changes, many mainstream brands are unlikely to want to make the connection.
If you run a lifestyle business closely associated with technology or cyberculture, the ‘edginess’ of Bitcoin might be seen as a bonus. You’re down with the dudes. For everyday retail brands, it’s hard to see how it makes too much sense right now. That having been said, eBay is very soon going to allow the currency to be bought and sold and is considering allowing people to make purchases using the cryptographic cash. Such a decision would undoubtedly be a huge landmark and possibly represent a stepping stone to even greater acceptance.