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Newsletter: Brands in Web3 & Web3 in Brands #7

This week: A predictable end for Friend.Tech; is Binance bold enough to embrace its embedded brand? And why Asia is becoming a new hotbed of institutional fintech adoption.

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Newsletter: Brands in Web3 & Web3 in Brands #7

Welcome to Edition #7 of “Brands in Web3 & Web3 in brands“, your regular dose of the latest news from the blockchain, crypto, and Web3 space, curated to provide unique marketing and brand strategy insights with a pinch of spice. 

This week: A predictable end for Friend.Tech; is Binance bold enough to embrace its embedded brand? And why Asia is becoming a new hotbed of institutional fintech adoption. 

Goodbye, not-so-old Friend.Tech

Friend.Tech: Now it can Rest In Branding. 

I publish this newsletter every two weeks, and two weeks ago, Friend.Tech had only just landed on my radar, not yet significant enough to warrant writing about in detail. 

Last week, it was the biggest story in crypto. So I decided to do some digging to see what all the fuss was about. Was Friend.Tech to be the sleeper summer hit that we didn’t see coming, or would it end up as yet another flash-in-the-pan, speculative, hype-driven bubble project? 

You already know the answer. Friend.Tech nosedived before two weeks was out. 

You’ll just have to trust me when I say that I would have been one of the many people who lined up to predict this project’s inevitable demise had it not been faster than my publication schedule. 

It has no brand, or even a website to speak of. It launched seemingly from nowhere in early August, with an undisclosed amount of seed funding from a major investor that doesn’t appear to be confirmed or denied by said investor, developed by people associated with two failed projects, on the promise of an airdrop, which managed to gain some social proof from a small cabal of influencers. 

Even if it was all entirely predictable, let’s try and learn something from it. I’m not here to pose questions about whether Friend.Tech had a sustainable business model, or whether all decentralized social networks are doomed to fail. All I can say is that when it comes to Friend.Tech, there was a notable yet painfully familiar absence of a brand. 

Viral marketing success is an oxymoron. There is viral marketing, and there is successful marketing, but the two don’t meet. Success in branding and marketing might be attributed to a particular campaign, but it’s work that is never done. The idea that any newcomer project can simply enter the market, become a hit, and rest on its laurels is a huge gamble where the odds are about a gazillion to one against you. 

Are you willing to bet your entire vision on a lucky viral punch?

Web3 founders, like every other business ever, need to do the legwork. Establish the offering and the target audience. Create the messaging and the story – make sure there is a clear and consistent answer to the “why” question when it comes to the offering. Make it relevant. 

Only then is the offering ready to take to the market and begin engaging. 

What’s the alternative? 

Another boom-and-bust project, which reflects badly on a newly established blockchain, on an industry struggling financially (and existentially in some cases), cementing the impression that we are incapable of building anything sustainable or focusing on anything beyond the here and now. 

Let’s do better. 

Binance parts ways with payment giants

Binance continues to feel the pain of the SEC clampdown, as Visa and Mastercard pulled back on their credit card partnership deals. Visa reportedly stopped issuing new branded cards with the firm, while Mastercard pulled out of a collaboration in four pilot markets. 

Since both companies have been increasing their footprint in the blockchain and crypto space, the move seems to be directed at severing ties with Binance, rather than any comment on the broader industry. 

However, according to analysts who spoke to Coindesk, it’s unlikely to have much of an impact on the world’s biggest crypto exchange. They cite pulls such as its size and liquidity. I would add to their assessment with Binance’s brand appeal, which is particularly resonant with the individualistic, risk- and opportunity-seeking mindset typical of the crypto niche. This mysterious X-factor explains how Binance came to become such a dominant entity on the crypto scene in the first instance, even having been a relative latecomer to the party in 2018. 

Now, if you read Binance’s brand messaging, it will tell you that the firm is all about the community, compliance, security, trust, and above all, superior tech. However, my (free!) advice to Binance is that these might be areas of strength operationally, but from a branding perspective, don’t bother. Lean into what your users love about you. In this case, a contemporary, innovative company that provides access to a new world of financial opportunity unbound by borders. 

Just embrace it.

Advancing adoption

ETF-watchers have had plenty to talk about over the last few days as the SEC suffered a setback in its quest to deny US investors a spot Bitcoin ETF. An appeals court overturned a previous ruling that had rejected Grayscale Investment’s bid for a spot Bitcoin ETF, potentially paving the way for a long-awaited approval. 

Although nothing is yet confirmed as the legal machinations continue, the ruling is another boost for Brand Crypto in the US, following another previous ruling in favor of Ripple Labs over the question of whether XRP qualifies as a security. From a pure reputational standpoint, this is good news for the industry. It sends a message that the SEC is not the final arbiter on the status of crypto products and their suitability for US investors, and even more powerfully, that this means the industry remains viable on US soil. Grayscale posted its best day in two years following the news. 

That element of competition could prove important for US innovation, given that many Asian countries seem happy to leverage the opportunities the SEC wishes to leave behind. Switzerland’s own SEBA Bank has obtained an in-principle approval for a digital asset trading license in Hong Kong, which rolled out its registration requirements for crypto firms earlier this year. 

The crypto-friendly Singapore Gulf Bank also recently recruited a regional head from JPMorgan with three decades of experience, indicating that even in a bearish market, financial institutions continue to invest in digital asset growth plans. Singapore Gulf Bank has an in-principle approval to operate from the government of Bahrain. While the SEC dominates the crypto headlines, Asia is becoming a quiet hotbed of adoption. 

Out and about in Web3

Faced with a barrage of decisions each day, we humans have a tendency to fudge whenever possible. But when it comes to branding, crypto is the only industry where an inability to choose is prized as a feature rather than a bug.

Yet paradoxically, Web3 firms have an opportunity to differentiate from the competition by choosing what their brand stands for and sticking to it. In my latest piece for Cointelegraph, I offer up some musing on the science of choosing for Web3 brands, along with practical tips for finding the sweet spot for brand positioning – even if you’re already established on the market. 

Read: “The secret to successful branding in Web3 – the science of choosing”

Last weekend, I was also a moderator at the Swiss Association of MBAs Digital Leaders Conference in Zurich. At the event, we had many productive discussions centered around how technologies such as #AI have impacted organizations and how leaders manage the Digital #Transformation journey. We captured many relevant takeaways from the day, which I’ve summarized over on LinkedIn.

See my LinkedIn post for more information about the Digital Leaders Conference.

Elsewhere, over on THE RELEVANCE HOUSE blog, we’ve published a post outlining some strategies for brands seeking to build bridges between themselves and their audiences. Defining where you want to be is one thing; working out how to get there is another. Our post outlines what you need to consider. 

Read: “How do you get from there to here?”

Venturing into new technologies can be a daunting prospect for established firms without the expertise. But partnerships and collaborations are one way to ease the path into Web3 for companies seeking to make the leap. I, along with other Web3 leaders, provided a take on how to extract value from such partnerships in a recent article published on Cointelegraph. 

Read: “10 ways traditional companies can benefit from partnering with blockchain projects”

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