Newsletter: Brands in Web3 & Web3 in Brands #8

This week: This week, the very first edition of THE RELEVANCE HOUSE’s quantified analysis of the Web3 branding landscape focusing on centralized crypto exchanges has been released! In other news, Coinbase is back on brand with its international expansion ambitions, and why hype-driven market cycles detract from sustainable growth.

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Newsletter: Brands in Web3 & Web3 in Brands #8

Welcome to Edition #8 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: This week, the very first edition of THE RELEVANCE HOUSE’s quantified analysis of the Web3 branding landscape focusing on centralized crypto exchanges has been released! In other news, Coinbase is back on brand with its international expansion ambitions, and why hype-driven market cycles detract from sustainable growth. 

Everything for Everyone All at Once – the first quantified analysis into the state of Web3 branding 

I am thrilled to confirm that the much-anticipated first report from THE RELEVANCE HOUSE into the state of crypto branding has now been released! This is a first-of-its-kind piece of research on the state of branding in the Web3 sector based on our proprietary research methodology. The first in the series is titled “Everything, For Everyone, All At Once,” and focuses on centralized crypto exchanges – with some surprising findings. 

The summary report is now available on our website, so please read it at your leisure, and if you find it valuable, please share it far and wide with your own network! 

We are also offering a full 60-page version, which includes details of all the individual findings and analytics used for each company in scope. If this interests your organization, please drop me a PM. 

Coinbase back on its branding game

Coinbase continues to reorient itself following the SEC's strike against the crypto exchange back in June. Last week, the firm published a blog post outlining its international expansion plans, which are designed to diversify its operating risk away from US markets and towards more crypto-friendly jurisdictions. According to the announcement, the European Union, UK, UAE, Canada, Australia, Japan, and Hong Kong are all in scope, based on Coinbase’s assessment of each jurisdiction’s engagement with crypto. 

The announcement doesn’t shy away from the firm’s unhappiness with the divergent direction that US regulators have chosen to take, accusing the country of “sidelining” itself at the risk of “forfeiting its influence over the future of the financial system.” 

This is a welcome and much-needed return to form from Coinbase. Only a few weeks ago, I was left gobsmacked by the company’s claims in a legal rebuttal to the SEC, which might have made some lawyers happy but effectively reduced its core business to an exchange of… Beanie Baby toys. (Yes, it really happened – you can read my full incredulous analysis here). 

Now, after that wobble, the firm appears to be taking a much more sure-footed stance with this latest announcement. Coinbase has always had a powerful reputation as a company that wants to do things right, so the SEC legal action has understandably been a huge blow to its strategic direction. 

Diversifying into international markets protects its license to operate and its reputation for compliance, simultaneously allowing the firm to shout “your loss” while flipping the bird at the SEC (metaphorically speaking, of course.) 

Coinbase isn’t the only exchange that falters when it comes to consistent brand messaging – and it definitely isn’t the worst culprit. All of the top ten crypto brands serve up messaging that’s seemingly contradictory, such as revolutionizing the financial system while remaining focused on compliance. To discover how they ranked and more about their narratives and conflicts, download Everything For Everyone All at Once!

Death to hype? 

Is it possible that crypto hype is dying? I can’t recall a period where we’ve seen so much positive adoption news in the press and so little enthusiasm about it. Several weeks ago, there was a relatively flat reception to PayPal’s stablecoin launch. 

Then last week, the announcement that Visa would be issuing USDC on Solana made crypto headlines but didn’t generate the usual slew of breathless op-eds about the future of the industry and certainly didn’t cause the kind of price spikes that we came to expect on such news during previous cycles. 

Dito the news that a quarter of asset management firms across Europe, the UK, and the US have included digital assets as part of their strategy with the appointment of senior executives dedicated to the role. This level of institutional interest would have been unthinkable several years ago, yet these days? 

Many would argue that the lack of enthusiasm is directly linked to the fact that the markets remain flat and vulnerable to forces such as the fate of the FTX bankruptcy estate, but it seems that in crypto, we are unable to celebrate good news unless it comes with associated market performance. 

Don’t get me wrong, I’ll be as happy as the next guy when the market picks up again. Bear markets are hard. But for the sake of sustainable growth in our industry, it’s time to stop putting ourselves at the mercy of repeating hype cycles. 

Why? Because it’s impeding effective brand building. 

During bull markets, nobody thinks they need to care about building a brand. There’s an unstoppable flow of new users and investors throwing money into companies that can attract the new users and marketing budget for sponsorship deals and huge ad campaigns and naming rights and Lambos and… and… and… 

Then the bear market hits. No more new users, no more investors, no more lambos. No money or resources to put into building a brand. Half of the workforce is gone and all we can do is hang tight and hope we can keep going until the market picks up again. 

Those firms that have weathered successive cycles – our ever-growing stable of crypto unicorns – have done so thanks to the brand-building efforts they’ve undertaken during all conditions. As an industry, we need to get comfortable with celebrating good news when markets are down and being robust and far-sighted enough to recognize the need to change even when markets are up. 

This is what sustainable growth and real adoption look like. 

Advancing adoption

Even if it isn’t causing price spikes or creating much of a buzz, the institutional adoption of cryptocurrencies is proceeding at an unprecedented rate. Asset management behemoth Franklin Templeton has joined the queue of institutions including Blackrock, Fidelity, and Van Eck, in applying for a spot Bitcoin ETF. The SEC has just one month left until the next approval deadline on October 16th. 

While this is an important deadline (assuming the SEC doesn’t kick the can down the road again), the US regulatory situation doesn’t yet have a full stranglehold over broader institutional adoption. HSBC, one of the world’s largest banks, is reportedly working with Fireblocks, one of the leading digital asset custody providers that already services several banks. Moves such as these indicate that either banks believe the US regulatory balance will tip in their favor or that the industry can stand by itself independent of any decision that negatively impacts the US crypto sector. 

On the retail end, PayPal has announced that it is rolling out fiat on- and off-ramp services that connect directly to users’ Web3 wallets, such as MetaMask, allowing people to move funds between their Web3 and traditional accounts seamlessly. 

While news like this continues to get a relatively flat reception among the crypto community, who are used to dealing with the pain of moving funds between wallets, this is a huge UX improvement for the average PayPal user. Not only does it make onboarding to crypto easier and more user-friendly, but it’s a significant brand endorsement on the part of a trusted fintech giant. 

Out and about in Web3

This week, I am literally out and about in Web3, at the Swiss Web3 Festival! If you’re around in Zurich this Friday, 15th September, then check out this post for details of the Crypto Valley Deep Dive event, where I’ll be moderating a panel with guests from the Web3 Foundation, DFINITY, and Triton Software. Come and say hello if you decide to join us! 

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