Blockchain Techno Snobbery and Coinbase Ad as a Guide to Mass Crypto Adoption
Dec 12, 2023
During the last 6 months, I have constantly heard from different representatives of blockchain-powered products about the need to make their chains, DeFi apps or games more accessible and user-oriented. However, evaluating the accessibility and comprehensibility of products is based on their understanding of the blockchain ecosystem and user experience.
At Devconnect, this question was discussed hundreds of times, especially at the events dedicated to the crypto wallet topics, implementation of the Account Abstraction concept, interface design and interactions, and making the onboarding process more accessible. In most cases, people talked about better UX for end-users (traditional businesses and their customers), but all the speeches were from techies to techies.
The paradox of the mass adoption of blockchain
Crypto and blockchain-powered products must be as popular as online banking or delivery services because their business growth is only possible with mass adoption. However, over half of the blockchain companies develop products and design interfaces that a person without technical knowledge and enthusiasm can't use.
Let’s be honest: despite the idea of decentralization and transparency, the Web3 community resembles a closed club, where only those motivated and tech-savvy enough to be Web3 natives can enter. It makes some people feel exclusivity and elitism.
However, no one was born with the knowledge of how to write smart contracts, swap tokens, or promote blockchain products that never existed on the market.
Outside of our Web3 bubble, most people do not know that such a bubble exists and what is happening in it. Most people need to understand how blockchain works and what problems it solves. I'm sure your friends and relatives associate blockchain with cryptocurrencies, only knowing about Bitcoin and that it constantly changes its price for some reason.
We all talk about freedom and independence, but if you go out and ask a random person to download any crypto wallet and pay for a hot dog in USDT, only a few people can complete the task without training.
Some blockchain enthusiasts and developers treat such people (which means most of the Earth's population) with techno snobbery, forgetting that these people can bring fiat and digital money.
Technical snobbery does not yet allow some projects to communicate with a broad audience in the way that mass adoption requires. Some blockchain and crypto projects condemn their competitors for "too Web2-oriented advertising campaigns".
Companies and VC funds that want to become leaders in mass adoption must invest in communicating the utility of blockchain to traditional businesses and individual users.
There are some crucial tips on Web3 marketing:
1. The coin is not the "product".
2. Use terminology that any human can understand
3. Show, not tell. Demo your use cases.
4. Segment your audience - developers, business leaders and SaaS partners have unique needs and motivations.
5. By focusing only on your project, you will get lost in the competitive analysis.
It's important to note that the community is large and diverse, with different projects and platforms. Many projects try to simplify the user experience, enhance education, and create more accessible tools and applications. Some projects are improving scalability, reducing transaction costs, and addressing environmental concerns associated with certain blockchain technologies.
I can highlight Alchemy, Gauntlet, L2Beat, Optimism, Base, zkSync, Celo, 1inch, Clave, the Institute of Free Technology (Logos Network, Status App), and Coinbase, of course. They are all different projects with different audiences, but they strive to improve developers' and users' experiences.
Coinbase as a guide to mass crypto adoption
You have probably seen this video or other creative materials from the "Update the system" campaign by Coinbase. The ad campaign is dedicated to the limitation of the economic freedom of Americans by traditional financial organizations, crypto restrictions, and non-clear definitions by the SEC.
It includes prints, videos, viral content and a "call maker" for connecting people to Members of Congress directly from the media and providing a tailored script to help guide their conversation.
Coinbase created the Congres men and women list, dividing them by their crypto acceptance/non-acceptance.
Why do many blockchain and crypto people like Coinbase's ad, even though it's for a highly regulated crypto exchange with nothing to do with decentralization?
People lack inspirational stories close to reality, a.k .a. mass adoption.
Can you name blockchain and crypto companies/organizations that don't appeal to degens, airdroppers, or cryptoanarchists but inspire founders to create products that millions will use? I can name only the Ethereum Foundation.
And can you name blockchain and crypto companies that would appeal to ordinary people and their deep human motives - to have successful careers, happy families, be financially stable, and not feel like slaves to the system? Of course, we can name Coinbase.
If you analyze crypto companies' communication, most promote fast and easy money, system hacking and meme culture. Does this vibe resonate with a 19-year-old student paying off a student loan? And does it resonate with a father of three who works two shifts to ensure his family has everything they need? Obviously not.
As a creator who has worked in the advertising industry for almost five years and written advertising video scripts for international brands such as Danone, Citroen, and BNP Paribas, I can say that Coinbase has not gone further in advertising creativity than a typical bank or an insurance company. But...
Long-term and global campaigns like Coinbase's "Update the system" never occur in crypto. Creating a strategic brand platform is a classic approach for many traditional businesses, but it looks innovative and causes discussion in the blockchain and crypto industry.
This shows the immaturity of the sector and the distance from mass adoption due to techno snobbery.
How do you like this campaign? Do you believe Coinbase truly cares about crypto users, or is it just an excellent occasion to highlight the brand during a bear market?
Achieving mass adoption involves balancing the principles of decentralization and making the technology user-friendly and accessible to a broader audience. Overcoming techno-snobbery and exclusivity within the community must be crucial in promoting wider adoption.
Many blockchain and crypto companies focus on technology (and that's good), but it's time to explain what they are for and how a barista in a coffee shop or a geography teacher can use them.