There are many parallels between the blockchain-driven ICO mania and the internet IPO boom of the late 90s/early 2000s, and I expect the marketing of blockchain companies to follow a similar path as their early tech contemporaries.
Changes begin with marketing, which in 2017 was idealistic and ICO-centric, 2018 was building through the bear and 2019 will get back to basics. Gone is the focus on how a company is funded and back is the underlying tech, products and problems being solved. Much like the internet, blockchain must increase adoption, reframe the public narrative (people still bring up Pets.com!) and show maturity as it exits the volatility of the last two years.
Tackling Event Fatigue in Saturated Markets
As we move further into 2019, I expect a shift in marketing efforts from lavish parties, conference sponsorships and Lamborghini giveaways to micro-influencers, educational content and guest blogging. Venues and platforms where companies and their teams can connect in meaningful ways with an audience will prove exceedingly valuable in building a community interested in growth of the project (and not just ‘when moon’).
This mix of education and marketing allows for transparent updates showing future customers, in real time, the process of building the fourth industrial revolution from the ground up. Re-establishing the link of the community to the project will strengthen and align interests as market pressures and expectations are removed from the equation.
On the event side, we are seeing a decline in ticket sales and a pivot from blockchain centric to the more inclusive FinTech banner. The bear market’s suppression of enthusiasm and an over saturated conference schedule in 2017-2018 has driven event fatigue.
I expect to see a further reduction in large-scale cryptocurrency events as sponsorship appetite and attendance continues to dry up into the middle of 2019, at which point prices and events may reverse the trend. Conversely, one segment bucking the trend are smaller, curated conferences pairing investors with appropriate projects.
Stronger Focus on Startup Funding Hubs
For the first time in the digital asset space, there will be a real focus on regulations and regulatory approvals in 2019. The reasoning for this change is due to increased enforcement actions in 2018 resulting in subpoenas, fines and closures for multiple projects marking the end of the wild west.
Investors are driving this push as they know the government isn’t going anywhere and it’s in everyone’s best interest to be compliant to the best of their ability. Predictably, companies are responding by taking the necessary steps to be on the correct side of the law.
This newfound adherence is another sign that the cryptocurrency and blockchain market is maturing with the passing of the ICO. Another sign of this maturation, the traditional venture capital market is once again the majority funder of early stage companies in the space.
The removal of crowdsourced ICOs will increase marketing efforts in SF and NYC as they are the hubs of startup funding. With this move to the traditional tech investor, we will see blockchain move from being the buzzword to a purposefully implemented technology.
Investors and companies are realizing that blockchain isn’t a panacea and will first advertise what they are doing and the problem they are solving. Like the internet, the fact that their products are on the blockchain should be invisible.
Beyond a Buzzword
The marketing and messaging of projects will be tighter and focused on education and outcomes, not hype. Consumers will have a better understanding of what this technology can do and how it can solve daily problems and improve their lives. Investors will continue to fund the technological advancements and assist the industry in maturing alongside regulations, not despite them. 2019 will be the foundation on which mass adoption of blockchain technology will be built.