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Why Bitcoin Needs its Own ‘Got Milk?’

Why Bitcoin Needs its Own ‘Got Milk?’

Adam Hanft is a brand strategist and founder of Hanft Projects, a consultancy firm that has worked with, among others, McKinsey, Microsoft, Conduit, Fidelity and Here he shares his opinions on why bitcoin, the brand, is in dire need of some work.

The fiercely emotional debate about bitcoin – which is simultaneously an argument about the currency itself as well as a set of fixed views about governments, markets and economic structures – highlights a stunning gap in the bitcoin ecosystem.

On one hand, bitcoin is a brand – it’s the name of a currency and payment platform, like the euro or PayPal – but it’s a brand with no leadership at the top. As a brand, it’s like an unguided missile, which is what you would expect since it’s a peer-to-peer framework with no governing locus or central authority. Bitcoin is like the weather or the ocean – it answers to no one.

Superman: Got Milk?

That can change, though. If one of the companies leading the bitcoin revolution started to adopt smart consumer marketing practices, others would follow – and they might even start to fund a consortium like the dairy cooperatives who bankroll “Got Milk”, or the Cotton Council, or one of hundreds of other trade associations.

Brand attentiveness

The last couple of months have demonstrated the need for this level of deep brand attentiveness, bitcoin has been bounced and bruised by the Mt. Gox bankruptcy; its association with the Silk Road shutdown; and dramatic volatility in pricing. Most recently, you can add buffeting to the bouncing and bruising, asWarren Buffett has said that while bitcoin can be an effective way to transfer money, so is a check, and “the idea that it has a huge intrinsic value is just a joke in my view”.

Because of its anarchic, distributed nature, the bitcoin brand can be created by anyone, and is at the mercy of everyone. Which means the arguments made on its behalf are not just diverse, but become platforms for bitcoin’s defenders to weave in their larger worldview, which is so often tendentious that it actually undermines the argument by distraction. That leaves most people confused and vulnerable to negativity, setting back the bitcoin adoption curve.

An example of what happens when extraneous commentary is dragged into the discussion – and I don’t want to pick on Ariel Deschapell who made this point in apiece for CoinDesk last week – is this quote.

“However Bitcoin is not just a currency that promises to eventually end the trend of patchwork national currencies that exist for the almost sole purpose of allowing governments to endlessly fund their own deficit spending.”

I know that when Mt. Gox went down, there was an open letter from some industry leaders that reinforced the long-term prospects of the currency – but a one-time communication is no substitute for a focused, strategic, disciplined effort to manage the bitcoin brand and brand it for the mainstream.

So as a thought experiment, if I was named CMO of the Bitcoin Council – formed to brand the otherwise amoebic and borderless bitcoin – here are some things that I would do.


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This entry was posted on March 22, 2014 by and tagged , .

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