The Challenge of Marketing Blockchain

Rick O'NeillBy Rick O’Neill, founder of award-winning digital agency, LookTouchFeel. LookTouchFeel have partnered with thought leaders to become experts on launching in this space and have ridden the highs and lows of the rush to exploit blockchain. 

Successfully launching a blockchain enabled product or platform has been a steep learning curve for everyone. Specialist, expert knowledge means the difference between success and failure, but the fast-changing nature of the market means that you have to sprint to keep up with the changes.  What have we learned so far?

The success of our work means that we’re now approached by more clients than we can manage so we only work with those that we feel are solid investments. And it is always easier, more satisfying and better for the reputation of the agency to work with a great product. Sometimes we get it wrong but the great investments will also have the following features:

  • A great idea. It might not be the first to market but it has to implemented better than the competitors.
  • A compelling story. There has to be a reason why blockchain is being used, it can’t be the story itself.
  • A rigorous business plan that makes sense to even the most cynical investor. Do your research and make sure you answer all the key questions. How are you going to spend the money? What is your timeline? How much have you invested so far? Who are the key partners? If you make claims back them up with evidence.
  • A strong team. It is the people that make a business succeed or fail. You need experienced experts that give your plan the credibility it needs.
  • A working prototype used by thousands of engaged, early stage users. Some of the first ICOs may have successfully raised money with just an idea, that doesn’t work any longer.
  • A sensible launch budget. It is expensive to launch an ICO. Experienced suppliers know this is a risky area so won’t accept the ‘promise of riches’ as payment.

The biggest challenge with blockchain is credibility. To counter this, we advise founders to ensure that authenticity and transparency runs through all their communications.

During the pre-launch marketing our aim is to increase the visibility of the project and ensure that we build perceived value with investors to increase the likelihood of investing and the amount invested. In most projects we see three types of investors. Those that are product driven, the idealistic and the profit-oriented investors. We will tailor the marketing to these audiences, but they have many common features. They will, for example, all look for signals that your project can be realised and future adoption of the network.

This can be a complex subject, often made even more complex by ICO teams who are commonly highly technical but poor communicators. As with all marketing, it is essential that you create clarity around the proposition. We push hard to simplify the message and to tell the story in an engaging way. We create a message framework which is then used in all content.

A good digital strategy used to be all that was needed to launch an ICO successfully. However, the scammers have made investors far more cautious and it is now essential to build credibility and authority and for that you need effective PR. We’ve found that few PR agencies, even the financial specialists, have risked getting involved yet. Most are waiting for the market to become more regulated, so we were delighted when we were able to start working with Onyx, who have experience working with big and challenger banks and fintech.

If there is one silver bullet to success in this space it is to truly engage with the crypto community. That needs to be genuine, real world engagement through global events and specialist content. It is very easy to waste your market budget on the wrong platforms or with the wrong content. The platforms available to us are changing by the day: Facebook, MailChimp, Twitter and Google (from June) have all banned ICOs. There are ways around these bans, and other platforms that can be used effectively, but it does make it more challenging to reach investors, plus it sends out a strong message that ICOs lack credibility.

This is an exciting, if challenging, space. I welcome the professionalisation and regulation that is coming. The recently announced plans for the New York Stock Exchange to trade Bitcoin will also give the industry a feeling of permanency to counteract the ‘flash in the pan’ perception.


Anne Cantelo, MD of Onyx; “PR in this space is very challenging. Journalists have become jaded by the huge number of ICOs and most don’t want to talk to you until you’ve succeeded (even when they’re enthusiastic about your idea).  Instead we’ve found that we have to go back to story-telling.  What is the story behind the launch, are the people newsworthy, is there something truly unique? It’s a tough sell, even where we have great contacts, but it is possible if we’re involved early enough to ensure that there is a story to tell beyond the ICO.”