After years as a niche interest with untapped potential, decentralized finance (or DeFi) appears ready for its big moment.
Conversations around the core components of DeFi—such as NFTs, cryptocurrency (i.e. Bitcoin, Ethereum, etc.), and blockchain technology—have grown from a whisper to a roar in recent months, and 2022 could represent a breakthrough moment for the latest tech phenomenon.
When it comes to marketing these elements of DeFi, there are ample opportunities...and several major challenges. Let’s take a closer look at a few of them:
Marketers have dived in headfirst into the burgeoning world of NFTs, seeing the creative and “FOMO”-driven opportunities offered by these unique digital assets. Brand-centric offerings like Taco Bell “tacos”, Asics sneakers, and even Charmin toilet paper (aka “NFTP”) have sold for thousands while garnering much-coveted media coverage.
NFTs are a still-burgeoning opportunity that present fascinating possibilities for marketers who want to get creative in utilizing this new technology. While many have seen these initial brand entries into NFTs as mostly PR-focused, marketers currently have an opportunity to shape the future of NFTs—be it into a momentary fad, a digital prize aimed at delighting superfans, or a first foray into the marketing metaverse.
One sign that the NFT market may be here to stay: Nike’s December 2021 acquisition of RTFKT, a company that utilizes “game engines, NFTs, blockchain authentication and augmented reality to create one of a kind virtual products and experiences.” The merger of sneaker culture—a famously passionate community—and NFT culture may well be a match made in digital heaven, particularly if NFTs are to become a more permanent fixture among collectors (and avoid turning into the virtual equivalent of Beanie Babies...)
With the recent $700 million naming rights deal that made the home of the NBA’s Los Angeles Lakers and Clippers “Crypto.com Arena” (not to mention the $135 million deal that renamed the Miami Heat’s home court “FTX Arena”), it’s safe to say that DeFi is hitting the big time. That said, concepts like cryptocurrency, blockchain technology and NFTs are still quite foreign to much of the population. Interest is high, with 86% of Americans reporting they’ve at least heard of cryptocurrencies and nearly half (48%) of US consumers saying they invested in crypto during the first half of 2021.
However, despite this rising curiosity and awareness, actual comprehension is still fairly low: a recent survey found that 96% of Americans could not “pass” a 17-question quiz on basic crypto concepts including cryptocurrency, blockchain and NFTs, and 24% of respondents to another survey said that when it comes to investing in crypto, they don’t even know where to start. When it comes to consumers’ knowledge of NFTs, things aren’t much better: a recent Forrester survey found that 45% of online US adults have never even heard or NFTs, while more than a quarter said they still don’t understand what NFTs are. As such, education is likely to be a key aspect of successful DeFi marketing efforts for the foreseeable future.
In the past, many blockchain-related ads have focused on the technology’s potential rather than its real-world impact. Meanwhile, ads for things like crypto have conveyed a sense of urgency (“Don’t miss out on this hot new trend!”) without necessarily providing any insight into what crypto actually is. Sure, Matt Damon is in TV commercials touting crypto saying that “fortune favors the brave,” but what about those millions upon millions of less-than-bold consumers who are just trying to figure out what the heck this whole crypto thing is?
If you want to stand out from the crowd and gain the trust of key audiences, your DeFi brand would be wise to market itself as trusted guides and experts in this new frontier.
This is still a fairly new industry—one that (at least in the United States) has mostly evaded any real governmental regulation. That may well change in the months ahead.
This past year, swift and decisive regulatory action crippled the booming crypto trading and mining markets in China. Then, in January 2022, both Spain and the the UK proposed new rules and regulations aimed at curbing misleading crypto advertisements. The odds of the US government implementing restrictions as dramatic as China's are unlikely, but DeFi advertisers would still be wise to stay cautious from a liability perspective.
Speaking of liability, scams are an increasingly problematic aspect of the DeFi sector. In 2021 alone, DeFi investors lost more than $14 billion due to fraud or theft, a 79% rise from 2020. That’s 14 billion, with a capital “B.” To make matters worse, some within the cryptocurrency sector are already making connections and drawing comparisons between behaviors in their industry and that of Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes, who was recently convicted of fraud. If this high degree of fraud continues in the months ahead (and keeps grabbing headlines), advertisers may be catering to a public increasingly skeptical of crypto, which could have a serious impact on marketing strategies.
Lastly, dozens of reports have noted the devastating environmental impact of crypto mining operations. With Gen Z’s noted passion around curbing climate change, advertisers in the cryptocurrency and NFT realm will need to stay mindful of those concerns as they develop their marketing strategies and try to address consumers’ growing fears around sustainability. Want a real-world example? Look no further than the outcry in response to Kickstarter’s recent move to the blockchain. Companies must think through the PR and marketing considerations (not to mention the ethical implications) of any such move or campaign going forward.
The continued emergence of decentralized finance is just one of the trends that will impact marketers in 2022. Want to learn more about some of the others? Check out our 2022 Trends Report to stay ahead of the curve as you plan your marketing strategies for the year ahead.