The untapped potential of branding and communication in Web 3

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The first branding analysis of the ten world’s most recognised centralised cryptoasset exchange platforms has just been launched, by The Relevance House. This is a quantitative study on the brand narratives of exchanges of cryptos and constitutes the first such research in the emerging digital assets and the Web 3. Comma has invited me to share the main findings of the report with its community: which I will summarise below;

Within the information bubble around the crypto-asset universe, platforms such as Binance, Coinbase and Kraken resonate as established brands in our minds;

People who seek information about this sector do so through social networks, such as X, mediaoutlets, cryptocurrency blogs and publications, distribution channels, such as Telegram, Reddit or Discord. Over time, these diverse sources of information merge in the minds of consumers to form the perception we have about brands.

In a sector that is so segmented in its sources, which also seeks to achieve to attract public attention, gain credibility and achieve the desired mass adoption, let’s put ourselves – for a moment – in the shoes of a newbie to the ‘crypto’ universe, who is looking to choose a trading platform. After a quick search on the Internet, you will most likely first find the company’s website, the ultimate showcase for its services and products; But how do the major cryptocurrency buying and selling platforms describe themselves, in their own words? What narratives do they use to build their brand and engage users? Below, I summarize the most relevant findings of our report, but allow myself a spoiler: the narratives are barely distinguishable and, with such a narrative, mass adoption will be no easy task.

Discovering the main narratives of the exchanges

First, we proceeded to identify and measure the nine main narratives that form the core brand components of the ten trading platforms under study (Kraken, Coinbase, Binance, Gate, Cucoin, MEXC, Crypto(dot)com, Huobi, OKX and Upbit); These ranged from some of the familiar emotive claims of cryptocurrencies, such as “revolution” and“to the moon”), to more reasoned technical arguments, such as “safety” and “regulatory compliance”; The next step was to group these narratives into four positioning zones that appeal to different user needs and preferences:

  1. A new way to make money: appeals to individualistic desires such as financial gain and simplicity.
  2. At the forefront: refers to the characteristics and performance of the product;
  3. You can trust us: focus on safety, compliance and affordability.
  4. Onecrypto platform for all: highlights community engagement and financial inclusion.

We then calculate the coherence of each brand, based on a proprietary methodology that synthesises three proven psychological and social models and allows us to identify inconsistencies, tensions, strengths and weaknesses, as well as to determine the most promising potential positioning; 100% indicates that the brand is totally centred on one positioning zone and 0% represents that the brand is divided into more than one zone; After crunching the numbers, we discovered the following:

Kraken: the undisputed (though not perfect) king of brand coherence

With a coherence score of 56%, Kraken is the leader of the group studied, well ahead of the average of 35%; The brand focuses heavily on simplicity, as evidenced by its slogan “the cryptocurrency exchange for everyone” and the emphasis on its mobile applications;

However, even the leader is not without flaws; In particular, the promise of accessibility and ease of Kraken’s core brand is somewhat diluted by prominent reference to more complex financial products, such as margin and futures trading; Although this offer is clearly separated and has its own brand – Kraken Pro – it does not avoid a certain dispersion, as it is not always clear what is on offer, paraphrasing Don Draper in Mad Men, “I can do ‘where professionals go’ or I can do ‘everyone is welcome’, but not both;

Coinbase and Binance: no distinction in their narratives

If you ask a cryptocurrency enthusiast about the difference between Coinbase and Binance, they will probably say that Binance is known for its global prominenceits new product range and elegant user interface, while Coinbase is more orientedto the US market and – despite recent disputes with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission; SECtends to place more emphasis on regulatory compliance.

Given these insights, it may come as a surprise that the narratives of the Coinbase and Binance brands are actually quite similar. Both place more emphasis on technology and product: Binance claims to be the “leader in the ecosystem blockchain“while Coinbase boasts of “powering the crypto-economy”. Both also pay greater attention to the message of boosting earnings with rewards and calls to action to “start earning”; Coinbase is notable for devoting more space to its compliance processes, particularly on its “About” page;

However, in general, both are too broadly positioned in terms of their narratives and not very differentiated; Therefore, despite their apparent differences in their business strategies, these distinctions are not adequately reflected on their websites;

Narrative tensions;

Many of the cryptocurrencies analysed try to combine reassuring arguments, such as safety or regulatory compliance, with a revolutionary feel. As mentioned above, Coinbase is more focused on compliance than most other platforms, stating that “a strong compliance foundation” is central to its mission; Instead, in describing a mission to “increase financial freedom in the world”, Coinbase offers a vision of a global economy that operates on a common set of rules that cannot be “manipulated by any one company or country”; This combination of regulatory compliance and crypto liberalism creates a confusing overall picture;

One detects another common narrative conflict when highlighting platform features such as simplicity and accessibility, geared towards newcomers, while boasting the possibility of leveraged trading, liquidity, execution architecture and other advanced technical features.

The great untapped opportunity in branding and communication in Web 3

Branding and communication represent a huge untapped opportunityfor companies operating in the ecosystem of theblockchainand Web 3. While leading traditional and Web 2 companies continue to redefine the meaning of brand recognition and engagement, web 3 branding has been largely underutilised, as well as its communication strategies. Instead, companies often resort to a limited handful of communication and marketing tactics that have proven to be sufficient only to target niche audiences;

Cryptocurrency platforms have been practically forced into a relentless game of attracting newcomers through brand name recognitionachieved through high-profile associations with any other established brands, such as sports teams or celebrities. This scattershot approach has been driven partly by the notorious boom and bust cycles of the market and partly by cut-throat competition; But history teaches us that brand recognition alone does not generate long-term value, and crypto exchanges are struggling to find a coherent narrative that will hold up in lean times;

Conclusion: work on your brand and your communication

If mass adoption is the goal, the sector ofblockchain, digital assets and Web 3 needs a better way to reach global audiences.. As with the first iterations of the Internet, this will only happen when companies start building brands with global appeal; And for this there is nothing better than to surround yourself with the experts in branding and communication;

When it comes to brand personality, you need consistency; You can’t be openly rebellious and at the same time follow the rules to the letter; The brands of some cryptocurrency trading platforms look more like a collection of headlines and statements than a company with a deliberately crafted identity;

Our findings suggest that crypto exchanges could benefit from clarifying their core values to paint a more coherent picture of their brand; They also point to a lack of strong global communication strategies;

*Article written by Germán Ramírez, co-founder and Chief Relevance Officer of The Relevance House


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