Written by Joe McGurk
Blockchain has become the poster child for the challenge of building a fintech brand.
The distributed ledger technology that supports the bitcoin digital currency has been heralded by some as the ultimate fintech solution for transaction efficiency. Others, including a number of the financial institutions that need to buy into it, see blockchain as an incessant push for yet more technology that hasn’t been proven trustworthy or necessary. After all, sales pitches for banking ingenuity have been going strong for about 4,000 years. That’s roughly when an entrepreneur sold the first customer on the idea of storing a season of hard-earned grain in the entrepreneur’s vault, with trust that the small trinket they walked away with would prove there was wealth being protected.
From trinkets to blockchain, disruption in financial services throughout history started with proving that change was needed, dispelling mistrust and providing reassurance that wealth is protected.
There’s no shortage of blockchain solutions and innovators ready to alleviate the concerns blockchain brings. That may be any brand’s biggest problem: The sheer number of solutions crowding the fintech landscape. Once convinced a technology change must be made, a financial institution must wade through sales pitches and news articles to find something that can be trusted as well as have a sense of what competitors agree is the solution.
It takes more than just being the best solution. Could Apple have disrupted without Steve Jobs? Would electric cars be taken seriously without Elon Musk? Whoever pushes blockchain to the front of the fintech line will project a unique personality that offers a brand that can be trusted. Blockchain may be new, but looking through the lens of experienced public relations and marketing among fintech disruption, building the blockchain brand is rooted in time-tested best practices:
1. Being different is important – but being someone is critical
Before you can tell the world who you are, you need to make sure you know yourself – and what makes you different. One of the easiest ways to do something that no one else is doing is to have an identifiable personality. Your brand is your product, therefore your brand needs to be distinct and accessible and visible. It’s a critical component to building positive relationships with the press and other influencers you need to tell your story. An identifiable brand builds credibility in the fintech industry and gets the attention of the people needed to help expand the business. This requires a spokesperson who can infuse personality into a company or solution.
2. Know your own story
Your message is what sets you apart. That messaging should be consistent and woven into every narrative you have. Everyone in the blockchain world has a story to tell, but the standouts know how to tell the same story over and over again with consistent passion. That means across social media, in press interviews, across your website and throughout your sales and marketing collateral.
3. Ask for help when it’s time to tell your story
You may be good at tech and financial services. That doesn’t mean you’re good at telling your story. Not many leaders can dedicate the time it takes, day in and day out to sell their story. That’s where you find the value of partnering with an evangelist, someone who can talk to all of your audiences with the same zeal you have for your business. Specialist communication pros make good hype teams, and may be even more excited about your plans. A good PR partner will be instrumental in building a strong identity, and getting you in front of the right people using the right channels.
4. It’s not all (always) about you
Would you go to a cocktail party and insist on only talking about how great you are? It tends to turn people off. The same social grace can be applied to your branding. Once you launch a product into market, it’s critical you’re seen as plugged into the market. Work with someone who can insert you into the conversations already happening. Meeting journalists face-to-face will deliver ROI over a long term if you establish that you can help them understand the market as much as they can help you get visibility in the market. Have an opinion on the industry that is shaped by your own key messages.
5. Know your customers and know their rules
Knowing the market and what keeps financial service pros up at night is as important as knowing how your product works. Markets change, so a partner who is keeping tabs on competitors, legislators and more is invaluable. A PR firm will have launched many businesses and built them through to an end game. They most likely have worked in your core sector so know how it functions – the influencers, the media, the market structure and the regulations and rules that underpin it.
Blockchain has a shot at being the next great banking innovation. To make it work as promised, blockchain may need not one, but several, technologies and providers stitched together. Getting into that network takes visibility. Getting third-party validation from media is a time-tested route to building brands. Even the best product in any market is going to fail if no one knows about it.