Marketing The Blockchain

Longtime AVC community member Jeremy Epstein (who launched the first AVC Meetup in the summer of 2008) has been working on bringing marketing to the blockchain sector.

He asked thirty-three leaders of the blockchain sector to write short one or two page descriptions of why blockchains are important.

They are compiled in a free ebook that is available here.

I read the entire ebook (which is roughly 55 pages) over the past weekend and I was struck by how uneven these short blurbs are.

Some, like the ones by Naval and Jake BrukhmanΒ are excellent. You really should go read them. They explain some really important things about the blockchain.

Some, like the ones by William and Joel are solid. I have featured their writing and talks on the blockchain here at AVC a number of times.

But many of these short blurbs are awful. They are full of platitudes and jargon and don’t help the reader connect to why this is important to them.

I told all of this to Jeremy and he was disappointed to hear it. But he also recognized that it was an uneven read.

For me, this ebook highlights the challenges of marketing the blockchain. We have done a poor job of it to date and the sector is full of technologists and mostly empty of marketers.

That needs to change. We need more people like Jeremy and William who can popularize deeply technical stuff and make it make sense to the average person.

I’ll know we are getting somewhere when my Mom understands the blockchain and why it is important to her.

We aren’t anywhere near there right now.


Comments (Archived):

  1. andyswan

    If your marketing doesn’t fit into a tweet, either your marketing sucks or your product does.

    1. Jess Bachman

      Or its just not B2C. Plenty of commerce happens through marketing thats over 140 characters.

      1. andyswan

        In B2B I still think there’s value in being able to boil it down to a compelling tweet, which blockchain CANNOT do.But even with the assumption of it being a B2B product (which makes sense to me) Fred’s point that it needs to “make sense to the average person” is a non-starter.

        1. jer979

          I would never try to put words in Fred’s mouth/blog post, but perhaps he meant something like: “my mom doesn’t know about TCP/IP or packets, but she can explain the Internet as xxxx and, as a result, her life is better because of Y.”My mom doesn’t need to understand Merkle trees, but having her say “oh wow, I can send money to anyone w/no middleman” or “I don’t need a bank” b/c of blockchain is more along those lines…Just a thought.

    2. jer979

      Andy– on first glance, this feels pithy, but on reflection, it’s actually pretty profound. of course, you knew that…for me, a small delay, perhaps. The tweet is the proverbial tip of the iceberg.My experience suggests that many companies/people don’t want to do the hard work of the “below the sea level” part so that the tweet is as powerful as it could be. That’s really challenging and I think it’s what we are trying to highlight in this eBook…that companies in this space need to be more thoughtful about that, rather than just saying “oh, here’s some cool stuff that we can build!”How does that sound?

    3. LE

      But doesn’t account for a host of products or services out there. As only one example are items where a picture or a video is worth a 1000 words.

    4. jason wright

      Then a Trump must be a fucking awesome product. Sign me up for the free promotional offer.

  2. pointsnfigures

    agree. One thing that Fred has said about investing in startups is that he needs to use it before he can invest in it. He has to feel it. Where is that case in blockchain today? Bitcoin trading? Spending a bitcoin on an item? It’s not enough to get people there. Alexa sitting in your room can give you a visceral feeling of AI, machine learning, and voice search. There is not a use case for blockchain yet in the mainstream. The state of IL is going to lightly regulate blockchain and try to integrate it into many government functions. Developers ought to come to Chicago and work on it.

  3. LIAD

    If we’re far enough up the stack for marketing/narrative to be a limiting factor, we’re in a better place than I thought.

    1. Girish Mehta

      Unless you THINK you are far enough up the stack for marketing/narrative to be the limiting factor, in which case one is in a far worse place than they thought.I don’t accept the premise of the title of this post. Blockchain should not need marketing at this time.

      1. jer979

        Girish, sir, I would respectfully disagree. As I posted to @LIAD:disqus above…there’s marketing as most ppl think of it (messaging) and then there’s the strategic work of market analysis, segmentation, differentiation, and more. That is always a limiting factor, b/c if you are building a product w/o a clear idea of whom you will be serving and how, you’re going to have a difficult time. Or a more difficult time.we may not need “marketing of the blockchain” (as a technology), but companies that are building a blockchain-based product/solution need marketing in a big way, especially now as we are in the early phases.My $.02Thoughts?

        1. Girish Mehta

          Ok, Thanks.(BTW, I would never think that marketing is messaging :-))

          1. jer979

            I would never accuse you of doing so! πŸ˜‰

    2. jer979

      I would argue that marketing and narrative are two different things. The Marketing begins at the very beginning. Who’s your customer? What value are you bringing them? How are you different?Many companies in this space can’t yet effectively or meaningfully answer that question.I’m biased b/c I’m a Drucker-fan, but he said “marketing and innovation are the only two things that drive profits, everything else is a cost center.” The technology is innovation. The Marketing is somewhat absent.Thoughts?

    3. Amar

      I don’t think we are up the stack yet. I think we are facing the tension between an innovation/technology that is searching for purpose (solution looking for a problem) and investment dollars that rushed into it and are looking for exit/evolution. You got the early investors trying to make the case that this is fait accompli, while the average populace is scratching its head.

  4. William Mougayar

    Marketing is hard. Marketing the blockchain is even harder. I give Jeremy an A for effort in putting this together. Each author/contributor stands by their own. If their content is not great, they are to blame first.

    1. awaldstein

      did you really just say Marketing is Hard as an excuse?

      1. LE

        Some things are easier to market than other things.Here is an example of Video Spigot from the now defunct Supermac who I know you are familiar with (and Steve Blank). The marketing was great but the actual end value was not so great.…Another product that Supermac had at the time (dye sublimation printer) which was at a much much higher price point had a very different unhappy ending. But it also was something that was easy to explain marketing wise… https://uploads.disquscdn.c

        1. awaldstein

          of course some are easier. of course i remember this product.the b2b marketing bar is very high, as high as consumer products.this is how it should be.

    2. jer979

      I’ll take your A for effort. Perhaps I should have called it out a bit more (my bad) but I consciously wanted to have a broad group of people involved so that the topic would get elevated to “how do we cross the chasm” (or whatever @awaldstein:disqus suggetss πŸ˜‰ and not just block sizes, etc.There’s an education level, a comfort level, and a storytelling level…and that’s just for starters.

      1. awaldstein

        per William in his post today, those where the exact questions and words that came from you.i didn’t interject jeoffrey moore into this conversation. per william, you did.

        1. jer979

          I am concerned there’s a lost in translation going on here. Sorry, didn’t mean to offend you, sir. I was just trying to open it up beyond Moore (whom, yes, I did bring into the convo). Again, my apologies.

          1. awaldstein

            no problemo.i don’t offend easily.i am very crisp and alert when marketing is the topic as that is what i do.building brand for products and technologies is what i do.blockchain is preliterate from a market articulation perspective as of is no more difficult than others. all are hard the end the market decides if you do it well or not.

          2. jer979

            I’ll work harder to offend you in the future ;-)Like you, I enjoy the challenge. “Pre-literate…” that’s a good one.

          3. awaldstein

            ;)You realize of course that it is one thing to find the language to talk about the potential of the platform to the broader market.And another–and maybe not even necessary–to talk about the technology as a component of a solution.It is essential to think this through and get it nailed though.Even it if never touches a consumers mindshare, b2b requires just as much thinking and branding is still as important.I’ll take responsibility for the misunderstanding! And offer you consultation to talk this through if you care to. If not, been a pleasure getting to know you a bit through this,William is a good friend and I advised one of his earlier startups.

          4. jer979

            I live and die by the network! Let’s chat.Plus, I’m smart enough to know that other people know a lot more about things than I do.I just came out of a 5 year stint as VP/Marketing at Sprinklr where we grew from 30 to 1400 ppl (and $20mm to $1.8bn valuation)…all B2B. So much learning, but so much to learn.Ping me via or @jer979 on Twitter and we’ll set up a time, if you are up for it.

          5. awaldstein

            I will but you already know everything!

          6. jer979

            I guess we can agree to disagree on that one!

    3. Guy Lepage

      Marketing is not rocket science. It’s not very difficult. There’s a method to it and it takes time and faith in your strategy. Experience and education help.

  5. Mario Cantin

    ‘Digital Gold’ may have been the best effort so far to explain it to the lay person — it reads like a fiction book, only it’s not.

    1. jer979

      I agree… Digital Gold was fantastic. So was the TechCrunch series.

  6. William Mougayar

    Many people forget, or weren’t there…but understanding and marketing the Internet/Web was very hard too during the early years of 1993-1997. Now we take it for granted, but the Internet was not well understood during its early days.With the blockchain, we need to see companies emerge that make use of the blockchain, and we need more users experiencing applications. That’s why I tell average consumers to do 3 things if they want to experience what’s coming:1/ Get a wallet or an exchange account and buy some Bitcoin or cryptocurrency and send it to someone. Experience the currency and the speed of value exchange without banks.2/ Download OpenBazaar and experience buying or selling anything from anyone to anyone. Experience freedom, no transaction or listing fees and no boundaries. 3/ Get on Steemit and spend time writing something there and upvoting other content, and earn some Steem coins. Experience being rewarded by the crypto-economy for your attention.

    1. Jess Bachman

      I feel like I can do 1 and 2 with paypal for the last decade. And 3 feels like some shady scheme. This is not a good approach for average consumers.

      1. William Mougayar

        It’s a good start and the shape of things to come. Not the same as Paypal. Paypal charges you an arm and a leg for transfers and deposits.

        1. Jess Bachman

          Paypal charges you an arm and a leg for transfers and deposits.Not that I have noticed. And even if they did, saving 1-5% is hardly compelling these days.

          1. William Mougayar

            Many users of PayPal (including myself) use it reluctantly.

          2. awaldstein

            as do i. really dislike the product as a merchant.

          3. Susan Rubinsky

            Me too. Hate PayPal. Avoid it like the plague.

        2. Sebastien Latapie

          Agreed – I avoid Paypal as much as I can

      2. Susan Rubinsky

        Yeah, but it’s a good strategy for early adopters who will then iterate and find the right strategies for moving forward.

      3. kidmercury

        not only can you do 1 and 2 already, but the experience is better already than it is with the blockchain stuff.blockchain has its few niche markets, the most interesting one in my opinion being the illegal black market stuff. (note that illegal does not necessarily mean immoral). that is the market with underserved customers, that big companies won’t touch, and is a market that will accept a shoddy alternative due to a lack of options. from there iteration towards the mainstream and product improvement can occur. but failure to recognize this starting point is a major contributing factor to the blockchain stuff going nowhere fast over the past few years in spite of all the hype and money.

        1. jason wright

          Don’t forget that the web was powered up by…porn.

    2. andyswan

      Why isn’t 1 and 2 covered by Venmo and Craigslist?

      1. andyswan

        BTW— Venmo FEELS magic. Instant, purely digital transaction with no fees. It’s why I say the world already has its digital currency— the US dollar. Amazing!

        1. William Mougayar

          But venmo is only available in the US, and they have a different vision than bitcoin or cryptocurrencies. (3% fee on credit cards)It’s not a programmable platform where you can innovate on top of it. The innovation stops at venmo. it’s a dumb pipe at the end of the day, although a useful one.

          1. andyswan

            Well credit card fees aren’t really transaction fees and we all know that. They’re insurance fees. No one thinks it costs 3% to transfer digital dollars to each other (as Venmo and ACH illustrates). I’ve been saying it for years and am HOPING to be proven wrong, believe me, but bitcoin/blockchain is a solution desperately looking for a problem.

          2. LE

            The cost to merchants is actually more when you factor in chargebacks and the associated costs of dealing with them. The problem is chicken and egg though. Not enough people using bitcoin to justify the expenditure of changing a legacy system to accept bitcoin.

          3. Bobby Lux

            I think you make a really good point about bitcoin/blockchain being a solution desperately looking for a problem. I use Venmo very frequently but have never used bitcoin, even though I’m incredibly interested in blockchain technology and think it represents an incredible new idea.However, I don’t think that there’s necessarily anything wrong with being a solution in search of a problem. Please forgive the rather clumsy analogy, but imagine the discovery of fire. You might not realize at first that you can now cook food, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t remain enthusiastic and seek out uses for the new innovation.

          4. rick gregory

            None of that matters to a US based non-technical person. Venmo, Square Cash… both immediate both cost free to the users.No messing with weird currencies.

          5. jason wright

            Think Africa and not the US.

          6. rick gregory

            Great point. Kenya has M-Pesa etc but yeah. I can see that

          7. Chimpwithcans

            Exactly right.

        2. jason wright


      2. William Mougayar

        Not the same as Venmo or CL. One can easily get scammed on CL. There is magic when you handle cryptocurrency.

      3. pointsnfigures

        Bigger piece of blockchain is “trust”; not currency transfer. If I can vet you via blockchain I save a lot of time and energy. Think about a trader walking into a pit to make a personal transaction. The rules of the exchange were basically a private blockchain that distributed trust.

    3. LE

      Now we take it for granted, but the Internet was not well understood during its early days.But it became instantly well understood once people tried it and saw the value that it had for them personally. The only drawback at the time was lack of content and the speed that you were able to get that content at.

      1. Susan Rubinsky

        It was widely misunderstood by my client base in the mid- to late-1990’s. The ones that did “get it” had a huge head start. Everyone else fell behind. Blockchains seriously need a beachhead strategy, just as the internet did in the 90’s. Some people will find better strategies than others and get across to the other side faster, laying the groundwork for adoption.

        1. awaldstein

          yup–I took a gig doing M & A for KEYN back then. Bought 15 companies in web performance and rolled them into a product offering, then built a global conference and workshop series, GIPC, and partnered early on with Jeff Moore who did my keynotes with me to educate the business market.Good gig.

      2. William Mougayar

        agreed, but there were also lots of Internet skeptics back then, not unlike what we are hearing today (and on this blog) when we mention bitcoin, cryptocurrency, blockchains and token-based models.

        1. awaldstein

          i need to say that while you make this analogy articulately i don’t see it.It’s not Apples to Apples.

          1. William Mougayar

            It’s not….until it is and it becomes obvious after.what i’m saying is that I’m seeing some interesting activity that is yet to be visible, but once it does become visible, then it will be more obvious. even describing it won’t give it justice. it needs to come out first.

        2. Girish Mehta

          Honestly William I have to say that these repeated comparisons to the Internet/Web skeptics of 1993-1995 is becoming a red flag (I seem to remember Fred has made this comparison here as well before).

          1. Amar

            Agreed – especially since the premise of this comparison seems to be so one can say -“ssssh, look how awesome the internet turned out to be, this will be just as awesome”It is also a strained comparison because the internet/web did not have an internet prior to that – blockchain has an internet/web precedence. If anything that muddies the comparison since the context is entirely different

          2. William Mougayar

            well…some of us in the trenches are optimistic enough that we are seeing a lot of good activity that is going to materialize and become more visible in the coming months!

    4. rick gregory

      And WHY would I want to do any of those? What’s in it for me if I’m not already curious about blockchain things?Also:1) I can do that with Square Cash and the person I’m sending the cash to doesn’t need to know a thing about Bitcoin/Blockchain etc. 2) I can do that on Letgo, etc. 3) Why? What’s in that for me?Do we really think that most people are going to create and curate content enough to make the crypto currency a material part of their income?

      1. William Mougayar

        true and you could also read a newspaper, go to a bank, lick a stamp or call a travel agent in 1995.

        1. rick gregory

          While that’s a cute reply it doesn’t actually give me a reason to bother. YOU want us to adopt new things? Give me a reason. No BS about how it’s magic, the future, etc. Give me concrete benefits, ideally with something that I *can’t* do with existing tech.IF the best you have is weak snark, though, you don’t have much.

          1. William Mougayar

            No really. That was my point. Some early adopters will get it and take it. Others won’t and will see it later. I don’t have time to educate people one by one, but I did write a book on that topic that has been widely read, translated in 6 languages, and I continue to educate via my blog. We can’t win everybody at once, but I respect your level of skepticism.

      2. Aleksandr Bulkin

        It is not trivial to explain what blockchain means for consumers. In order to do this I wrote this article a while back, which I think you might enjoy.

        1. rick gregory

          Thanks, I’ll take a look.I’m not averse to tech at all, but the examples I keep hearing (including in William’s reply) are “well, you can do this thing that you can do now, but in a decentralized fashion” which simply isn’t compelling. What NEW things can I do? What current things can I do not just slightly better, but MASSIVELY better? If you’re improving something that exists, a 1.5x improvement isn’t usually going to move me. 5-10x? That gets my attention.The thing is… you want people like me to be excited. I’m not the cutting edge early adopter but I’m a bit back of them and ahead of the general public. I’m the guy who’s not looked at as the person always a bit too obsessed with the new but who normals look at as “well, if he’s enthused maybe I should look at it.” Not ME specifically – I don’t have a following , etc. But the group I’m in? We are the folks who will talk about new, cool things to the next group back, the front edge of the big bulge in the bell curve.

    5. Susan Rubinsky

      This is the best advice I have heard so far. Needs a marketing campaign! Thank you!

    6. Lawrence Brass

      I recall that the most thrilling thing about the internet for me was real time communication, in no time I was on irc and html chats, chatting and interacting, even playing the multiplayer games of those times ( ), second it was information, the internet eventually killed all my magazine subscriptions. Its value was evident, immediate. But yes, I had previous experiences with email and BBSs and file transfer and was in tech already, perhaps not a representative use case and not that early either, 1995-96.You are so right about people needing an introductory experience, maybe the onboarding experience needs to be redesigned and unified, the internet had that, an unique onboarding experience, there weren’t many options.

    7. jason wright

      Naysayers in the majority. A good sign. History repeats itself…yet again.The human condition (the ever reliable Human OS) remains remarkablly stable over time. Essential for contrarian success.

  7. awaldstein

    This is what I left on William’s blog as a comment after reading what he put down as the questions that were asked of the contributors:”I will download and read with anticipation.Need to say the questions are disappointing and indicative of the issues with communications from the blockchain inner circle.While Jeff Moore was a friend back in the day, the idea of crossing the chasm is simply not how it works for early markets encompassing larger niches in today’s world.The questions seem to skirt the issue of whether it is smart to approach this from the assumption that the world will need to know or care for it to be useful.Hoping to gleam some insights in spite of the questions honestly.From yours especially.Bad questions equal poor answers.

  8. Colin Platt

    Respectfully disagree. This is the wrong goalpost.Perhaps rather than “marketing the blockchain” we should aim to bury it under something (a lot of things) that are more interesting. Maybe it should become invisible to the average user in the way that the internal combustion engine is an afterthought to most drivers.

    1. William Mougayar

      Please read my contribution on page 14 where I wrote this:”In the long term, many end-users may not know or realize there is a blockchain behind the actual software application they are interacting with, just as today we look for and value the capabilities of an application based on its own merits, not because it is a mobile app, nor that it runs on a database, nor that it is based on a given technology.”

      1. Colin Platt


      2. Susan Rubinsky

        Awesome! The key point still is that the consumer understand the value and benefit which still has a lot to be desired.

      3. jason wright

        Of course. Do I know or need to know how my smartphone’s microprocessor works to enjoy it’s value proposition? That’s a no to anyone in doubt.Crypto means hidden, and blockchain tech will be exactly that even as they enjoy the value it will bring to their lives.

    2. jer979

      I agree with William and perhaps this is like the mention to @Greg Kieser:disqus above. You are 100% right…it needs to be invisible (and it will be). Still, we have to think about how we are helping ppl adjust to an entirely new paradigm. The idea that you don’t need a bank to hold your money or a lawyer (i.e. smart contracts) for some of your efforts…that’s where we are going to focus. How does that strike you?

      1. Colin Platt

        Maybe I am pedantic, mainly because I am not a fan of those examples.My view is that this tech will eventually be used to create great new tools and platforms that businesses (including lawyers and banks) can use to provide valuable products to their users. Some of the new businesses may bypass today’s gatekeepers, and some of them may leverage those gatekeepers in new ways.

        1. jer979

          Don’t think you are pedantic and apologize for the examples. I’ll try harder next time.I don’t think they are mutually exclusive. Either way, I think the point of this post (and the eBook) is less about “let’s market merkle trees and SHA 256 proofs, etc.” It’s more about…”how do we help existing companies AND potential customers of new companies fully understand the immense possibility of what’s now available to them…or, at the least, be intrigued enough to move off their existing system?”I spent many years in the world of social media and I can tell you (and I’m sure you saw this yourself), back in 2007, I was ridiculed for suggesting that my work colleagues should use Facebook. Very few ppl have that conversation now (well, unless the privacy angle, but that’s a different story). Explaining and demonstrating the value is critical.Thoughts?

          1. Colin Platt

            I think that you’re right.We’re at the laying the fiber cables for the internet stage of this tech. As entrepreneurs we need to focus on building strong and clear value that wins clients, in part because it is using the blockchain based infrastructure.

          2. jer979

            Finally! Comments in a blog section that didn’t end up in one of us hating each other or calling another a racist or a Nazi.

          3. Colin Platt

            I don’t even have a witty response for that.Great chatting with you.

  9. Greg Kieser

    I don’t know. I’m not entirely sure the blockchain needs any marketing for consumers/end-users. Most people still don’t know what TCP/IP is yet pretty much anybody with an internet connected device is using it.Looking forward to reading the ebook, in any case!

    1. jer979

      You are right about TCP/IP. The effort here is less about marketing a specific technology and more about the paradigm shift that the technology supports/enables. It’s a different way of thinking (decentralized vs. centralized) which brings with it an entirely new set of marketing challenges, such as “you actually don’t need a bank to hold your money.”Thoughts?

    2. jason wright

      blockchain’s unknown potential will not be realised by technicians. it’s in the realm of the imagination where a few gifted visionaries will see the shape of a better future. probably artists and biologists.

    3. Mike Cautillo

      You’re right Greg, all you need to know is “Bitcoin”, buy some-it’s all the blockchain you’ll ever need;)

  10. Philippe DEWOST

    I tend to agree after having spent the past months evangelising corporates and institutions dozens of time including with impossible challenges like “tell us all in 10 minutes”. I came to the conclusion than the best definition of Blockchain so far is that “it is a political issue defying corporate wisdom and conventions” (like in the “all boundaries are conventions” motto from the Cloud Atlas movie)My last contribution to such debate may be found on

  11. Twain Twain

    So Naval is basically saying, “Blockchain is the encrypted http for value exchange.”

    1. Jess Bachman


      1. Twain Twain

        Check it out. He explains the 4 existing layers of protocols: link, internet, transport and application.Then he asks, “Where’s the protocol layer for value exchange?”Then he talks about cryptocurrencies — and “crypto” clearly involves some type of security encryption, right.Ergo … “Blockchain is the encrypted http for value exchange.”It’s the secure protocol layer for value exchange. Simples.Now, that market positioning also sets it apart from Paypal, Venmo etc. because those are about payments.

  12. Ann Greenberg

    Oh no, Fred…you did not just use the phrase “we are getting somewhere when my Mom understands (fill in the blank)” SMH. When will the belittlement of women and specifically, mothers, cease in regard to technical capability? Please stop perpetuating this sexist stereotype, even if it’s true for your mother. Thanks!

    1. LE

      Typical PC crap. I am sure Fred’s mom is in her mid 80’s. Why in the world not use that example to drive home a point? And why would an older woman like that have a feel for technology in a way that would allow her to understand what the blockchain is? What if he was talking about music in the same way? “It’s a rap group that even my mom likes?”.

      1. JimHirshfield

        Would it shock you to learn that Fred’s mom has a PhD in computer science?*….*Note: I didn’t say that she does, I just asked if it would shock you.

        1. LE

          I am not going to go around and make assumptions like that looking for edge cases.And if she did have a PhD in computer science I am thinking that he would have turned the phrase around a bit and illustrated that fact.

        2. SubstrateUndertow

          I see what you are doing there !Jumping on the latest trend of fact free reality πŸ™‚

          1. JimHirshfield

            Oh, no no no. More of a philosophical approach.

        3. Cam MacRae

          Yes. I’d be stunned. Assuming Fred’s mum is 80 and finished her PhD at around 30 she will have largely pre-dated the field. A PhD in applied mathematics would be no shock at all, however.

          1. JimHirshfield

            In the context of this thread, PhD in Math or CS…doesn’t matter. Just highlighting LE’s odd position that it’s unlikely for someone’s mother to be highly educated. Cheers

          2. Cam MacRae

            It does matter as you made an already improbable event less probable and thus reduced the power of your thought experiment.Now, I don’t agree with LE that it would necessarily be an edge case, but let’s assume the mean age of commenters in this thread is 30 (I suspect it considerably higher), and that their highly educated mother completed her education prior to giving birth to them in 1986. The proportion of all women holding a Bachelors degree in 1986 is ~0.161, and the proportion of these women that continued to higher research is ~0.05.Do you still believe it is an “odd position that it’s unlikely for someone’s mother to be highly educated”?The proportion of men is only marginally higher, so it is also unlikely that our hypothetical commenter’s father is highly educated.Finally, the proportion of all Americans over 25 with a PhD is ~0.0168 as of 2013. Therefore, it unlikely that any given American over 25, male or female, is highly educated. It would be an odd position to assert otherwise. However, it still would not come as a shock if Fred’s mum held a PhD.

      2. rick gregory

        So why not say ‘.. my dad’? The point isn’t the single use here, but that it’s the typical case. People always tend to say “when my Mom can get it…” never “When my Dad can get it…’ which DOES perpetuate the idea that guys get technical stuff and women don’t as much as you want to whine about PC crap.

        1. Susan Rubinsky

          Dads don’t spread the word in the way that Moms do.

          1. Ann Greenberg

            I guess your dad doesn’t. Generalizations are the root of bad marketing; and ironically the opposite of what is truly great about Blockchain.

          2. Susan Rubinsky

            My Dad is illiterate. He can’t read and doesn’t even know what the internet is.

          3. LE

            Not sure if I agree with you Ann and here is why. While I don’t want to make a broad statement like “all marketing should be specifically and not broadly targeted” (because I can find examples of where it doesn’t need to be) there are certain assumptions that you must make about your audience in order to have the most impact for the money you will be spending.For example I am a man but don’t like sports at all but I do like those reality tv shows (Real Housewives although lately they haven’t been that good) and actually turned my wife on to them (a habit that I picked up with a girlfriend prior to remarriage). [1] Now there is no question that while there are men who are fans of those shows the vast majority of fans are typically women. So in marketing those shows they aren’t going to be thinking they need to try to get me, or Fred or William and maybe not even Joanne or you. They will generally decide that it’s easiest to go after the low hanging fruit of who appears to be their target audience.I started watching another reality show (on Netflix) that deals with towing companies in Canada doing heavy rescue. Not something my wife, my daughters or my mother would watch I know that for a fact.My dad was a big connector and spreader of the word. My mom not at all.[1] As a result of my interest in human nature which is something that I use in business all of the time.

          4. cavepainting

            You have to also see the context ( age of his mother, may be her exposure to computers, the common use of the expression, etc.) before making a judgement that a comment is sexist. We do ourselves a disservice by being politically super correct and sensitive, and it takes away the focus from the ones who are really sexist.You could have engaged in a conversation if you had asked a question like “Curious to know why you picked your Mom instead of Dad ?”.

          5. Ann Greenberg

            Maybe you’re correct. But after 30 years in the tech space I’ve heard it overused for decades now and frankly stopping to consider the impact of a (frankly condescending) phrase isn’t too much to ask. Indeed it’s often automatic – and I wouldn’t be surprised if Fred used his dad as an example it would have been noted as odd by many who read it. Motherhood in the tech sphere is shown lots of judgement. So I’ll risk being called politically correct and point out the prejudicial comment until the investment numbers for women shifts. Venture backed companies led by a woman are around 1%. Its about 10-14% for wommen being on the founding team.

          6. cavepainting

            Fair enough and thank you for taking the time to explain.

        2. LE

          People always tend to say “when my Mom can get it…” never “When my Dad can get it…’ which DOES perpetuate the idea that guys get technical stuff and women don’t as much as you want to whine about PC crap.But that’s what PC crap is all about. Not recognizing that there are differences in people and having to walk on eggshells all the time for fear of offending someone.

          1. rick gregory

            So you’re sexist. Because what you just said is that women are inherently, as a group, not smart enough to get tech. You’re part of the problem.

          2. LE

            Because what you just said is that women are inherently, as a group, not smart enough to get tech.Nice reading comprehension. “differences between people” =! “women as a group are not smart”.You’re part of the problem.Yeah I’m the scourge of the earth for sure.Btw, getting tech has nothing to do with being ‘smart’. There are plenty of ‘smart’ (or educated take your pick) people that don’t get tech and/or simply aren’t interested in it. [1] Just like there are many people that don’t like sports or ballet or reading non fiction novels.[1] I actually have many people like this who are customers of mine.

          3. rick gregory

            My reading is fine. Your writing, though… is not. Re-read my comment and your initial reply. To make it easier on you, “My Mom…” comment in general use isn’t talking about any specific Mom, but Moms (i.e. women), in general. Hence, yes, it’s about a group. Which you then asserted was true because the general case pointed out differences.If meant something else then you can’t write clearly, that’s your issue.

          4. Ann Greenberg

            No eggshells required. Women are as varied as men are. Some are great leaders, some are not. Some like to collaborate, some don’t. Some are good at technology, some aren’t. Giving birth doesn’t relegate mothers to technical ineptitude. Enough of that silly and lazy comparison. Blockchain may need products with consumer appeal to drive mass adoption, but it doesn’t need 1950s marketing campaign ideology to do it.

          5. cavepainting

            Exactly. We are all varied; and our skills and understanding also change with time as life happens to us.

    2. andyswan

      My degenerate gambling alcoholic uncle agrees with you, but it could just be because you’re pretty.

      1. LE

        Like me you assume that “Ann Greenberg” is a) Female and b) The person in the picture.

    3. jason wright

      i’m sure it’s just a Freudian thing and he’s not guilty as charged.

      1. Girish Mehta

        Did you mean to say Freddian thing ? πŸ™‚

        1. jason wright

          Good one Girish. On form today, as usual.

          1. Girish Mehta

            In honor of @JimHirshfield:disqus who announced he was going on a pun detox a few days back.

    4. Susan Rubinsky

      I disagree. I use this measure all the time. Maybe you will say that I am hosting my own little personal sexist universe in my head but one thing I do know is that women are damn good at spreading the word. If you can get your Mom to understand, the next thing you know, the whole neighborhood is going to be talking about it. It’s about getting the topic off the blog and onto the kitchen table.

      1. Ann Greenberg

        You are limiting yourself by generalizing about either sex. I suppose you buy into the notion that women are gossips, too? Women pioneered coding and were more visible in the industry until it was actively marketed to males in the 1970s via gaming. So I wouldn’t be surprised if Fred’s mother was a coder (to reply to another poster’s comment). I wouldn’t hire you, Susan, to market any technology or product I develop. Your inability to conceive of a “measure” that was never true and is simply sexist, is lazy at best.

        1. Susan Rubinsky

          I am actually referring specifically to my mother. While qualitative, I have found through the years that if my mother understands what I’m talking about a whole lot of others will as well.In addition, in my marketing work for some specific clients, nobody gets the word out better than mothers. Even on social media. A few key ads and postings in private Mom groups have a lot of power, depending on what you are promoting. And a whole lot more happens at the kitchen table. I’m not ready to throw the kitchen table out.Please feel free not to hire me. I’m happy doing what I do with clients who value my work. There are places where I fit and places where I don’t fit. It’s a big world.

          1. LE

            I have found through the years that if my mother understands what I’m talking about a whole lot of others will as well.Yes.I have given the example here before about when designing direct mail pieces (specifically 5×7 postcards) in the 80’s I would show the piece to what I considered to be the simplest person that worked for us. It was a quick look and then “what are we talking about?”. If they didn’t get it immediately it was back to the drawing board. The main point had to jump out (at least for what we were doing at the time not saying that is the case 100% everywhere).Now I just realized that someone will think I am comparing simplest person to ‘mothers’ but that is not the case even though it reads that way. It simply means ‘person who has no inherent knowledge that would bias them in their interpretation’.Taking this one step further I have also mentioned the ‘gray whistle test’ for music in England.When they got the first pressing of a record they would play it to people they called the old greys – doormen in grey suits. Any song they could remember and whistle, having heard it just once or twice, had passed the old grey whistle test…A few key ads and postings in private Mom groups have a lot of power, depending on what you are promotingAs a small example my wife told me that the orthodontist she is using for my step is ‘the one that everyone uses and talks about’.

          2. Ann Greenberg

            well peace out anyhow.

        2. Cam MacRae

          While I believe the “actively marketed to males” riff has legs to an extent, it is important to note the dichotomy between analysts and programmers during the period ~1939 – ~1985. The merger of these two roles appears to have had a considerable impact on women in both government and corporate settings.

        3. cavepainting

          With all due respect, Madam, you are going off the deep end here. He said it in a manner of speaking and no harm was intended. I know you wouldn’t hire Susan, but let me say that I would not hire someone who over-reacts and takes personal offense without seeing the whole context. It reeks of being overly sensitive to words and grossly insensitive to the people behind them.

        4. YSF

          Wait, so coding is “actively marketed to males via gaming”?hmm, what do I see here? Is that not EXACTLY what “generalizing about either sex” is? You’re making the generalization that men are more likely to play games. But that’s okay, since it’s a generalization about men, right?Fred’s post was OBVIOUSLY about the elderly, who really are less good at using newly developed technologies than younger people are.Seriously, go look in the mirror. extreme-feminism is just as bad as sexism, but a lot more hypocritical.

          1. Ann Greenberg

            I didn’t actively market coding to males via gaming. Large marketing companies created campaigns to did that. It’s a historical fact which I used to illustrate how generalizing about how the number of women programmers dropped when there was social engineering to push them away from it. You didn’t read what I wrote.I specifically don’t believe that either sex should be generalized about. I don’t think that all women are better communicators, I don’t think that all women are better collaborators, or are more sensitive or any of the other generalizations often placed on my sex. I don’t think that all men are stronger, smarter or cannot communicate, for example, either.

          2. YSF

            No. By making the statement that “large marketing companies created campaigns [to target males]”, you are making the generalization that males are more likely to be attracted to marketing campaigns with XYZ.Let’s face it. The fact is, men and women are different. It’s a very clear and obvious fact. Why do you have to pretend that everyone is the same?

  13. jason wright

    marketing blockchain to whom? what’s the primary audience?

    1. jer979

      Hey Jason… perhaps the comment below to @girishmehta:disqus may help. Curious as to your thoughts.

      1. jason wright

        having looked at a number of blockchain startups during 2016 i’m thinking more and more that they themselves may still be the primary audience in need of marketing. there seems to be a lack of clarity in their thinking about where their projects are going and how they are going to capture and retain value in their ‘ecochains’.

  14. Sebastian Wain

    I sincerely think we should let the blockchain define itself. Blockchain is a placeholder for financial innovation, descentralization, and many other concepts.

  15. Matt Zagaja

    After spending four years in a technical undergraduate college and then working with students at a business school for a year it amazes me how many academic institutions let their students slide by with poor writing skills. This is a learnable skill set that can be acquired with practice. The Issue you raise is a great example of the consequences of this practice.

    1. LE

      Honestly Matt I think it goes way beyond what you would consider ‘writing skills’. And I see it more as selling by words than writing. And being able to do so on a level that most people would understand. In order to do this you need to be able to downshift to a simple brain and create the easy and engaging read with no ‘big’ words.Maybe a good analogy is what would work in front of a jury in a legal proceeding. You don’t want people to stop and have to think what a particular word means.Tech people love to throw around the jargon and have their secret society which they live in. In many cases this works because it keeps out outsiders and creates a market by putting up barriers.

  16. Tom Labus

    Marketers need a great service to promote. Something people can latch onto and use all the time, easily

  17. howardlindzon

    I would love to just do a skype/hangout interview anytime with my questions for our large stocktwits audeince on bitcoin, coinbase and the blockchain. 20 -30 minutes. Ping me if you are up for it.thanks

    1. jer979

      Having compiled this eBook with the focus on taking these technologies to more “mainstream” customers, I personally would be up for the convo. (Of course, you may not have intended an open invitation, in which case, I’ll just listen in, sir)

  18. Jake Brukhman

    Thank you Fred, I appreciate the read. I maintain that Steemit is the most likely model of mainstream end-user adoption of blockchain tech observable in the wild today.

  19. ZekeV

    No mention of Coinbase anywhere in that document. Which is interesting b/c Coinbase is essentially the only honest consumer-oriented bitcoin company, in my opinion, and is essential to the success of any marketing effort.(I also think it is going to prove to be a mistake to market bitcoin to most mainstream users, but that is another matter.)

  20. Guy Lepage

    Do we really need to explain the blockchain to the layman? I feel that’s an error right there. Deep tech needs to be marketed to those who understand the tech. Then those who get it need to work on making the UX better. We did this with email.Does the layman understand how email works?Nope. They know that they need to hit “compose,” then type in their message, and then hit send. They don’t know anymore than that and do not have a need to know anymore than that.I have been working on marketing the blockchain with others in the space for a year and a half now. Unless you are pushing for cryptocurrency as a currency to the masses, then I don’t understand why the layman needs to know how it works.The engineers, entrepreneurs, etc, will require a deep understanding of the technology. Sure. And our job as marketers is to make sure that happens. We will get there. I believe we do need to have a sense of urgency about us, but it will take time. We are in the Trough of Disillusionment of the hype cycle and still in the gestation period of the Perez Technological Surge Cycle. We have a long way to go before we have the layman begging us to understand the intricacies of how a blockchain works.If it turns out for some reason we do need to have the masses understand the tech, such as tokens and/or an actual currency replacement, we, as marketers, need not under estimate the power of “cool, mystery and sex appeal.” Cars were cool because people could see one driving down the street amongst the horses and carriages. autonomous vehicles are cool because there is no one at the wheel. Blockchain needs sex appeal in order to intrigue the masses into investing the time it will take to understand this technology.

    1. jer979

      I think you are right, Guy. Nice shout out to Perez/Trough…I can tell we think about the same things. The premise of the Ebook, to cite another author, was the Moore “Crossing the Chasm.”We’re in violent agreement that you don’t need to sell blockchain as a tech to average consumers…the point here is to help the tech companies in this industry start thinking about how to get out of the crypto/blockchain eco-system bubble and ask themselves what value proposition, messaging, competitive differentiators are they going to require in order to get that next set of customers on the adoption curve.There are a lot of companies in this “space” where that critical thinking doesn’t seem to be happening…though I am sure you are helping some of them, which is great, because we all share a vision of a better world enabled by blockchains.Thoughts?

      1. Guy Lepage

        Awesome. πŸ™‚ And I’m right there with you in this battle. I do feel however that the path to crossing the chasm for this technology will require strong, well executed tech first and foremost. We as marketers, know that “nothing kills a product faster than strong marketing of a weak product.”That’s the first step.Having said that, I am a firm believer that we need to keep building awareness of this technology to the public while we wait for the tech to strengthen.As for marketing to the engineers and entrepreneurs, we need to be careful in understanding who the target demographic is and what appeals to them. What drives them to make decisions. Once we’ve nailed that, Bob’s your uncle, and all of these blockchain companies will be off to the races executing marketing strategies to grow their companies.One of the things I’ve learned, in building products, tech companies and working with engineers, is that we need to be careful with our language. If the intention for writing this book is to target the tech builders of the world, then the title for this book and the title of this article, for that matter, should not contain the word marketing as it will turn the targeted demographic off. Engineers, most early adopters, and some entrepreneurs tune out when they hear the word marketing.

        1. jer979

          This sentence nailed it: “We as marketers, know that “nothing kills a product faster than strong marketing of a weak product.”I think that needs to be communicated to the entrepreneurs in the space and I know that the more business-minded ones understand that and don’t just recoil when they hear “Marketing.”Of course, let’s be honest, so many marketers are full of crap– can you blame them?

    2. LE

      Do we really need to explain the blockchain to the layman?To me the outreach that is necessary mainstream is simply so that people who are in a position of being a decider (corporate, government, investors) think the blockchain is important and pay attention to it in a positive way when it matters. In other words ‘out of sight out of mind’ so it needs to be talked about to continue to appear to be relevant and not fade away.

      1. Guy Lepage

        Totally agree that we need to apply traditional awareness of the tech.That is something we have done a decent job of in targeting the early adopters in the finance sector. The word Bitcoin sounded like play money and was laughed at but the term “blockchain” sounds sexy and cool. Finally finance guys had something that sounded cool that they could take to their bosses in order to create something new to try and sell. Finance marketers and executives latched on to it and ran with it in hopes to create the new hotness of financial vehicles to sell as “innovation” to share holders. But now that the finance sector understands how they can implement blockchain tech, as we know it today, it’s time for the tech to strengthen.There is no doubt in my mind that when the time comes for the tech to be promoted to the masses it will be and, as long as it sounds cool/has appeal, it should only require a traditional marketing path to mass adoption.IMO

  21. Mike Cautillo

    Quite surprised to not see Andreas Antonopolous make this list, considering he is one of the best at delivering a clear and relevant message, both in breaking down the technical and fundamental relevance for all to understand! JMO

    1. jer979

      Hey Mike. Not everyone who was invited to chose to participate. Obviously, we all only have 24 hours in a day.

      1. Mike Cautillo

        Understood….thank you!!

  22. Salt Shaker

    Marketing a technology lacks resonance w/ the masses. Only product marketing can deliver a requisite context for BC, which is absent in its current state. It’s way too early in the curve to be concerned about BC mass mktg. Marketing “the future” isn’t a good or efficient use of human capital, except, of course, if you work for the SciFi channel.For the masses, tech in the absence of a clear and relevant context is just words (and conjecture).

  23. karen_e

    Good afternoon. My name is Karen.

  24. iggyfanlo

    FredI think that the problem with crypto-currencies and blockchain is the one I believe you or Albert pointed out. Previously we had thin protocol layers and fat app layers which created enormous incentives for financial and human capital to produce apps. Hence extremely rapid innovation and resulting adoption of those useful apps and further product refinement and value feedback loops.I’m afraid that the blockchain has a fat protocol layer and very thin app layers that leave little or no room for incentives and perhaps eventually almost none (other than the coins I guess?) and therefore the value feedback loops cannot flourish.

  25. Frank W. Miller

    Blockchains are a data structure upon which (much) larger things are built. I always get cross eyed when I hear VCs talking about blockchains as if they were a product in and of themselves. William’s insight is very good. The Internet was of little value until people started building much larger things on top of it, like the web, crm, social media, etc. Blockchains are a design choice, not a product.Bitcoin is an example of someone trying to build something bigger on top of the blockchain. The problem with Bitcoin is the design choices that were made other than the use of blockchain have doomed it from a purely common sense point of view. It sucks way too much power for no purpose. It has at best doubts about its security and its targeting currency substitution which requires more trust and reliability in the design than maybe any other possible application. Its an interesting example of a “bigger thing” that uses blockchains but its overall design is flawed. Other big things will come along that use blockchain as well. My guess however is that that big thing will thrive for lots of reasons beyond whether its using blockchain as an implementation choice.

  26. Kevin Hill

    I read the two you highlighted, and I think they are good picture of both the hopes, and the deep fundamental challenges in front of cryptocurrencies.Take Naval’s piece. Inspiring, but if you grok the workings behind proof-of-work, you know that “trustless” and “cleared transactions nearly instantly” are fundamentally opposed concepts. If you need instant clearing, which most of the ideas he puts forward do, you can’t use proof-of-work as a mechanism for security. At a deep level, the work isn’t secure UNTIL it takes time. If you are willing to accept trust-based systems, then instant clearing is the norm, but centralization becomes almost a forgone outcome, and the future looks a lot more like Stripe than Bitcoin. To give credit where it is due, Naval does a great job of laying out why that web-of-trust future might be awesome.Jake’s piece is a bit more uneven, but also thought provoking. He starts by basically saying ‘we should circumvent the laws of nation states’ by suggesting that people should use cryptocurrencies to invest in ownership of non-publicly-traded companies. Which maybe gets your blood pumping, but while maybe a small benefit to society on the whole, probably is fairly dangerous short-term. Then he shifts gears a bit to talk about STEEM, which while it seems interesting, seems like a high-trust and centralized system. For example, who sets the rate at which one may “Earn STEEM by being the first to upvote popular content”? So, certainly an effort to tackle curation, but doesn’t seem to be terribly enabled by or dependent on the blockchain.

  27. Ken Galpin

    1. Start with putting all this tech lingo and jargon in the background. When I think of using currency it is really pretty simple. Am I going to use cash, credit card or debit card? Online I might go with Paypal or do a wire transfer but the current Bitcoin requirements are too complex for most who DON’T WANT to have to have a degree in CS to exchange/send money for whatever. Can’t a fintech like Coinbase just issue a plastic card (partnering with Square for instance) that has no fees and market it as the FreeCard based on bitcoin peer to peer behind the scenes? Put the wallet and everything more in the background. Stop trying to make people think (act differently) about the form of money they are using.2. When I first introduced people to the Internet in the 90’s I ran into a 92 year old friend who just couldn’t get it. I finally found one specific activity he wanted to engage in. He wanted to correspond with a particular group online. I had him dig out his old cassette tape recorder and I dictated each step he needed to accomplish his desired task. He played that tape to death but it gave him the confidence and necessary reward for effort to propel him forward. A year later I had to rein him in because he was spamming the world πŸ™‚ Identify high value activities for participants and show people how to do those things simply.3. The blockchain front is more complex as it involves changing commercial processes and corporations must see the value of change. Look for commercial champions that are motivated to upset the established order and show them how to use the technology to their competitive advantage. This is slow work and I can see some of that being done now so patience is probably the order of the day here.

  28. Daniel Taibleson

    I work for an insurance technology company, an industry ripe for blockchain disruption. I just published an interview with PHD and senior economist Magda Ramada about the potential uses of blockchain in insurance. She blew my mind…not trying to get more page views, just genuinely think it fits the conversation and would be interesting/enjoyable for anyone thinking about how blockchain has the potential to disrupt laggard industries. She gives some pretty awesome examples of tech available today.

  29. Jose Paul Martin

    Fred, thanks for sharing this. I’ve been following blockchain and cryptocurrency for a while now and I pretty much concluded its failure to take off (in its current form) – because it’s not easy for non-geeks to grasp.I’d love to add to this conversation – so I’m offering your readers full access to my report (mostly targeted at those who want to learn in simple english) – use coupon code: avc at to download the report for free.

  30. Elizabeth Spiers

    Writing is a discrete skill set and there are a lot of smart people who can’t do it. If the point is to extract wisdom from experts, sometimes the best way to do that is via interview or as-told-to and a decent editor can pull out the worthwhile material and articulate it better.

  31. William Mougayar

    Arnold. My only contribution to this e-book was 1 page of original content, and Fred singled it out (along with a handful others) as the better parts of it. I am not apologizing for Jeremy who produced it, but I still command him for doing it.

  32. andyswan

    I agree with this William 100%. These collaborations are important to do early on, but we shouldn’t be throwing thought leaders under the bus just because we think they are either wrong so far, or because their peers aren’t as good as them.

  33. awaldstein

    All I was trying to say (and poorly it seems) is that you are my go to expert for blockchain. For me and for my clients.Marketing for blockchain is no harder than marketing solution sets for proximity for IoT. It is always hard.If its important you do the work. If its not you don’t.It doesn’t suck if it does because its hard to do, its poor because its not important enough to fix.

  34. LE

    Somewhat like selling Milk, the industry needs to get together and put some dollars into a joint effort to market ‘the product’.…To me the failure here is the fact that there are more technology based people involved in all of this who are used to creating products more in the ‘build it and they will come’ mode that have little understanding of traditional grind it out business or don’t buy into it. [1] After all most of the big things that have come on the Internet haven’t had a difficult time they either swam or sank and we forgot about them.[1] And in no way does this mean ‘all of them’. Just enough that it’s a hard sell by the people who get the drift vs. those who have no feel.

  35. pointsnfigures

    Agree with Arnold. Marketing is extremely hard. With the proliferation of tools, it’s become easier to reach your target audience, yet harder because of the largesse of the toolbox. I think technicians undervalue the impact good marketing can have on their business

  36. jason wright

    i need to find a comfortable fence to sit on and read through the 55 pages.

  37. jer979

    Look forward to seeing the selfie of that one.

  38. LE

    Agree with Arnold. Marketing is extremely hard.I don’t think that is what he is saying. He was challenging William for saying marketing was hard. To me it seems that you are actually saying that you agree with William that ‘the marketing of the blockchain is extremely hard’.With the proliferation of toolsAnd to extend this point it’s not just about tools. [1] It’s about creativity in the approach as well as non technical knowledge and the ability to convince and persuade others. [2][1] Think of trading stocks in terms of tools and how that has changed over the years.[2] We all have a mouth and can speak. But some are able to effectively communicate better than others.

  39. awaldstein

    ain’t that the truth!

  40. jason wright