Revisiting Storytelling in the Crypto Space

I’ve been thinking about how storytelling has evolved alongside the changes in our world.

About the reinvigorated power of a narrative honestly told. How a story truly authentic and well crafted can catalyze our communities and add fluidity to our markets.

How our obsession with episodic storytelling, and the reactive, staccato vacillations of social media has changed the pacing and rhythm of communications.

How the polarization of language itself from early in the last election cycle has transformed our vernacular and rejiggered how causes and values have layered themselves into our product brands from shoes to food to beauty products.

How new community channels have arisen, spurred by Slack but bifurcated out through Telegram and others. Some vertical, some not, but all a movement towards community engagement as the new status quo.

And how with the crypto wave, there are new interesting twists to both popular culture and the dynamics of storytelling to connect with them. A brand new sandbox we have the opportunity to shape.

Marketers design communications strategies and brand connections on a continuum extending between what we are selling, and a broader vision or shared belief, that is often is the driving emotion, sometimes the underlying brand glue.

We calibrate these levers — positioning/action, ideas and clarity against emotions and beliefs as we create the narratives to communicate and engage with our constituents.

These have shifted dramatically, changing not just our common beliefs about communities but also about how to ground our thinking in markets where they are often too nascent or too early to have products to sell. In effect, simply ideas.

Likewise the brand continuum between transaction or action, vision and values are invariably skewed to an overemphasis of what might or may be, with little or no connection to real usage, human reflex on the action side.

The mass of crypto projects are jockeying for commitment at such an early stage, requesting a leap of faith both emotionally and intellectually for the user, developer, bidder, investor with no real baseline. No real “there there”, except often blind belief.

When writing some of these narratives, I’ve come face to face with the poetic power of the decentralized dream and the disconnect to a discreet action. Building community narratives that outside of pure developer exchanges, are often disconnected from products, not even to speak of the idea of product market fit.

Creating the challenge of not what you say as that is not that complex. But what is going to be heard, as products are our anchors in some way, that ground meaning in the tangible nature of something to be used, held or shared.

This is one of the more interesting marketing anomalies that is surfacing as crypto and blockchain projects enter a mass market awareness stage.

Another is the very ambiguity of the crypto market itself.

Some of these communities are incentivized through the tokenization of individual actions, some simply a response you want to capture.

The farther you move from an action and motivation, the more ambiguity it puts on the innate emotions of a message. And likewise the less clear, less distinct, the message by definition becomes.

When you are talking with developers, investors, pundits, potential customers in one singular place, you have more of a rally, less of a market. More of a descent into sloganism, less an environment for truly productive debate.

This is the very reason that there is such a flurry of events, as face to face, one to a few is a much more productive environment when so much is unclear and still not defined.

To be clear, this is community communications in its messiest, purist form.

It’s always been a challenge to capture the right nod to engage with communities. This is that on steroids.

This is as well, a marketing renaissance moment in the crypto world.

Where what matters the most in many cases is the narrative we build to define ourselves or our project, setting the groundwork for more collaborative definition of a market as it starts to develop in real time in front of us.

Where we need to weave a powerful vision extrapolated from complex factual possibilities, wrapped in an honest gesture of humility as we as a community may just be on the wrong track.

Traditionally, the most powerful person in the room has always been the storyteller. A truism as old as commerce itself, epitomized in the modern tech sector at least by Steve Jobs and his transformation of Apple on his return, and Elon Musk certainly as the grand market showman.

Today in the crypto world however, we may be turning a corner from that. As the story itself is taking on a dynamic life of its own, in a new community form, in a novel uncontrolled way.

Getting this narrative right is key.

It is the glue to the community, and potentially as important to success, as the process of building of the platform itself.

In many ways, they may be part and parcel of the same thing.