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It certainly is a curious case, how Bitcoin has come to be one of the most talked about economic trends of 2017. Yet if you were to ask the vast majority of people, you would be hard-pressed to find a response that accurately resembles the basic tenets of its operation.
It's admittedly not helped by the farcical launch of the SegWit2x fork; however, these complications haven't stopped people from talking about it, no matter what their level of technical competency, with the results ranging from cringe-worthy to hilarious.
Even Stephen Fry, establishment proclaimed genius, threw his hands up in intellectual defeat as he stated in a recent tweet that:
I don't consider myself preternaturally stupid but whenever someone tries to explain the principles of blockchains to me I begin to feel an overpowering need to bathe my temples in eau de cologne and go for a lie down
— Stephen Fry (@stephenfry) December 27, 2017
Consumer fintech: public exposure, awareness and understanding
Compared to acronyms such as 'NFC' and 'PIN,' cryptocurrency related terminologies haven't quite fully entered the public lexicon. Nor have they enjoyed the scale of marketing or exposure that technologies such as contactless payments and credit card technologies have received. There are numerous reasons why this may be, one of which being lack of partnerships or significant investment from the establishment market leaders in comparison to centralized payment processing technology/products.
For perspective, just think of the first time you saw an advert for contactless card technology. In the UK, Barclays PLC bank held a timed-exclusivity deal for featuring such technology in their credit and debit cards. Being understandably proud of this situation, the bank launched a significant multi-media campaign. This included a distinguishably high budget, widely televised advert featuring a water-park slide being ridden by a middle-aged businessman - through tubes that were suspended through and around the skyscrapers of London's iconic skyline.
These adverts are not still being shown today, nor are any others for the same technology, and this is because the original campaign succeeded. People got their hands on contactless cards and subsequently learned how to use them, which paved the way for the next technologies to be introduced. When mobile phone-based contactless payment technologies were introduced, they received a larger level of word of mouth buzz – thanks largely in part to their partnership with the two most influential mobile phone organizations resulting in desirable and popular products 'Apple Pay' and 'Android Pay.'
Once the seed is planted, it appears that familiarity across generations of technological developments becomes an organic path of learning within the public consciousness. In fact, the NFC technology that these mobile payment products is based on is so widespread now that even a child can use it. Quite literally as it serves as an integral feature of Nintendo's current line-up of video-games consoles, games, and merchandise (see: 'Amiibos')!
Grass-roots marketing: driving awareness through culturally relevant use cases
PayPal was one of the progenitors of online payment technologies that operated (relatively) outside the mainstream corporate jurisdiction, and their success has owed almost entirely due to the real-life use case of eBay. If you wanted to use this then-revolutionary marketplace, as either a buyer or seller, then you were encouraged to sign up for and use a PayPal account. It offered instant receipt of payments for the Sellers, and promises of financial security in the case of fraud for the Buyers which was previously unheard of at the time. Needless to say, the company wouldn't be the monolithic entity that it has become since their creation in 1998 without the successes they achieved as a result of their key partnership - with such a contemporarily popular and desirable service.
If Blockchain based ICOs are going to fully permeate the mainstream discussion and become a part of everyday vocabulary, we are going to need more than its killer product 'Bitcoin.' Each and every entrepreneur in this new economy need to use their opportunity, especially at ICO stage, to really impress the ever-growing audience of critical onlookers. One of the best ways to do this for the Blockchain is with a use-case example that can prove the concept effectively to both technical experts and novices alike, such as the aforementioned eBay and Bitcoin.
The new generation of ICO innovators
Let's take Lina for example, who describes it's visionary aspirations to “change the dubious understanding about ICO and Blockchain and closely apply on daily life” with a solution for people who either purchase or sell products online. Their 'Lina.review' platform is a community driven product review platform which currently manages a worldwide community of engaged users.
What is novel about their approach in comparison to their mainstream peers is the promise to reward writers of high quality and consistent reviews with monetary compensation – accumulated from the mining-based nature of their tokenized economy. Reviews are said to be vetted thoroughly, with writers being required to submit their CV along with writing examples.
This is a prime example of how a new company should show the tangible value of their Blockchain based solutions: with a working proof of concept or “use case.” Furthermore, the multi-faceted benefits to sellers, reviewer and customers are appealing not only to enthusiasts and investors but to the average member of the public: as its applications are easily identifiable and applicable to real life scenarios.
Lina is set to launch their ICO on Jan. 15th 2018 and, if successful, it could lead to a greater public understanding of basic crypto-concepts in the future. The system should also equip potential customers with more confidence when shopping online, in addition to providing merchants with increased sales as a result.