Longread: Catch 22 for Cryptocurrency


Widespread and massive adoption of cryptocurrency faces several obstacles most of which are well known to dedicated communities. There are ambiguous legal stance of digital money along with evident difficulties of their using. However, all those problems get eclipsed by a bigger problem, which is conceptual. In fact, the greatest obstacle for cryptocurrency’s propagation is the cryptocurrency itself.

One may often hear that Bitcoin is future of money. That statement is not too far from being true, but it’s used so often that it turns out to be rooted away from the context, so mainly it is doomed to wander in depressive dusk of misconception, whimper and beg someone to get it out of here. It’s plus side is being short and catchy. It’s minus side is its desperate pretentiousness capable of scaring away as many people as it’s capable of attracting.

Can I use my banking debit card here?

Digital currency is not a currency in a classic sense but a way to perform payments. Fundamentally it is hardly different from payments via bank cards. Anyway, its naming builds a solid wall of misunderstanding between a potential user and development of the relevant market. The very word ‘cryptocurrency’ includes the infelicific root ‘crypto’ whose associative fields in popular consciousness never intersect with anything related to coding, nay, they intersect with sanguinary Rosicrucian conspiracies, ominous freemason lodges and hermetic order of the Golden Dawn. When a person unaware of Bitcoin mechanisms hears of ‘cryptocurrency’ first of all they will think of a baleful fruit of a secret world government’s conspiracy to facilitate establishment of blood-and-guts dictatorship under ratpigs from planet Schizomorgue-969.

The term ‘digital currency’ is much better, but it carries another linguistic disadvantage due to being too big. If we remember that the currency is in fact but an alternative way to effect payments for goods and services quite similar to a banking card, we’ll easily see how deep is the grave. When someone comes to a store, they rarely ask: Can I use my banking debit card here?.

Nay, a customer just asks: Do you accept cards?, and that’s where it ends. Diversity of digital currencies can be easily compared to diversity of card issuers. Their names are also a rare guest in common speech of their users. You hardly would ever hear someone saying: No big deal, they accept Maestros unless the context says that Maestro and nothing else is crucial for understanding the whole meaning of the sentence. Generally people say something like: They accept cards, it’s alright, everything’s gonna be fine, c’mon, don’t you cry, why are you always crying, what’s about all that payment method hysterics, you know, I believe you should see a shrink.

The problem is that language we use shapes psychological patterns of perception which, in their turn, influence the language. A person doesn’t need to know the mechanism behind a banking card it’s quite enough just to pop up at a store without any cash, push four buttons, and see everything magically paid. The word ‘card’ itself is quite short, well-known, and has no sign of neologisms.

On the other hand, ‘cryptocurrency’ and ‘digital currency’ are long, not-so-easy-to-pronounce, and one of them even makes one feel themselves violating laws, moral or juridical. Some might like it of course, but such persons probably haven’t played enough spies back in the childhood. The rest, who managed to play the right amount of spies, will hardly find such feeling pleasant in any way.

That is why the whole system cries for rebranding. For instance, if we use our smartphones to pay with cryptocurrency, we may ask something like: Can I pay with my phone?. Sounds ridiculous. But it requires less cognitive and muscular efforts as compared to do you accept digital currency?. People tend to choose the path of least resistance, so mass adoption of cryptocurrency requires those probably unpleasant yet almost inevitable peculiarities of the potential market to be taken into account.

In that sense, changing ‘darkcoin’ for ‘dash’ is a extremely good move: firtsly, the name loses a word that inevitably associates with criminality, count Dracula, and empire of the Sith; secondly, everything is replaced with a short and easy-to-pronounce word which relates to speed and impetus. Similarly, ‘cell phone’ gradually becomes just ‘phone’. If a market is shamelessly dominated by a single supplier or manufacturer, the language starts employing the brand as a general term.

Decentralization means for them as much as approximation or imprinting

That’s why nowadays you hardly would ever hear anyone saying: I’ll go and use a search engine to find it, We ran out of hygienic tissues, or I’ve got to use a copying machine. Nay, that product placement fan would rather say that he or she is going to google something, offer a kleenex, or use xerox. This process underlies toponymy: back in ancient days, a single village never named a neighboring forest, swamp or river, they just called them the forest, the swamp, and the river respectively if there were no naming or topographic competitors to be found within a hundred miles around.

That is the exact way linguistics and psychology meet marketing. A potential user has no interest whatsoever in such things as system mechanism or its structure’s conceptual basis. They don’t give a damn about block chain. Decentralization means for them as much as approximation or imprinting. Any ideology becomes a scarecrow on a marketing farm. A consumer is interested generally in one thing: this payment method shall not require any extra efforts. At least, those efforts should not seem greater than those involved in payment via debit/credit card. If it can buy you food or clothes, that’s enough for it.

Nowadays cryptocurrency users are mostly tech-savvy people interested in ideological and technological components of Bitcoin, Litecoin, and other digital currencies. And most of them may feel pretty sure that those amazing things should be interesting for other people but, in fact, they aren’t. Making digital currency as widespread as banking cards or paychecks requires an expert marketing strategy accounting for lots of different nuances related to language, psychology and ominous Machiavellian plots.

But, as it usually happens, cryptocurrency enthusiasts are as interested in those nuances as potential users are in digital protocols’ structure.

Jenny Aysgarth special for ForkLog

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