Martyna in conversation with Xochitl De Groot Ivory, Partnership Marketing Manager at Ava Labs
Welcome to the second interview in this five-part series where I speak with key leaders in the communications space that advise brands operating in traditional finance, fintech and crypto.
Last week I chatted to Elliott Suthers, Communications Director, Corporate and Global at Coinbase, who had some sobering views on tech/fintech maturity vs crypto. Elliott’s advice for brands in emerging space is to make sure they “put trust above speed, once a company — or ecosystem — loses the trust of its stakeholders, it’s almost impossible to earn back.”
This week, I’m excited to introduce my next interviewee - Xochitl de Groot Ivory, Partnership Marketing Manager at Ava Labs, a Web3 organisation building the Avalanche blockchain. Xoch and I met earlier this year in Barcelona at Avalanche's inaugural conference for developers, researchers, and makers building on Avalanche.
Prior to Ava Labs, Xoch led digital marketing for different brands, such as InterContinental, the Luxury Collection, and True Price. She’s been active in the Web3 space since 2016, and she’s also the Founder of SoChill.io©.
We’ve seen a real mix in terms of how vocal fintech & FS brands are when it comes to communicating their stance on crypto. Why do you think this might be and how aggressive should brands be when it comes to proactive communication?
Xoch: The world’s transition from physical to digital assets seems imminent and fintech and financial services brands understand that this shift will impact their business models, bringing both opportunities and threats. Deloitte’s 2021 Blockchain survey showed that 76% of FS executives believe that digital assets will be a strong alternative or replacement to fiat in the next 5-10 years. Therefore, it doesn’t come as a surprise that brands and services feel as though it’s urgent to embrace this change and be part of shaping it or risk losing their competitive edge.
Being vocal about welcoming crypto is part of a brand's effort to signal to users and business partners that the company is welcoming this innovation and planning to be part of it. My take is that the ultimate winners will be those who aren’t just vocal, but actively engage, educate, and create great user experiences.
What is your take on Visa’s historic purchase of Cryptopunk NFT last summer? How can fintech and FS companies find their place on the spectrum between being dangerously revolutionary, and too traditional when it comes to positioning themselves in this important emerging space?
Xoch: In order to succeed, FS and fintech companies will need to have strategic clarity on their positioning in this emerging space. This includes mapping out their vision of what the future of finance may look like, deciding on their part within that future perspective, and taking actions required to make it happen. There’s a lot to be gained out of collaboration and establishing partnerships with blockchain companies like Ava Labs to understand the evolving business models in the space and build technology for it.
Visa’s purchase is an excellent example of a traditional FS company sending a signal to the market that they’re embracing NFT culture. Most importantly, that they’re putting effort into meaningful partnerships (Visa partnered with Anchorage Digital) to help them and their clients navigate the process. As a result, Visa now launched the Visa Creator Program, which is a one-year immersion program that brings together a global cohort of creators interested in building their business with NFTs.
There’s a generational divide between crypto-native millennials and perhaps some of the stakeholders in traditional finance. People like Warren Buffett, one of the most respected investors in the world, hate crypto. So how do you see traditional finance firms engaging with the crypto natives without alienating older generations?
Xoch: This isn’t the first time that some in the financial world or in other industries have experienced groundbreaking new tech and didn’t initially embrace it. Typing in a password or banking altogether on the world wide web seemed unthinkable only a couple of decades ago whereas today, we don’t think twice. In fact, according to Accenture, 50% of banking customers now use a mobile app or website.
Organisations that embrace the generational divide challenge, and go the extra mile in regards to education and user experience will win. What I noticed over the years is that some of crypto’s biggest proponents started out as its biggest sceptics but over time, and after hours of education, they saw the light. People like Michael Saylor come to mind.
What lessons can crypto brands learn from fintech & financial services companies?
Xoch: When I think of many of the Fintech and FS companies today, I have no choice but to respect what they’ve built, the years they’ve been in business and their track records of performance. Coming from a marketing and business background, I’ve always paid close attention to how these brands spoke to their customers and I have to say, it’s noticeably different from crypto.
Fintech and FS do a great job at making marketing campaigns relatable. They put users and their life experiences as the campaign focus rather than their services. For example, FS television commercials always seem to focus on big moments in your life like buying a home, getting married, having a baby etc. Crypto brands still tend to make their products the centre of attention rather than the users. Because crypto products tend to be new or different from what users may know, campaigns can be misunderstood and not result in the user traction brands were hoping for.
One last question, do you think crypto has an environmental problem or communication problem?
Xoch: I don’t think crypto has an environmental problem, but there’s definitely a range of blockchain environmental friendliness out there. Having a social impact background, Avalanche’s eco-friendly tech was one of the main reasons that I wanted to join the team. On an annual basis, the Avalanche blockchain uses the same energy as just 46 U.S. households, compared to 1.6M for Ethereum.
However, I understand that in some nations the societal value that crypto offers outweighs the environmental challenges that it brings. For example, there are countries where women aren’t allowed to have their own bank accounts - who am I to blame them for using bitcoin to achieve financial independence? Luckily, the industry is evolving rapidly and players like Avalanche enable users and potential investors to not have to compromise sustainability for utility.
With that said, I actually think the biggest barrier to blockchain and crypto adoption, is in fact a communication issue. As a marketer, it’s my job to help increase adoption by making sure industries understand how we can help them achieve their strategic initiatives. Part of the communication challenge comes from how fast the industry is evolving - everybody in this industry is always learning themselves while being in it - but also because of crypto’s decentralised characteristics.
An industry aiming for decentralisation means the normal hierarchical structure which typically appoints leaders and spokespersons, is not the focal point for obvious reasons. Most projects now understand that tackling communication and education challenges should be a priority that we all should be contributing to.
Thanks, Xoch for being a guest on my ‘in conversation with’ series and sharing your perspective!
- Enjoyed this interview? If so, follow Xoch on LinkedIn or Twitter
- Next week I will be speaking with Stella Zlatareva, PR Manager at Nexo, the world's leading regulated institution for digital assets.
- Want to learn more about Crypto PR? Check Martyna’s half-day workshop on How to PR crypto.