Despite its meteoric rise, Bitcoin and similar cryptocurrencies have largely remained relegated to garner interest from more tech-savvy investors. It’s unsurprising, as the idea of trusting a currency unsupported by governments or central banks is intimidating for people whose interaction with computers doesn’t extend beyond email and social media. Recognizing this, several cryptocurrency developers, along with legacy financial institutions, are attempting to open the world of digital currency to a broader audience through fundraising and traditional advertising.
Visitors to Times Square, New York City this past week were treated to a bizarre, enigmatic billboard glowing with the letters “EOS,” a branding likely unfamiliar to most passing by the mysterious advert. EOS is the brainchild of Block.one, a company that offers blockchain solutions, the same technology that enables digital currencies, to businesses around the globe. The advert, which Block.one CEO Brendan Blume says was meant primarily for the eyes of attendees of Consensus, and digital currency conference taking place in New York when the billboard premiered. Still, it nonetheless represents a new era of marketing for digital currencies and similarly esoteric technology.
One of the main reasons for this advertising push is the nature of ICOs. Standing for “initial coin offering,” the ICO is at its core a voting process in which users invest into a business via a purpose-made cryptocurrency. Investors lend their support to the project by purchasing a virtual coins via traditional money or established digital currencies like bitcoin.
Unlike traditional investments, which are highly regulated during the initial capital-raising phase, ICOs enable these projects to operate free of banks and traditional investment rules and protocol, thereby granting autonomy and greater participation from investors. Like any investment, early adopters at the ICO phase hope for large returns once the fledgling digital currency establishes itself. For example, Ether’s ICO began at $0.40 in 2015 and by 2016 rose to $14.00. While not every cryptocurrency succeeds, the relatively small investment compared to potential gains in a period as short as a few months makes it a tempting offer for new and seasoned investors alike.
Perhaps the greatest indication of cryptocurrency’s new mainstream status came in the form of an endorsement from Floyd Mayweather, a legendary boxer whose latest match has dominated sports news around the globe. The famous athlete has advocated for several ICOs via his personal Twitter account, thus opening up digital currencies to a whole new audience of investors.