Six-year-old cryptocurrency exchange OKX has made significant changes to its marketing strategy over the last year, swapping programmatic ads for strategic brand awareness partnerships and focusing on changing consumer sentiment rather than tying marketing efforts to sales.
“[In 2022] we showed up in the market in a very audacious way when everyone was scared,” said Haider Rafique, OKX’s CMO. “In this case, the fun part was that nobody knew who OKX was.”
The very public display of the crypto industry’s ills over the last few years has eroded people’s trust. The collapse of crypto exchange FTX in November 2022—plus last week’s guilty charges of FTX boss Sam Bankman-Fried for fraud—have further exacerbated the ongoing cooling of sentiment. FTX’s collapse played a role in OKX’s decision to withdraw its Super Bowl ad campaign in 2023, said Rafique, leading to zero crypto ads in the Big Game, a stark contrast to the year prior. Now, crypto companies like OKX, and Kraken which launched its largest marketing campaign to date in October, are finding longer-term ways to connect with potential customers.
“The crypto industry is focused on trying to rehabilitate its image in the wake of so much negative publicity,” said Andrew Frank, VP distinguished analyst at Gartner. “Trying to actually change public perception of an entire industry strikes me as an incredibly difficult thing [in advertising].”
Brand partnerships over digital media spend
OKX was aggressive in digital ad spend during the first half of 2022, especially on Google and Twitter. The company also invested $1 million dollars in testing programmatic ads.
“We realized it took us almost 12 months to break even on that spend,” said Rafique.
OKX roughly spent $30 million on total ad spend in 2022, including programmatic and social ads, according to Rafique. This year, this budget has been reduced to $24 million.
“What’s better is to spend those digital dollars through sports and entertainment properties,” he added.
OKX secured its first exclusive deal with U.K. soccer club Manchester City in March 2022, involving the placement of OKX branding on the left sleeves of players. Since then, the company has inked two more agreements, the most recent in June this year. These combined deals amounted to over $70 million, reported Forbes.