Tag Archives: Cryptocurrency

Top Blockchain-Related Stocks For 2018, And A Few To Avoid

Top Blockchain-Related Stocks For 2018, And A Few To Avoid


In recent years, blockchain and other new technologies

have emerged that may significantly change the future of money, finance and more. Not only can blockchain technology support the functions of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, Ether and Ripple, but it has the potential to revolutionize marketplaces and the way data is stored and transferred around the globe for generations to come. Companies across industries including financials, healthcare and technology are looking into blockchain research and development in search of ways for better fraud prevention security, faster transmission confirmation and potential cost savings through efficiencies. In fact, it has been predicted that blockchain platforms will store 10% of global GDP within the next decade.

Measuring Blockchain Innovation Potential

Given the technological progress and potential, it could prove valuable to investors to be able to measure and analyze the companies that are investing in and developing blockchain technology, identifying the companies most potentially able to augment their businesses and generate new revenue streams or cut costs would likely help investors outperform. To help investors measure the potential effect of blockchain technology, I created a Blockchain Score™ ranking methodology. Blockchain Score utilizes seven factors to formulate a better overall picture of a company’s blockchain-related potential, visualized through a ranking system. Based on this methodology, we ranked some of the top blockchain-related companies for 2018.


The bellwether exchange and equity index provider is among the top financial companies devoted to harnessing the power of blockchain. The New York-based firm operates at the intersection point between finance and technology, enabling investors to securely navigate financial markets on a global scale.Most investors are familiar with Nasdaq regarding traditional investing practices, but Nasdaq has also become an industry leader in developing innovative securities transaction methodologies since 2013. It also was one of the first to explore and incorporate the use of blockchain technology into its applications. The Nasdaq Private Market was first launched in 2013 to facilitate secondary transactions for private corporations, and two years later Nasdaq announced its first private securities transactions using blockchain technology. Chain.com was the first client to use Nasdaq’s own Linq Blockchain ledger platform. The fintech company has invested in blockchain technology and looks to be on the forefront of blockchain’s transformative potential.


Since its founding in 1911, IBM continually developed technologies used throughout business, industry, and the public. Today, the company behind Watson and developments in cloud technology is already harnessing a blockchain service for over 400 clients in multiple industries. IBM’s Blockchain Platform provides a fully managed, blockchain as-a-service (BaaS) offering delivered through the IBM Cloud, allowing organizations or individuals to record and track any type of complex transaction and recordkeeping network securely. More importantly, IBM estimates that its blockchain offering will decrease financial service transaction disputes from $100 million each year to $30 million and reduce overall resolution time by 77%. Blockchain platforms have the potential to reduce costs for industries like finance, healthcare, government and more while potentially creating a new revenue stream for firms offering blockchain as a service. These improvements may translate into improved bottom lines, and higher earnings.


Though known for its bullet trains and enterprise solutions, Hitachi is actually one of Japan’s biggest technology firms investing in blockchain. The conglomerate has been researching blockchain technology since the early 2000s, before even the invention of Bitcoin. Hitachi obtained its first blockchain-related Japanese patent in 2003.

Through its Financial Innovation Laboratory (FIL), Hitachi continually works to broaden the application of blockchain using a a three-phase approach. The multinational technology firm first intends to establish a specialty for financial processes specifically, then expand across industries, and finally create a fully functioning, automatic process across systems using new blockchain innovations like smart contracts. Recently, Hitachi incorporated a cryptocurrency and blockchain solution to support its supply chain management and operational strategy service. In time, Hitachi aims to continue committed research and development efforts to find and introduce more use cases in blockchain technology.

Daimler AG

Blockchain advancements are, to the surprise of many, also utilized by German Automaker Daimler AG. In partnership with LBBW, Daimler launched a €100 million 1-year corporate loan instrument, known as a Schuldschein, using blockchain technology. The complete transaction, from origination and execution of the loan agreement to the confirmation of repayment and of interest payments — was wholly carried out through blockchain technology.

Based on the success of this recent blockchain initiative, Daimler is looking to implement blockchain technology into the full spectrum of its business practices, as well as auto financing. Kurt Schäfer, Daimler’s Treasury Vice-President stated “Blockchain can affect nearly the entire value chain. That’s why we, as a leading automaker, want to play an active role in the global blockchain community and help shape the cross-sector blockchain standards. We want to do this in all the areas of application that are important to us: customer relations, sales and marketing, supplier management, digital services, and financial services.”

Hive Blockchain Technologies

Hive Blockchain technologies is among our top blockchain stock picks, and one of the most directly involved in cryptocurrency investing. The Canadian technology company looks to bridge the gap between blockchain innovation and capital markets through ownership of multiple cryptocurrency mining farms at strategic locations. It uses blockchain technology to validate cryptocurrency transactions.

Hive recently announced a major expansion of its mining capabilities, securing a large-scale bitcoin mining facility in addition to a private financing round to the tune of $100 million. The technology firm was the first publicly traded stock on a major stock exchange dedicated solely to cryptocurrency mining when it joined the Canadian TSX venture exchange in September 2017. Hive operates multiple cryptocurrency facilities and mines 8 cryptocurrencies currently including Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Litecoin.

So-Called Blockchain Stocks To Avoid For Now

Investors face a unique risk amid the buzz surrounding blockchain. Many businesses may have unwarrantingly added blockchain to their official company names, and experienced a subsequent spike in their stock prices. This is without necessarily utilizing nor understanding the innovative aspects of the technology. Be wary these so-called blockchain companies, as they could be benefitting from the technology’s shimmer while offering no substance. Our methodology has found companies that may require more time and thought to actually integrate blockchain into their core competencies.


Xunlei is a Chinese video-streaming service turned cryptocurrency and blockchain company. In October, the technology company announced its plan to launch OneCoin, it’s own blockchain-based cryptocurrency. From October through November, XNET’s stock price to surged from $4 to $25 after the announcement, but experienced major declines thereafter, causing investor suspicion. Now, the company is involved in at least in at least 2 class-action lawsuits, alleging that XNET made false or misleading statements to investors, and is in violation of federal securities laws in offering on OneCoin, now named LinkToken.

The lawsuits stem from seemingly conflicting statements regarding the new blockchain-based cryptocurrency. Investors who believed the announcement to be an initial coin offering (ICO), were met with new statements that LinkToken was actually an initial mining offering, and that the coins were not for trading. China’s central bank banned ICOs in September, before XNET’s blockchain announcement, but investors can only wait as the litigation unfolds. The fervor surrounding blockchain requires investors to analyze blockchain-related stocks with a rigorous methodology, to avoid the potential pitfalls.

Long Island Blockchain

Previously Long Island Ice Tea Corp., Long Island blockchain raised eyebrows market-wide after the company announced a significant shift in its business focus, including a complete name change. Though the company still actively produces its non-alcoholic beverages and is yet to provide details on its use of the blockchain, the stock price increased by more than 250%. For blockchain investors, there may be better options for blockchain-related stocks. It would be prudent to consider companies with more concrete plans or research into the utilization of blockchain technology in their core competencies.

Riot Blockchain

Bioptix Inc. changed its name to Riot Blockchain last October to reflect a new focus on cryptocurrency and blockchain business. Before even announcing its entrance into the cryptocurrency and blockchain technology space, the penny stock nearly doubled in value, later plunging 20% in December. Today the stock is in the process of selling its remaining biotech related patents, as it pivots to bitcoin mining and blockchain software. It may still be too early to determine how this shift will affect the company’s revenues, costs, and operating margins.


The Eastman Kodak company recently made headlines after announcing KodakCoin, a blockchain-powered token solution to photography copywrite protection. The stock price tripled in value after the announcement. While this new development of blockchain technology is potentially promising for the stock and the market overall, details remain excessively scant, and it remains to be seen if Kodak can augment its business model with blockchain capabilities.  Kodak’s KashMiner’ mining rig looks to support licensing partnerships, but, may be the full extent of the company’s cryptocurrency plans. Lastly, it is worth noting that KodakCoin has announced a delay to its initial coin offering (ICO) by several weeks, to verify the ‘accredited investor’ status of interested parties. The company’s statement at the end of January also cautioned interested investors to avoid fraudulent KodakCoin ICO pages online, and to purchase the token on Kodak’s official platform only.

New Tech on the Block

Whether its applications represent an incremental improvement, a significant leap forward, or a complete transformation of industry, blockchain’s potential is certainly worth a second look. The technology is still considered to be in its early adoption stage, but innovations in blockchain investing are becoming easier. Take a look at thoughtful blockchain methodologies like Blockchain Score™, which aims to find high-quality stocks on the forefront of blockchain technology. The Reality Shares Nasdaq Blockchain Economy Index utilizes this methodology in its construction and is fully supported by an advisory board of blockchain company founders, cryptocurrency executives, and technology thought leaders to guide the strategy for true blockchain impact.

Chuck Reynolds

Marketing Dept

Please click either Link to learn more about Bitcoin.
Interested or have Questions, Call Me, 559-474-4614



Thomas Prendergast

Facebook to require authorization and labeling on all political and ‘issue’ ads, verification of large Pages and more

Facebook to require authorization and labeling on all political and ‘issue’ ads, verification of large Pages and more

The company also plans to roll out tools that let users see who is advertising on a Page and search through all the political ads running on the platform.

Facebook has introduced yet another set of changes

in the wake of a scandal caused by charges that Cambridge Analytica misused Facebook user data. In a blog post Friday, Facebook executives Rob Goldman and Alex Himel announced several changes and features they said would make advertisements and Pages more transparent. The changes include required authorization and labeling of political and “issue” ads, and manager verification for large Pages. The company will also roll out a searchable political ads archive and a tool to see what ads a Page is serving that is already being tested in Canada. The ad requirements will also apply to Facebook-owned Instagram, but the post did not mention any other Facebook entities.

Designed to stop future electoral abuse

Goldman, vice president of Ads, and Himel, vice president of Local and Pages, said that the social media platform was “slow to pick-up foreign interference in the 2016 US elections. Today’s updates are designed to prevent future abuse in elections — and to help ensure you have the information that you need to assess political and issue ads, as well as content on Pages. By increasing transparency around ads and Pages on Facebook, we can increase accountability for advertisers — improving our service for everyone.”

Also from the blog post:

We believe that when you visit a Page or see an ad on Facebook it should be clear who it’s coming from. We also think it’s important for people to be able to see the other ads a Page is running, even if they’re not directed at you. That’s why today we’re announcing important changes to the way we manage ads and Pages on Facebook as well as Instagram. These are designed to increase transparency and accountability, as well as prevent election interference.

Clarity around political and ‘issue’ ads

The company said it would extend requirements issued in October that required political advertisements on Facebook and Instagram to be authorized to include “… ‘issue ads,’ — like political topics that are being debated across the country.” These ads will be labeled “Political Ad” and will include “paid for by” information. Advertisers can be authorized by confirming their identity and location. Testing on these features has begun, and the changes should start rolling out this spring. The company will use artificial intelligence and add more personnel

to find advertisers who slip through.

We realize we won’t catch every ad that should be labeled, and we encourage anyone who sees an unlabeled political ad to report it. People can do this by tapping the three dots at the top right corner of the ad and selecting “Report Ad.”

Facebook will also release a public, searchable political ads archive, which “contains all ads with the ‘Political Ad’ label, and will show the image and text, as well as additional information like the amount spent and demographic audience information for each ad.”

Transparency for Pages and their managers

The company has been testing a new “View Ads” feature that “lets you see the ads a Page is running — even if they are not in your News Feed. This applies to all advertiser Pages on Facebook — not just Pages running political ads. We plan to launch view ads globally in June.” The blog post did not indicate

how “large” pages will be defined.

Today, we’re also announcing that people who manage Pages with large numbers of followers will need to be verified. Those who manage large Pages that do not clear the process will no longer be able to post. This will make it much harder for people to administer a Page using a fake account, which is strictly against our policies. We will also show you additional context about Pages to effectively assess their content. For example, you can see whether a Page has changed its name.

Just the latest change

This new feature is just the latest in a number of changes Facebook announced last month that it will be taking to address privacy concerns since the Cambridge Analytica scandal erupted. These changes included giving users the option to remove apps in bulk, restricting app developers’ access to user data, giving users more visibility to their apps from News Feed and taking more actions to safeguard user privacy.

On the ad side of its business, Facebook has blocked third-party data broker data from being used for ad targeting and removed audience reach estimates for Custom Audiences. This week, Facebook confirmed it was working on a new certification process for advertisers to verify that they have gained consent to use email addresses uploaded via Custom Audiences. Next week, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg will appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee and Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee on Tuesday and before the Congressional House Energy and Commerce Committee panel on Wednesday to answer questions about the company’s data privacy policies.

Chuck Reynolds

Marketing Dept

Please click either Link to learn more about Marketing.
Interested or have Questions, Call Me, 559-474-4614

Thomas Prendergast

South Korea’s Largest Banks Go Pro-Cryptocurrency as OmiseGo Secures Deal

South Korea’s Largest Banks Go Pro-Cryptocurrency as OmiseGo
Secures Deal

South Korea’s largest commercial banks including Shinhan and Woori

have continued to support cryptocurrency exchanges after Kookmin, the biggest bank in the country, denied to provide financial services to trading platforms.

Shinhan and Omise

Since then, both Shinhan and Woori have supported a series of pro-blockchain and pro-cryptocurrency initiatives. In January, Shinhan, the second largest bank in South Korea, announced that it has begun the development of a bitcoin wallet and vault system with which bank users can safely store bitcoin in a cold wallet. In February, Shinhan completed trials with Ripple Labs, utilizing the Ripple network and its liquidity system xRapid to send cross-border payments in a blockchain network. This month, Shinhan entered a strategic partnership with OmiseGo, an Ethereum-based banking and payments platform, to accelerate the adoption and implementation of blockchain technology in Asia, and more specifically, South Korea. In South Korea, upon the completion of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between Shinhan and the Ethereum startup, Omise CEO Jun Hasegawa stated:

“Omise and OmiseGO are working to revolutionize the way digital value moves globally, with an end goal of creating a platform that facilitates a decentralized economy. The OMG platform, using the Plasma architecture, is being built as a public network that is powered by Ethereum. The first phase of the wallet SDK was recently released and is available for anyone to use. We want to make it easy for those who need online asset exchange as part of their business to connect seamlessly to the OMG Network.”

The official statement of Omise revealed that in the upcoming months, Shinhan will closely work with Omise to integrate its blockchain technology in various areas of the bank’s operations. Shinhancard, the credit card department of Shinhan Bank, is expected to develop new business models and key application opportunities based on the OmiseGo technology, becoming the first major credit card company in Asia to apply blockchain technology.

Omise will also process Shinhan FAN card and overseas merchant base, potentially settling transactions for Shinhan merchants using the OmiseGo blockchain, and ultimately, the Ethereum blockchain. “The MoU establishes a framework for closer collaboration between each party; leveraging Omise’s broad portfolio of payment technology and solutions, and OmiseGO’s server and mobile SDKs that have been made publicly available for the purpose of onboarding e-wallet providers,” the Omise team said.

Bitcoin Wallet

In November 2017, CCN reported that Shinhan began the development of its bitcoin wallet and vault system. Its representative stated: “Shinhan is testing a virtual bitcoin vault platform wherein the private keys of bitcoin addresses and wallets are managed and issued by the bank. The bank intends to provide the vault service for free and charge a fee for withdrawals.” The MoU between Omise and Shinhan could lead to the Omise development team cooperating with Shinhan in completing the development of its cryptocurrency wallet, given that the Omise team revealed the MoU was signed to allow Omise to cooperate with the major South Korean bank in developing a variety of blockchain solutions.

Chuck Reynolds

Marketing Dept

Please click either Link to learn more about Bitcoin.
Interested or have Questions, Call Me, 559-474-4614

Thomas Prendergast

Techniques To Nail The Marketing Aspect Of Your Investor Pitch

Techniques To Nail The Marketing Aspect Of Your Investor Pitch

There’s a lot that goes into a well-crafted investor pitch.

Some key components include discussing the pain points you’re solving, your financial projections and, of course, the product itself. But let’s not overlook another critical aspect — the marketing strategy. How are you going to capture your market share? Who’s your target audience? How will you reach them? An investor pitch should be robust enough that it covers all of the major angles. But one element that I find that many entrepreneurs overlook is the marketing side of things. In my experience, I have identified the following to be the essential marketing elements of a funding pitch, along with effective ways to strategize for addressing investors’ concerns.   

Perform Keyword Research

Keyword research is a powerful tool for investors. It can be leveraged to show quantifiable data on market size, search breadth, topic trends, seasonal trends and more. For instance, you might explain product demand by highlighting the average monthly searches for a certain targeted keyword phrase. In turn, you can provide investors with an objective snapshot of the marketing forecast and identify key opportunities that can help your brand eclipse competitors.

Here’s an example.

Let’s say you’re going into the ride-sharing industry in Germany and need to make projections. On your slide deck, you might start with these four core terms:

Ride sharing in Germany
• Best ride-sharing app
• Car sharing Germany
• Rideshare Germany

Do a little forecasting magic, and you can craft an intent-driven audience that is looking for this service now! This gives investors a tangible idea of what current demand looks like, which is huge for getting them to buy in.

Know Your Target Audience

Having a comprehensive understanding of your audience is mandatory. You need to know precisely who you’re trying to reach and how you can best reach them. Here are some questions you should ask yourself:

What are your buyer personas?
• What are their pain points?
• What are their objections?
• How do you appeal to them?

Illustrating buyer persona mapping and prospective audience sizes would work well for your slide deck here. Visually breaking down your various personas gives investors a clear idea of exactly who it is you’re trying to reach with your marketing. Addressing audience sizes fills them in on the type of outreach efforts that would be necessary. For instance, you might limit your outreach to the three largest cities in Germany — Berlin, Hamburg and Munich.   

Show That You Care About the Money You’ll Be Spending

The last thing investors want to be involved with is a brand that’s frivolous with their spending. It’s all about making every dollar count through proper planning. Be thorough when discussing the channels you’ plan to utilize and the specific strategies involved. What percentage of marketing spend will be devoted to SEO? To paid advertising? To content marketing?  Here, you might include a slide with a pie chart that breaks down this percentage visually. I also recommend incorporating a slide deck on the marketing funnel/user journey so investors will know precisely what your game plan is, step-by-step. This should help investors better understand your logic and see the big picture.   

Be Adaptable

Adaptability is a fundamental trait of the modern marketer. With new marketing trends constantly emerging and others dying off, you need to have your finger on the pulse of what’s happening and be capable of striking while the iron is hot. You must also be comfortable adapting to the different stages of marketing growth. As your brand expands, so must your marketing. A slide covering the marketing lifecycle should work well to acknowledge your thought into the need for adaptability. Include details on key growth focus areas over time and how you anticipate your marketing strategy will evolve.

Address Scalability

Growth is the primary objective of most businesses. And you can bet that investors have the same aim. It’s critical to show them that you’re not scared of scaling your business. More importantly, you need to show that you’ve done your homework and have a viable game plan in place to do so effectively. Although you’re probably not in the position to plan this execution right now, you should have a basic idea of how you’ll go about it and that you're capable of assembling the right people to make it happen.

Touch on your team's plan and scalability should include answers to the following.

• How do you plan on growing your team?
• How much larger do you anticipate your team becoming?
• What types of experts or specialists will you hire as your company grows?

What's Next?

Considering that 70% of small- and medium-size business (SMBs) spend less than $500 a month on marketing, according to a study by BrightLocal, it's doubtful that you’re going to launch a campaign at $150,000 per month and capture 50% of the market share. Having ambition is great, but remain realistic about your expectations — it becomes a problem when ambition turns into delusion.

As you're developing your pitch, reach out to marketing friends and associates who have been there and done that. The more input and expertise you get from others, the better shape you’ll be in and the more resources you’ll have at your disposal. And here’s something that I can’t stress enough: Don’t be too shy to ask for things! I’ve found that most people are more than willing to help and many are flattered that you’re asking for their advice. 

Here’s one last, little piece of advice. Stick to your guns! Second-guessing yourself is the worst, and it is likely to be a red flag to investors that you lack confidence. Remember that if you’ve taken the time do your research and you can validate it, roll with it! When it’s all said and done, investors need to know that you’ve got an airtight marketing plan that’s capable of scaling along with the growth of your brand. The techniques listed here should help you address investors’ key concerns and get them to see your vision.

Chuck Reynolds

Marketing Dept

Please click either Link to learn more about Marketing.
Interested or have Questions, Call Me, 559-474-4614

Thomas Prendergast

What If Your Employees Want To Get Paid In Bitcoin?

What If Your Employees Want To Get Paid In Bitcoin?

Whether you consider it a bubble, a trend or the next big thing, Bitcoin—and cryptocurrencies like it—is a force to be reckoned with in the modern economy. Bitcoin’s meteoric rise over the past year has pushed it onto the list of assets that savvy investors want in on—with a growing list of other cryptocurrencies in hot pursuit as the 'Next Big Thing.'

Bitcoin’s technology has the full potential of becoming the new reality,

but it won’t be there yet until it becomes a true and viable alternative to traditional money.So what happens if your employees start asking to be paid in Bitcoin instead of your country’s national currency? While you’re unlikely to have a critical mass of employees begging for Bitcoins yet, it’s already starting to happen and you want to consider the norms of tomorrow. Here’s what you need to know, so that when the future comes, it won’t take you by surprise.

Is It legal?

The answer isn’t simple. In some countries, the question of whether you can pay your employees in Bitcoin may be a non-starter. The currency is illegal to varying degrees in Morocco, Ecuador, Nepal, Bolivia and China. That list may get even longer in the future. With the spotlight growing on cryptocurrency, there’s a risk that governments of additional countries will rethink its legal status. In the United States, at least for now, there’s no reason that you shouldn’t theoretically be able to pay your employees in Bitcoin. In reality, though, it would be incredibly difficult to comply with U.S. tax laws if you decide to make the move.

That’s because you can only withhold taxes for employees in U.S. dollars, and you can only claim payroll costs in U.S. dollars on company tax returns. Your company’s books would have to track the exact dollar value of the corresponding Bitcoins. None of the major financial ledger systems, including SAP, Intuit and Xero, have a mechanism that allows for that. At the moment, adhering to legal standards would simply be a tracking nightmare.

Are the rules going to change?

Governments are trying to figure out exactly how to navigate cryptocurrency. The rules are still being written. While it could be years before a comprehensive approach is set in stone, the direction that governments are heading in is toward more regulation. The UK and the EU already plan to crack down on Bitcoin.

The U.S. is likely to follow with its own restrictions for several reasons. Right now, the dominance of the U.S. dollar gives the U.S. government powerful tools to impact international policy. They can freeze assets, deny assets and control currency flows. Avoiding government interference is one reason why criminals conduct illicit business in Bitcoin, and that the administration has recently called for more regulation. It’s possible that there may be a middle ground where Bitcoin becomes a government-controlled technology that still maintains a degree of openness. Either way, the rules surrounding Bitcoin are likely to change, and they’re likely to change quickly.

Will it maintain its value?

Cryptocurrency has no inherent value. With no underlying security or asset, its worth is purely dependent on what someone else will pay for it and who will accept it as currency. While that’s technically true of the U.S. dollar as well, the major difference is that no major mainstream companies have signed on to accept Bitcoin—or any cryptocurrency, for that matter. If a company like Google, Apple, Amazon, or Square were to come out and agree to accept Bitcoin payments, they could propel Bitcoin into a more permanent state. Otherwise, there’s a huge risk that it could just be a fad. Cryptocurrencies can fall out of favor—just look at what happened to ShadowCash.

That’s risky not just for the employees being paid in Bitcoin, but also for the companies paying them. Even if employees agreed or asked to be paid in Bitcoin, you can imagine that if the value of Bitcoin began to spiral downward, so would employee morale. Bitcoin’s technology has the full potential of becoming the new reality, but it won’t be there yet until it becomes a true and viable alternative to traditional money. Companies should think carefully about whether they want to pay in Bitcoin before it does.

Is it worth the hassle?

With so many grey areas and so many logistical hurdles to overcome, the next question becomes: even if it’s possible to pay employees in Bitcoin, why bother? Is all of the hassle worth it? For some companies, the answer could still be a clear and resounding “yes.” Paying in Bitcoin can be a unique attraction for acquiring new talent. It can draw the type of innovative, early adopter candidates that banks and tech startups love. In a world where competition for the best minds is fierce, that can make a difference. Taking a risk to be part of the Bitcoin experiment can also pay off in terms of building a company’s brand. Jumping in can show leadership and demonstrate that a company is financially and technologically savvy, and is ready to push the envelope.

Looking Towards the Future

We’re already moving past the “what if” stages of paying in cryptocurrency, with Japan’s GMO Internet Group paying some of its employees in Bitcoin. With the recent stock market correction and continuing concerns about further losses, alternative compensation methods could become even more attractive than they already are. Working around the complications of paying in Bitcoin may tricky,  but a committed CEO can push the agenda through. Paying in Bitcoin may seem like a speculative exercise now, but one day soon it could become a reality.

Chuck Reynolds

Marketing Dept

Please click either Link to learn more about Bitcoin.
Interested or have Questions, Call Me, 559-474-4614

Thomas Prendergast

Marketing Strategies Used To Build A 9-Figure Fitness Company And What Marketers Can Learn

Marketing Strategies Used To Build A 9-Figure Fitness Company And What Marketers Can Learn

Andy Frisella is no joke.

While he was growing up outside of St. Louis, Missouri, Frisella sold anything he could get his hands on — baseball cards, lemonade, even light bulbs — cultivating the business skills he would later use to become a successful entrepreneur. Dropping out of college to start his first business, Supplement Superstore, with a friend, Frisella didn’t take in more than $200 a day for his first 8 months. It took 7 years to make more than $695 in a month. Today, Frisella is the CEO of a family of brands that brings in more than $175 million a year in revenue. How did he get there? Marketing plays a key role in the story. Here are 5 marketing strategies from Andy Frisella.

Marketing Is A Branding Game

Frisella believes that branding, rather than direct-response sales, should be the goal of any marketing strategy if your goal is to build a solid brand. While direct response has its place and offers instant sales, the key is to use branding and direct response in harmony. Frisella says, “The way [customers] buy isn’t, ‘I saw an ad for this company, so I’m going to buy their stuff now.’ They buy because they get familiar with your company.” He recounts the many times he invested in an advertising campaign expecting quick sales, only to be disappointed. He realizes now it’s because he was investing in short-term advertising for a product, rather than long-term branding of his company.

Frisella’s brand was created by slowly and steadily building a reputation among customers, not with quick-response advertising. He was dedicated to being a consistent and reputable vendor. Frisella warns business newbies not to be someone “who sells a product instead of building a company. There’s a big difference.” Brief video from branding guru David Brier on what makes one form of branding successful and another unsuccessful.

Use Social Media Right

If you are building a brand, Instagram can be useful. However, Frisella advises against using it as a sales tool. “You should be looking at Instagram as a sort of introduction,” he says. Relying on a concept he calls “focused engagement,” Frisella uses Instagram and other social media platforms as a means to constantly connect and engage with customers, instead of expose his brand to them. Frisella focuses on “micro-influencers,” or accounts with 1-100,000 followers, rather than those with a million followers or more.  

Frisella believes these smaller accounts are more likely to have an active, engaged community of followers, thus providing more “bang for your buck.” Frisella sees branding as building relationships with customers, and he knows to look for social media presences that actually have a relationship with their followers, rather than those that offer superficial exposure.

Avoid This Common Mistake When Using Social Media

Of course, Frisella has occasionally made mistakes with social media, and he doesn’t shy away from warning against its misuse. “Looking at Instagram as a sales tool…you’re never going to sell anything,” says Frisella. “I’ve tried.” Frisella says that he has gone the route of paying major influencers big money to simply expose his product to their millions of followers. However, representing a product none of their followers cares about is no way to actually sell your product. Don’t repeat this common mistake of confusing eyes on your product with interest, and keep your brand pointed toward “focused engagement.” 

Relationships Are Currency

Branding is about building a community around your product. In his lean initial years, Frisella would go door to door to introduce himself to his neighbors and tell them about his store down the street. Now, even though he’s running a $175 million business, Frisella sees those personal connections as fundamental to his success. “For every relationship that you build, you’re gaining that person’s network, that person’s friends and family,” he says.

Those people will have a very good reason to try your product, because someone they like recommends it. According to Frisella, if you build a relationship, you’re going to stand out. Often, building solid relationships is all it takes to maintain a successful company that customers turn to again and again.

There Are No Shortcuts To Success

“When you plant a Chinese bamboo tree, you have to go out and take care of the soil and water the plant for 5 years before you ever see it sprout above the surface,” says Frisella. Making the connection to business, he notes: “People just don’t stick with things long enough.” This is Frisella’s favorite metaphor and one that explains his concept of “aggressive patience.” He says that he sees too many business and brands these days expecting instant gratification — whether it's a startup or 100-year old brand introducing a new product. 

“Branding is slow,” says Frisella. “Branding takes time to work.” He remembers that many times he invested money in a branding campaign and prematurely declared it a failure. Looking back, he thinks that, had he been more patient, some prematurely curtailed campaigns could have been more successful.

Chuck Reynolds

Marketing Dept

Please click either Link to learn more about Marketing.
Interested or have Questions, Call Me, 559-474-4614

Thomas Prendergast

Blockchain has grabbed the attention of investors

Blockchain has grabbed the attention of investors

  • Blockchain's transparency, tamper-proof record and decentralized nature make the cryptocurrency vehicle more secure than any repository under the control of one entity.
  • Blockchain can be used to secure everything from financial transactions to voting and medical records.

Blockchain, the vehicle of cryptocurrency, is a technology

that no one can own or control but anyone can use. It has potential applications for just about any enterprise involved in record-keeping, documentation, registrations and transactions. Although the cryptocurrency bitcoin was created in 2009, the idea behind the blockchain technology it was built on dates back to the 1990s. Since bitcoin's launch, blockchain has gained increasing broad recognition in the tech investment world. With venture funding aplenty, numerous blockchain applications have been developed and many more are in the works.

With venture funding aplenty, numerous blockchain applications have been developed and many more are in the works. Here, a computer programmer sets up a mining rig to mine for bitcoin.Even in its early stages, blockchain is acquiring such renown for potential that any business associating itself with the term can attract new investment overnight, prompting some to use "the B word" so casually that they've also attracted attention from regulators. Core blockchain software lives on the internet, available to anyone with a modem, just as Linux operating software is available free as an open-source item. It enables the creation of decentralized, publicly accessible digital ledgers — sequential chains of blocks of data. Blockchain is like a digital safe-deposit box, yet its security comes not from secrecy or exclusive access but from being tamper-proof.

With blockchain, no one's in charge, because everyone's in charge. Everyone knows what's going on, and no one can change the record. Blocks of data are immutable, so blockchains are permanent audit trails. Proponents argue that blockchain's role as a transparent, tamper-proof record and its decentralized nature make it more secure than any repository under the control of one entity, because central sources are far easier to hack. With blockchain there's no custody or control by a central source, such as a financial institution.

Cutting out the middleman was a key founding principle of bitcoin, which cuts out banks, and it's the premise for many evolving or anticipated uses of blockchain. Consequently, some blockchain applications might prove disruptive, posing an existential threat to companies whose business model is based on being a central source. Though many individual investors find blockchain an inscrutable technical conundrum, as vexing to understand as bitcoin, potential applications in many fields are attracting a brisk flow of venture capital and corporate development. Aside from uses in cryptocurrency, embryonic and envisioned applications of blockchain include:

  • Securities. Nasdaq has partnered with Chain, a bitcoin infrastructure firm, for a pilot program to test the use of blockchain for trading shares of private companies.
  • Financial markets systems. An 80-plus member consortium of banks, regulators and technology partners — led by blockchain tech start-up R3 CEV — are developing a blockchain-platformed operating system called Corda.
  • Payment platforms. JPMorgan Chase has launched a new interbank payments platform based on a private blockchain for Ethereum, a form of cryptocurrency.
  • Bank operations. UBS and Barclays are both experimenting with blockchain as a means of expediting back-office functions.
  • Private blockchain. These are secure private networks of blockchains developed by IT providers. IBM is developing new shipment-tracking tools for shipping giant Maersk and Walmart Stores.
  • Digital rights management. Spotify acquired start-up Mediachain Labs last year to use blockchain technology for music copyright-attribution protocols. And Eastman Kodak is seeking to develop publicly accessible repositories for stock photographs and their copyrights.
  • Decentralizing the sharing economy. Arranging P2P lodging and ride-sharing — without paying middlemen, i.e., Airbnb, Uber and Lyft.
  • Medical records (private blockchain). Might blockchain finally enable long-predicted secure lifetime medical record-sharing across providers?
  • Digital public registries. Projects are under way in Rwanda and other African nations to build blockchain-based real estate-titling systems.
  • Law enforcement. Potential uses include evidence management and tools to flag suspicious transactions.
  • Voting. Proponents say an immutable record of votes cast could have the certainty of paper with the convenience of digital access and storage.
  • Securing Internet of things (IoT) devices. There are more than 8.4 billion internet-enabled devices, from refrigerators and doorbells to wearable fitness monitors and prototypical self-driving cars. Proponents argue that blockchain technology could be used to reduce the risk of many IoT devices being compromised by a single point of failure, such as a server.
  • P2P e-commerce. Peer-to-peer of all sorts, potentially threatening eBay.

Not surprisingly, much of the venture funding for blockchain thus far — from notables including Sequoia Capital, Founders Fund (Peter Thiel) and Andreessen Horowitz — has been concentrated in bitcoin-related enterprises. But some of this money is for other applications, including ecommerce, media, identification and private blockchain.

Venture investment in blockchain start-ups began in 2012 and grew apace in 2016 and 2017. According to a report by CB Insights, a tech-funding research firm, Google and Goldman Sachs are among the most active corporate investors. Other investors include Visa, PNC, Deloitte, Transamerica, Wells Fargo, Capital One and U.S. Bancorp.

Investing in blockchain requires a grasp of the types of entities now profiting in the technology's evolving uses. Individuals seeking to get this exposure for their portfolios can do so currently by investing in funds or individual stocks of companies involved in:

  • Cryptocurrency.
    Names include Japanese company SBI holdings and Overstock.com, with its newly created digital currency subsidiary, tZero.
  • Manufacturing.
    Manufacturers develop products for the cryptocurrency industry, including specialized, powerful computer-processing chips and other hardware used by "miners"— independent operators who collectively validate and thus enable transactions. Nvidia, Advanced Micro Devices and Taiwan Semiconductors are a few examples.
  • Software services and solutions.
    A number of companies offer software services and solutions to blockchain- and private blockchain-related related entities. Candidates would include publicly held IT/computer services firms making inroads, including IBM, Google, Accenture and Cisco.

As applications evolve, a broader range of blockchain-related investment opportunities among public companies are expected to emerge. Today blockchain is a tech market buzzword. Tomorrow it could be a household word.

Chuck Reynolds

Marketing Dept

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Thomas Prendergast

Smart marketing still hinges on humanity, not technology

Smart marketing still hinges on humanity, not technology

As exciting as technological developments may be, contributor Mike Sands urges marketers to keep their eyes on their customers.

Remember what life was like before we had smartphones?

We flipped through inches of white pages without a thought, carried impossible-to-fold maps wherever we traveled and never left home without pocket change. Now, it seems as if we think everything would work better if it were smart. We can buy smart umbrellas that tell us where we left them and when we’ll need them next. Smart diaper-changing tables that track Junior’s weight, food intake (and output). Even smart underwear that can adjust our home’s thermostat based on our body temperature, change our Spotify playlist based on our mood and adapt our e-gameplay to our stress levels.

With businesses so quick to employ the latest technologies, it got me questioning whether leveraging all this tech is really so smart after all. In an industry prolific with promises of shiny new toys, I worry about marketers becoming blind to the fundamentals of marketing and relying too much on technology, instead of their heads, to evolve and enhance customer experiences.

Don’t risk losing the human touch

While keeping up with technological advancements is absolutely critical to keeping pace with today’s complex consumer habits, integrating new technology without a complete understanding of how it works, how it changes consumer behaviors and what value it adds to the customer experience is potentially reckless and off-putting.

Marketers who risk losing the human touch also risk losing customers. Consider that in a 2017 survey commissioned to find out how people really feel about the much-hyped area of artificial intelligence, 57 percent said they would have no problem engaging with a brand’s chatbot online, yet 65 percent said they have a big problem dealing with a robot instead of a human in a store. As cool as it may sound to implement artificial intelligence, augmented reality, virtual reality or whatever comes next, marketers need to consider them not as new toys but as new marketing tools, opening up more ways to communicate with customers — and, just as important, more ways to collect data to solve their problems, anticipate their needs and improve their lives.

Follow Amazon’s example

Take the enviable success of Amazon. The reason that it is now the most valuable brand on the planet is not that it’s an AI pioneer, employing sophisticated applications to run customized search and recommendation engines, voice-enabled shopping and, most recently, human-less checkouts at Amazon Go. It’s because Amazon adds technologies sympathetically, with the customer experience front and center. By offering the simplest and most convenient shopping experience possible — not better products, not better prices — it delivers on its brand’s promise. This is what drives customers to return, in turn leaving Amazon with loads of first-party data to craft even more innovative ways to make shopping experiences even better.

Every brand offers some unique value to its customers, and marketers need to keep this top of mind when strategizing technology solutions. A good example is home improvement retailer Lowe’s. With shoppers ranging from serious do-it-yourselfers needing guidance and inspiration to errand-runners on a quick quest for a hammer, Lowe’s has rolled out a series of AI, AR and VR solutions to help decrease friction points and improve the in-store experience on an individual basis.

On one end of the spectrum is Lowe’s Holoroom How To in-store simulation experience, a combination of AR and VR technology that teaches shoppers necessary skills to complete home projects, as well as designing and visualizing customized options. On the other is the Lowebot, a super-simple roaming robot that makes it easy for customers to find and compare products or locate the restroom.

When robots go wrong

Of course, robots aren’t for every business — something Scottish supermarket chain Margiotta reportedly learned the hard way. A week after introducing Fabio, a robot that took on a variety of tasks like welcoming shoppers, locating products and offering food samples, it became clear it was unhelpful — even creepy — and could not fill a human’s shoes, so Margiotta pulled the plug. Let’s face it, operating in a marketplace where the next big thing is old news by lunch is enough to get any marketer’s panties in a bunch. (This is where that smart underwear might alert you to take a deep breath.)

Yet keep in mind that marketing is no longer about creating consumer journeys; it’s about empowering them. Sure, technology is absolutely critical. But marketers must remember that technology has a purpose, as well as limitations, and as far as I know, it has yet to replicate the authentic empathy and emotional intelligence of humans. And that, after all, is what makes marketing smart.

Chuck Reynolds

Marketing Dept

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Thomas Prendergast

John McAfee reveals he charges $105,000 per promotional cryptocurrency tweet

John McAfee reveals he charges $105,000 per promotional cryptocurrency tweet

Software tycoon turned cryptocurrency enthusiast John McAfee

recently revealed that he charges $105,000 for each tweet he sends out promoting digital coins or initial coin offerings (ICO). Last week, McAfee tweeted that his team had written up a guide on how his promotional tweets worked, and posted it to McAfee Crypto Team, an organization McAfee and his team put together to promote ICOs.

“It’s self-aggrandizing and ego-stroking for us,” he wrote, “However, if you’re planning an ICO, trying to boost a coin, or want to shine a light on your latest project, you should overlook our swollen egos and see.” The link details how each tweet costs $105,000 but divided between his 810,000 followers, the cost per ‘investor’ is only $0.13. The site boldly declares, “John McAfee’s tweets are by far the most influential in the field of cryptocurrency.”

Extrapolating from a Twitter poll conducted by McAfee himself, McAfee Crypto Team claims, among other statistics, that 259,000 of McAfee’s Twitter followers “have more than 50% of their total assets in cryptocurrencies,” and that 224,000 of his followers represent, “at a minimum, $4.48 billion in crypto investment.” The site claims that the numbers are arrived at through “statistically valid percentages.” McAfee’s tweets can indeed sway cryptocurrency markets. In January, Motherboard tracked McAfee’s tweets about alternate cryptocurrencies to their market performance over the course of three weeks. The site found a correlation between McAfee’s tweets about cryptocurrencies and spikes in their valuation — in the case of Burst coin, a jump of 350 percent.

At the time, Motherboard speculated that McAfee was taking part in pump and dump schemes to boost the value of coins he was already invested in. That may still be the case, but the McAfee Crypto Team post suggests McAfee also has a completely separate racket: hawking endorsements for cash. A member of Burstcoin’s development team, Tom Créance, responded to a request to comment that its team “simply does not have the financial capabilities to pay Mr. McAfee to promote the coin. The core team did not pay him, and we were just as surprised as everyone else when we saw his tweet. It goes strictly against our beliefs in long term and sustainable strategies.”

We’ve reached out to McAfee Crypto Team for comment.

Chuck Reynolds

Marketing Dept

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Interested or have Questions, Call Me, 559-474-4614

Thomas Prendergast

What Everlane gets right about marketing to women

What Everlane gets right about marketing to women

Everlane says it underwear has been in high demand:

The company had a wait list of 30,000 even before last week’s launch. (Courtesy of Everlane)“No frills. No bows. No bulls***,” says Everlane’s newest marketing campaign for its line of cotton panties, bras and women’s bodysuits. “Underwear should be made for you. But for decades, it’s been designed with someone else in mind.”

If Victoria Secret wants you to believe it makes lingerie for perfect angels fallen from heaven, then Everlane is hawking wares for the other 99 percent. The socially-minded company known for its basics, says it has a solution: Cotton underwear that’s designed to be comfortable. The items are promoted on its website with unaltered images of women of different shapes, sizes and colors — with full bellies and stretch marks and cellulite. It’s no secret, advertising professors say, that today’s customer wants more than airbrushed images. Brands like Dove and Nike have found mainstream success — and racked up millions of dollars in sales — with marketing campaigns that challenge traditional beauty ideals.

There has been a slow but steady shift, industry insiders say, toward more realistic advertising as beauty and clothing companies embrace more natural portrayals of women. Companies like Asos and ModCloth have pledged to stop retouching photos, and lingerie brand Aerie says sales have increased by at least 20 percent each year since it stopped airbrushing its ads four years ago. Everlane, experts say, is taking that message a step further with its unapologetic advertising. “You can see stretchmarks on some of these women — stretchmarks!,” said Angeline Close Scheinbaum, an advertising professor at the University of Texas at Austin. “That alone will resonate with millions of women.”

Online retailers seize on long-ignored market: Women size 16 and up

Consumers are more likely to pay attention to an ad when they can relate to it, Scheinbaum says. For example, “if you’re not in the market for a car, your brain tends to tune out ads about sedans or SUVs,” she said. “Subconsciously, you check out a bit. But when you see someone who looks like you or has your body type, your brain might give it some more thought.”

That is increasingly true of today’s 20-, 30- and 40-somethings, advertising experts say. After all, sales at Victoria’s Secret — a company known for its sexy ads and lingerie-filled fashion shows — have been sloping downward for months. The brand’s sales tumbled 8 percent last year, following a flat performance in 2016. The stock price of its parent company, L Brands, has fallen nearly 60 percent since 2016. Everlane’s marketing campaign for its new underwear line was created in house by a woman-led team. None of the photographs were retouched. (Courtesy of Everlane)

And while Victoria’s Secret “angels” may have attracted customers in the past, today’s shoppers increasingly think of the brand as “forced” and “fake,” according to a Wells Fargo consumer survey. Traditionally, advertisers have leaned on highly polished, idealized images to appeal to people’s aspirations. “This generation is calling BS on traditional labels from all different angles,” said Beth Egan, 52, an advertising professor at Syracuse University. “Whereas my generation and the generation before mine both bought into idealized versions in advertising, these women are saying, ‘I’m going to do me and it’s going to be fabulous.'”

At Everlane, an in-house team of about 15 employees — mostly women — put together the campaign for the underwear line, which launched last Monday. They decided from the beginning that none of the photos would be retouched, not even for the company’s billboards in Los Angeles and New York, said Alexandra Spunt, head of Everlane’s creative team. “For such a long time, the underwear industry has put up this image that in order to be sexy, you can’t be comfortable,” she said. “We wanted to show that that isn’t the case by casting these beautiful, natural, confident women who felt super comfortable in their own skin.”

Everlane is opening its first stores, after years of swearing it wouldn’t

But others point out that Everlane’s message isn’t necessarily all-inclusive. Underwear sizes begin at XXS but max out at XL. “At first glance, you look at the ads and say, ‘Oh, they’re using unconventional models. It’s not all bone-thin women with enormous breasts like you might see in a Victoria’s Secret ad,'” said Meenakshi Gigi Durham, a professor at the University of Iowa whose work focuses on media, gender and sexuality. “But then you look closer, and it still all falls within a fairly limited range of bodies.”

Durham also took issue with some of the wording in the company’s ads.

“The language is about comfort and empowerment, but it also continues to emphasize dissatisfaction with things like ‘camel toe,’ which is a term that’s used to embarrass and shame women,” Durham said. “I don’t see this as very non-conformist or resistant. Women are very savvy consumers. and they can see when a corporate marketing campaign is capitalizing on feminist dissent and dissatisfaction with feminist beauty ideals.”

But Spunt of Everlane says demand has been brisk. More than 30,000 people were on a wait list for its cotton underwear ahead of last week’s launch, and she says women in particular seem to have responded to the new ad campaign. (Its men’s underwear line, by comparison, is being promoted by more traditional models who are young, thin and muscular.) “We felt like this was more of a women’s story this time,” Spunt said. “We wanted that to be our focus.”

Chuck Reynolds

Marketing Dept

Please click either Link to learn more about Marketing.
Interested or have Questions, Call Me, 559-474-4614

Thomas Prendergast

The Artist that came out of the Winter