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Serving the Permaweb

From chaotic good to lawful evil, where does your brand fall?

This is Testnet, where crypto-native marketing and growth experiments are tested live. Every week I review an aspect of a crypto brand's marketing strategy. Read the first post here.


Book of Hours by Simon Bening, created 1530-35, on display at The Cloisters.

They don't make books like they used to.

In medieval times, books were meticulously crafted by hand over the course of years. Those books—often religious texts—were made with materials and techniques designed to last for centuries. We still have many of them preserved in full, brilliant color in museums across the world. My favorite collection is at The Cloisters in New York.

The Belles Heures ("Beautiful Hours") created between 1405-1408/9 on display at The Cloisters.

The internet was supposed to index all the world's information, and it's clearly done an incredible job of that. But preservation of that information is not as straightforward as it seems. From 404 links to expiring cloud storage to lost files to geoblocking, digital information can be surprisingly difficult to store safely.

This week I'm focusing on Arweave, "the first truly permanent information storage network." I'm deeply interested in information storage and preservation of knowledge, and look forward to analyzing how they tell their story and market their products.

Let's get into it!

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Arweave: the first truly permanent information storage network

The main section of the newsletter, I break down one web3 marketing experiment that I'm taking inspiration from.

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The theme: Credible neutrality

Marketers of crypto protocols love to position their protocol as "neutral." The protocol's twitter bio says "contributes to X ecosystem," even if they're really the only active contributors to it. But these protocols typically have their own brand, voice, and world view to push. They're not truly neutral (which is totally fine for their specific case). Even brands that aim to be more neutral—think, the Ethereum Foundation—still have a brand that shines through and affects the type of projects and people that build on it.

The only truly neutrally-branded crypto protocol I've found so far is Arweave. Here's how they achieve that:

The product: decentralized information storage

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Arweave is a decentralized information storage network. Nodes earn AR, the native Arweave token, in return for providing data storage.

Nodes store information on the "permaweb," a "parallel internet" of data storage. Learn more about how Arweave works.

The story: Arweave is the Bitcoin of information—permanent, decentralized, open

"The Arweave network is like Bitcoin, but for data." - the first sentence on arweave.org

Arweave draws on the values of Bitcoin—permanent, decentralized, and neutral—to communicate with their audience. The idea is that what Bitcoin is for money, Arweave is for data. This is a powerful comparison that jumpstarts the process of understanding the network. Start from a pre-existing idea and build on it, rather than trying to understand the information network from scratch. While "the Uber for X" is an overused phrase in the web2 startup world (I handled marketing for a startup that called itself "the Uber for beauty," so it cuts particularly deep), I think "The Bitcoin for X" is a helpful shortcut for crypto-natives to understand a new technology.

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I particularly like their logo—a lowercase "a" inside a circle. It reminds me of the symbol for "information," a lowercase "i" in a circle. It also reminds me of the Bitcoin "B" being used as a logo.

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The tactics: True Neutral

Arweave might be the most True Neutral branding I have ever come across. This chart often circulates around the internet and, in my opinion, can describe everything you come into contact with in the world.

It's fun to imagine brands being placed into these squares. Aragon? Lawful neutral. Bankless? Chaotic good. The Ethereum Foundation? Lawful good. Friends with Benefits? Chaotic neutral. It's way too fun to place brands within this framework.

Arweave, to me, is the clear True Neutral here: the center of the bingo card. But True Neutral does not have to be boring. It's actually incredibly powerful and shockingly difficult to achieve (name another True Neutral crypto brand, I'll wait). Here's some tactics Arweaves uses to achieve true neutral branding:

  • Simple black-and-white branding

  • Very basic website that mostly links out to other projects, acting as a launch point not a final destination.

  • Twitter solely retweets ecosystem projects, does not produce its own content.

  • Little to no communications come from Arweave itself—there's no central foundation calling the shots.

  • Logo looks like something that can be reused by other projects -- similar to how the "i" in a circle to represent "information" might be placed somewhere in your app, maybe the "a" in a circle would go there instead if that information is stored on Arweave.

This true neutrality allows for other brands to put their own spin on Arweave and their own personal stamp on the technology. Let's look at some retweets from the Arweave account that I'm adding to my inspo toolkit:

  1. Cool visualization of some social brands in the Arweave ecosystem, bringing vibrancy and a clear use case to the simple, almost stoic Arweave brand:

  1. Celebration gif pulling in crypto's favorite mascot. This would be odd coming from the Arweave account itself, but works well from a key contributing project:

  1. Cute use of logos in a vintage internet design and nice tight copy -- "Arweave is a global hard drive." Another example of defining Arweave in different terms coming from a different account. Love it!

Trad Tidbit: user research is a marketing skill

Tactic or advice from traditional marketing or non-crypto-native marketing culture that I want to add to my toolkit.

To market your product effectively, you need to understand who your users are and what they do. You need to understand what they need. And you need to understand how your product or service will make that need easier to achieve than whatever they're using now.

This tidbit comes from Erika Hall's genius book on user research: Just Enough Research. (You should read it.)

Users aren't going to go out of their way to add a new item to their to-do list, they're focusing on what they need to do now. What does your product/service do to remove an item instead of adding one? How will you make this concept fit into their lives tomorrow? If you can achieve that, that's great marketing.

This week's vibe: doing things yourself

Just for fun—it might be a photo, a meme, an idea, a recommendation, or whatever else I'm into right now.

Four homemade bagels fresh out of the oven.

The saying "If you want something done right, do it yourself," has gotten more and more relevant to me over the years as I've picked up more skills in work and life. And one of the areas where it's particularly relevant is in food.

They really don't make bagels correctly anywhere else but in New York / New Jersey. But you can get shockingly close in your own home kitchen.

No mass-produced, plastic-wrapped, once-frozen bagel is going to taste like a New York bagel shop. So stop trying to buy the perfect bagel and instead make your own perfect bagel.

Exhibit A ->

Thanks for being here! See you next week,

Sam

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#web3#web3 marketing#growth#crypto#arweave
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