An interview with Adelyn Zhou, CMO and Head of Marketing at Chainlink.
Blockchain marketers face a very unique challenge. Not only do they have to compete with thousands of other platforms to attract a limited set of developers, but they also have to raise awareness about nascent (but powerful!) technology that the mainstream still associates with hackers and criminal activity. To top it off, they have to grow this product globally from the get-go, to keep the network decentralized. All that, without any playbook of course.
Adelyn Zhou is the Chief Marketing Officer at Chainlink Labs, leading marketing for Chainlink, the world’s fastest growing decentralized oracle network. The project’s market capitalization, now the 6th highest among all digital assets at $4.7 billion, according to CoinGecko, reflects Chainlink’s position as the leading crypto “oracle” provider. Today, the Chainlink oracle network works with over 250 blockchains, dapps, and other projects to provide tamper proof and secure inputs and outputs for smart contracts.
Adelyn made the list of the best marketers in Blockchain for 2020 – a list of 35 individuals whose organizations were measured by the lift in FCAS Rating, which indicates user and developer activity as well as overall market risk, and growth in Twitter mentions as measured by The Tie.
Rochelle: What were you doing before becoming the CMO of SmartContract to work on Chainlink
Adelyn: Prior to my focus on Chainlink, I spent a decade working for a variety of top startups and technology enterprises including Amazon, Nextdoor, and Eventbrite. The common thread between all of my experiences is that each role I took is on the forefront of new and emerging technologies. For example, I lead growth efforts at Nextdoor, the popular social media network for neighborhoods. There I oversaw growth, which at the time was a new discipline that included the intersection of marketing, design and product. In another role, I started a company that helped enterprises apply artificial intelligence to their businesses. This was before most people understood what AI/ML was and the competitive advantage it provided. I took my learnings working with the likes of Paypal, LinkedIn, etc. and wrote a book on how companies can integrate machine learning into their businesses. The book was selected by CES as a top book of 2018.
When I was first introduced to Chainlink, I was struck by the importance of the mission to solve the oracle problem. At the time, few in the blockchain industry even knew what oracles were, let alone the larger problem associated with connecting smart contracts with real world data. At this nascent stage, developers were still so focused on building blockchains and dapps, they hadn’t really taken into account the importance of oracles when it comes to making smart contracts secure and useful for things beyond tokenization. Recognizing the significance of Chainlink’s role in the future of the blockchain tech stack, as well as the opportunity to evangelize a technology that would change and mature an entire industry, I joined Chainlink Labs at the ground floor to work on the protocol full time.
Rochelle: What things do you wish you’d known before you started?
Adelyn: Marketing in the blockchain industry is completely different from that of any other. That’s why it’s simultaneously challenging and exciting. The technology that’s being built today will fundamentally change the world of tomorrow, both for the individual and for society as a whole. Everyone involved is incredibly passionate about their work, their projects, the protocols they believe in etc., and from a marketing perspective, it’s imperative to create strategies that actively tap into and acknowledge the enthusiasm of this audience.
Additionally, the space just moves incredibly quickly. When it comes to keeping up with new technologies, shifting perspectives, tribal clashes, etc. It’s like drinking from a firehose. As a marketing professional in blockchain, you can’t half heartedly watch from the sidelines or you’ll be left behind. You’re either in or you’re out.
“As a marketing professional in blockchain, you can’t half heartedly watch from the sidelines or you’ll be left behind. You’re either in or you’re out.”
Rochelle: How is marketing of a blockchain platform different from what you were doing previously?
Adelyn: Blockchain is very different from other emerging technology platforms in the sense that these decentralized networks are supported by communities that increasingly associate their membership with their own personal identities.
Not only do people in the blockchain space ardently believe in the potential of technology on paper, they also recognize that decentralized networks will not succeed without the support and hard work of the community, and so they often feel a sense of genuine ownership, responsibility, and camaraderie with other network supporters. The resulting passion is something you just won’t find in any other space. To put it bluntly, I doubt you’ll ever see people get this excited about SaaS technology.
“The passion is something you just won’t find in any other space. To put it bluntly, I doubt you’ll ever see people get this excited about SaaS technology”.
Chainlink is actually a really great example. Chainlink has developed one of the largest communities in the crypto space, rivaled only by Bitcoin and Ethereum. As an open source protocol, we actively welcome anyone to contribute to the network, developers or otherwise.
Rochelle: What would you say is the most challenging aspect of leading marketing efforts for a public decentralized network?
Adelyn: The most challenging bit is also the most rewarding: a driven community with a mind of its own. This means that marketing in support of a decentralized network is a process that requires constant learning, growing, and two-way communication. Overall, we think that this phenomenon is a wonderful thing. Our community of believers, who devote their time and energy to the project, are a strong, daily reminder of the importance of our mission. We fervently believe Chainlink will bring about fairer economies and fundamentally transform the financial mobility of many people through the rise of technically-enforced contracts. As technology stewards who have a responsibility to fulfill the promise of this technology, our community keeps us energized and excited as we try to change the world.
Rochelle: Would you say marketing in the crypto space is unique? If so, why?
Adelyn: Yes, definitely. There are types of legacy marketing where you’re constantly thinking about funnels, channels, user bases etc. However, there is this passion in the community aspect of blockchain that really isn’t present anywhere else, except for maybe phenomena like Peloton or Crossfit. You have to believe in what you are building and that genuine passion comes through in everything that you do. Furthermore, the successful projects in this space are all built on an open source foundation. We’re all motivated to grow the overall blockchain industry and applications together.
Rochelle: If you were to give advice to someone starting in marketing for a blockchain startup, what resources would you recommend they turn to?
Adelyn: There’s a lot of nuance to the blockchain space and you want to make sure you’re constantly growing your knowledge base. On a daily basis, you should be reading up on protocols, signing up for newsletters like The Defiant, watching videos and speeches, etc. Just as important, you should also actively participate in the space by attending meetups (virtual or otherwise) or contributing to the blockchain communities you believe in.
Rochelle: How do you market for a product that is inherently global?
Adelyn: We have a global team of community advocates and ambassadors in over 40 locations who help us translate our content into different languages. They also help answer questions and spread our message to their local regions. We’ve found that it’s imperative to connect with people in their local language. Remember, not everyone speaks english. Much like blockchains, decentralized oracle networks like Chainlink are global by nature. As evidenced by our Smart Contract Summit held last month, which had people in attendance from over 100 countries, we have a global network, and we intend to continue our reach in the future.
Rochelle: Has your marketing strategy changed since you started?
Adelyn: When I first started, almost nobody knew what the oracle problem was. I spent a lot of time in the beginning educating people on what oracles were and why centralized versions represented a point of failure for smart contracts. Today, I believe most people in the industry recognize the importance of oracles that are secure, reliable, and decentralized, and I definitely believe that is because of the marketing work that our team has done over the last few years. Our next stage in marketing focus is helping people outside of the core community get a better understanding of blockchains and oracles and the ways in which these technologies can be integrated with legacy systems.
Rochelle: Does the fact that Chainlink is an oracle provider – i.e. that its blockchain network has a specific use-case – make it different from other blockchains to market?
Adelyn: Chainlink is not a blockchain. Chainlink is a decentralized oracle network. It’s essentially an abstraction layer that sits between the blockchain and off-chain, real world data. Though aspects of the technology are currently built atop of Ethereum, the protocol is blockchain agnostic, meaning it can provide off-chain data to any blockchain on the market. Over 50 blockchains have integrated with the Chainlink network, including smart contract platforms like Hedera Hashgraph, Avalanche, Tezos and more.
Rochelle: The Tie worked with us to analyze Chainlink’s growth on social. Looking at Twitter, they found that Chainlink’s mention grew by over 940% since the beginning of 2020, from around 460 mentions a day to over 4,800. How important is social media in your marketing strategy and how do you think its role differs from industries?
Adelyn: Social media is important to our strategy because a lot of people first learn about Chainlink through platforms like Twitter, Telegram, and Reddit. In general, the blockchain industry as a whole is very active online, so it’s important to approach marketing through several channels. We share a lot of major Chainlink-related announcements on Twitter. You can follow us at: https://twitter.com/chainlink.