An interview with Ricky Dodds, Communications Lead at ICON
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.
Ricky Dodds leads the strategy and communications arm at ICON – a decentralized network that allows independent blockchains to transact with one another without intermediaries.
Ricky 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 going into marketing for ICON?
Ricky: Before ICON, I worked in investment banking for 7+ years, helping companies raise equity through initial public offerings, secondary offerings, and private placements. Additionally, I spent time in Equity Research covering financial institutions like JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs, and Morgan Stanley, providing advisory services to hedge funds, pension funds, sovereign wealth funds, and asset managers.
Rochelle: Do you remember the first time you learned how to market? What was it that clicked for you?
RIcky: I think that learning how to market is an ongoing process because it’s ever-changing. But I believe the most important skills to have are the ability to sell and the ability to tell a story. I learned those skills while working in investment banking by regularly interacting with CEO, CFOs, and business line heads of the leading organizations in the world. Observing and learning from some of the most talented people in the financial services space also helped.
“I think that learning how to market is an ongoing process because it’s ever-changing.”
Rochelle: How is marketing in crypto different from what you were doing previously?
RIcky: There is some modest overlap in content creation, but it’s a more diverse market than my former capacity, not only in geography but also the number of stakeholders. In crypto you’re marketing to developers, validators, entrepreneurs, enterprise companies and token holders/potential token holders, and all of these require different approaches.
Rochelle: Has your marketing strategy changed since you started?
Ricky: We’re still refining our approach and bringing in the necessary resources to build a top-tier process. Thankfully, our talented community has helped to speed up our growth. Not only do they produce high-quality visual content, but they also provide some of the best distribution in the entire space. But as far as changes, we’re maintaining a better presence in the channels where we see the most engagement and limiting our time and efforts in the areas where the benefits are less clear. By taking a more analytical approach to understanding our efforts, we found we can better utilize our time and resources. I would say it is still a work in progress, but we are making improvements.
Rochelle: What would you say is the most challenging aspect of leading marketing efforts for a public decentralized network?
Ricky: I think the primary challenge is how to prioritize marketing and growth efforts to the correct stakeholders in the network. As a non-profit foundation, we need to make sure every resource is put to good use for a clear ecosystem benefit, and there isn’t a public blockchain marketing playbook. We are creating it as we go.
“As a non-profit foundation, we need to make sure every resource is put to good use for a clear ecosystem benefit, and there isn’t a public blockchain marketing playbook. We are creating it as we go.”
Rochelle: What do you focus on to differentiate ICON from other blockchain networks?
RIcky: I think it depends on the audience. For developers, it is our Python-based technology and upcoming upgrade to Core 2 called Batang, based on Go. For entrepreneurs looking to explore our technology, it is our grant program, contribution proposal system (which acts as a DAO fund), and accelerator, ICX_Station. For crypto and blockchain enthusiasts, it is our enterprise and government adoption through our ecosystem partner ICONLOOP including the Seoul Metropolitan Government, Jeju Island, and some of the largest financial institutions in Korea. And for token holders, it is our innovative governance design, attractive staking reward, and risk-adjusted return metrics.
Rochelle: The Tie worked with us to analyze ICON’s growth on social media. Looking at Twitter, they found that your number of mentions grew by over 383% since the beginning of 2020, from an average of 60 mentions a day to 291. What would you attribute to such growth?
RIcky: CT is probably the most important market for us in gathering new token holders and protocol users. And despite the increased focus this year, there is still a lot of room for improvement. We have initiatives in the pipeline to help, but these metrics should also trend higher as adoption of ICON network increases.
Rochelle: $ICX’s FCAS has also increased 19.62% since the beginning of the year, which reflects growth in ICON’s fundamental data. What do you think of crypto ratings that measure the health of networks? Do you use them to measure growth? What type of KPIs do you look at otherwise?
Ricky: ICON’s improvement isn’t a surprise given some of the initiatives and noteworthy achievements thus far in 2020. I’m a big fan of analytical platforms, such as Flipside Crypto, that seek to measure performance or the health of networks. That said, we don’t necessarily point to these metrics on an ongoing basis, although we do keep a close eye on them. Internally, we track KPIs (such as active wallets) and growth metrics that we review as a group every week and make adjustments where necessary.
“I’m a big fan of analytical platforms, such as Flipside Crypto, that seek to measure performance or the health of networks.”