BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, has launched a new spot Bitcoin exchange-traded fund (ETF) called iShares Bitcoin Trust (IBIT). Unlike other Bitcoin ETF issuers, who use pop-culture references and flashy imagery to attract investors, BlackRock has opted for a more “boring” and “adult” approach in its marketing campaign.
On Jan. 11, BlackRock released its first video ad for IBIT, which features Jay Jacobs, the U.S. head of thematics and alternative ETFs, explaining the benefits of investing in Bitcoin through the new ETF. Jacobs states that IBIT is easily accessible, conveniently removes operational burdens, and is issued under BlackRock’s reputation and expertise in the ETF space.
The ad is simple, calm, and straightforward, without any hype or jargon. It aims to educate potential investors about Bitcoin’s value proposition and how IBIT can provide exposure to the leading cryptocurrency.
Why BlackRock’s ‘boring’ ad works for boomers
Some commentators have praised BlackRock’s ad strategy, saying that it is more effective in targeting the rich “boomer” market, who are typically older, more conservative, and more affluent than the younger generations.
“This is how you market to rich boomers, folks. The calm disposition, easy to understand inv case, soft new age music, suit with no tie… everything about it says ‘it’s ok now, the adults are here,’” observed Bloomberg ETF analyst Eric Balchunas in a Jan. 14 post.
Chris Dark, founder and managing partner of Fourth Turning Investments, referred to the advertisement as “so boring it’s brilliant” because of its apparent appeal to boomers.
“My god this is a great Boomer ad for Blackrock BTC ETF. Absolutely everything that will drive BTC maxis insane. The ad is so boring it’s brilliant (for the intended audience),” he tweeted.
Digital asset investor Fred Krueger also sees the ad as being more palatable for “wealthy boomers,” who may not trust the more radical and disruptive narratives of some Bitcoin enthusiasts.
“My generation of wealthy boomers doesn’t particularily like tatoo-covered Gen-x ers telling them that the entire financial system needs to be scrapped.” But they’re happy now that they can invest in Bitcoin via traditional finance firms. “We’re happily adding IBIT and FBTC to our portfolios, because we trust BlackRock and Fidelity […] This is a Wall-Street take-over of the Bitcoin narrative. Resistance will be futile.”
How BlackRock’s ad compares to other Bitcoin ETF ads
BlackRock’s ad stands out from the other Bitcoin ETF ads that have been released since the first one from Bitwise on Dec. 18. Other ETF issuers, such as Hashdex, VanEck, ARK Invest, Grayscale, and Valkyrie, have used more catchy and colorful ads, with references to pop culture, memes, celebrities, and slogans.
For example, Hashdex’s ad features a rap song by Lil Bubble, a crypto parody artist, with lyrics such as “Bitcoin ETF, it’s the best thing ever, it’s like Bitcoin but better.” VanEck’s ad shows a young woman using a smartphone app to buy Bitcoin, with the tagline “Bitcoin for the people.” ARK Invest’s ad features a voice-over by its founder and CEO, Cathie Wood, saying “Bitcoin is a new asset class, and it’s here to stay.” Grayscale’s ad shows various people holding signs with Bitcoin-related messages, such as “Bitcoin is freedom,” “Bitcoin is for everyone,” and “Bitcoin is the future.” Valkyrie’s ad displays its ticker symbol, BRRR, on a billboard in Times Square, New York City, with the sound of a money printer in the background.
These ads are more likely to appeal to the younger and more tech-savvy generations, who are more familiar with the culture and language of the crypto space. They also aim to convey a sense of excitement, innovation, and empowerment that Bitcoin can offer.
What to expect next from the Bitcoin ETF market
The Bitcoin ETF market in the U.S. is still in its early stages, with only seven spot Bitcoin ETFs and one futures-based Bitcoin ETF approved by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) so far. However, the demand and interest for these products are expected to grow, as more investors seek exposure to the cryptocurrency without having to deal with the technical and regulatory challenges of buying and storing it directly.
According to data from ETF.com, the seven spot Bitcoin ETFs have collectively amassed over $2.6 billion in assets under management (AUM) as of Jan. 14, with the largest one being the ProShares Bitcoin Strategy ETF (BITO), which has over $1.3 billion in AUM. The futures-based Bitcoin ETF, the VanEck Bitcoin Strategy ETF (XBTF), has over $300 million in AUM.
The competition among the Bitcoin ETF issuers is likely to intensify, as they try to differentiate themselves from each other and attract more investors. Marketing campaigns, such as the ones discussed above, are one way to achieve this goal. However, other factors, such as fees, liquidity, performance, and reputation, may also play a role in influencing investors’ decisions.
As the Bitcoin ETF market matures, investors will have more options and opportunities to gain exposure to the cryptocurrency. Whether they prefer a “boring” or a “flashy” ad, they will ultimately have to decide which Bitcoin ETF suits their needs and preferences best.