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Gold vs Crypto: A Tale of Two Marketing Stories

Gold and cryptocurrency are two of many places where people can put their money.

As is the case with many asset classes, there are a number of high-profile, wealthy marketers who are proponents of the respective investment options.

In the competition of crypto vs gold, the two representative groups of marketers are at distinct odds with one another. Gold vs crypto has become a vocal competition for wallet share.

After watching the following debate between respective gold and crypto marketers, it occurred to me that they are each telling a similar marketing story — but that there is a major difference at the end of their respective stories.

From a pure marketing perspective, one of the two story endings is more powerful (so far).

Story Telling in Marketing

If you are a marketer and have not read Building a StoryBrand by Donald Miller, you should add it to your reading list.

Stories can be a powerful marketing tool, but the problem with stories is that most marketers don’t know how to tell them.

Miller’s book tells you exactly how to create a story for your brand. The StoryBrand BrandScript has these seven elements.

  1. A character
  2. Has a problem
  3. And meets a guide
  4. Who has a plan
  5. And calls them to action
  6. That helps them avoid failure
  7. And results in success

After you spend time learning about StoryBrand, the framework starts to present itself to you from all corners.

As Donald Miller writes in his book, “Once you know the formulas, you can predict the path most stories will take. I’ve learned these formulas so well, that my wife hates going to movies with me.” Miller goes on to say that he keeps telling his wife exactly what is going to happen next in a movie’s plot.

The stories jumped out at me as I watched this particular gold vs crypto debate. Let’s look at the stories in the context of Miller’s StoryBrand framework.

1. A character

The character in this story is an individual investor — regardless of whether they have $100 to invest or $1 million to invest.

The investor character represents a huge market opportunity for purveyors of crypto and gold. Approximately 10% of Americans own gold as an investment and about 16% have “invested in, traded or otherwise used” cryptocurrency.

2. Has a problem

The investor’s external problem may be that they don’t have as much value in their owned assets as they would like.

They may either be concerned about losing purchasing power due to inflation — or they have aspirations of great wealth that they have not yet achieved. Either way, the “villain” in the story is a flat or depreciating asset portfolio.

An investor’s internal problem may be that they are envious of their neighbor’s beautiful lakefront vacation home. They want to own a bigger and more expensive vacation home than their neighbor. This level of problem is what may ultimately attract them to one story over the other.

3. And meets a guide

In the gold and crypto worlds, there are many guides. The two you can see in the above YouTube thumbnail are Peter Schiff and Richard Heart.

Schiff runs and markets a company named SchiffGold, which sells physical gold and other precious metals. Schiff also markets a gold mining ETF through his company EuroPacific Capital.

Heart runs and markets an altcoin company called HEX. Investors can stake the HEX coin for several years, in a way that’s promoted as the blockchain equivalent of a bank’s certificate of deposit (CD). This staking is part of what makes HEX different from cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and Ethereum.

4. Who has a plan

In marketing, a plan generally answers the question, “how does it work?”

Hex.com has a menu item, “How it Works” that goes to a page “How HEX Works.”

SchiffGold.com answers the question in a homepage letter from Schiff to the visitor. There is also an explainer video.

5. And calls them to action

According to Miller, the call to action on a website should answer the question, “How do I get it?” Both Heart and Schiff answer that question in textbook format.

On HEX.com, the call to action is a bold button at the top right of the homepage (and interior pages) that reads, “How to Buy.” HEX.com’s “How to Buy” page spells out the four simple steps for buying HEX.

Schiff’s call to action is a homepage button that reads, “Get Started Today.” The “Get Started” page shows the four simple steps for buying and receiving physical precious metals.

6. That helps them avoid failure

This is where it gets more interesting. Schiff positions gold (and other commodities) as a hedge against inflation.

But Schiff also puts a major emphasis on avoiding much larger financial losses. According to Schiff, gold’s main competitors — cryptocurrencies — will all eventually go to zero.

Heart’s version of failure is the outcome of keeping investment money in any sort of relatively stagnant asset, including gold.

7. And results in success

Heart and other crypto marketers put their emphasis on a [possible] future success scenario that is based on past success over a short period of time. This is one of the big marketing edges of crypto over gold.

It’s important to note that success is not promised — it’s left to the potential investor to decide this on their own.

The picture of success is painted through charts, which in the case of HEX, shows that there has been a meteoric rise over a short period of time.

In the debate, Heart holds up a number of printed charts as proof of success to date. Below is a snapshot of a chart from HEX.com.

Two points about the chart. The Y-axis shows a logarithmic price scale, which shows a smoother progression than a linear scale. The X-axis shows numbers of days rather than date ranges, which means the viewer expends fewer mental calories.

HEX Chart

The HEX website points out that the price of HEX appreciated 984,000% in 818 days. Anyone who purchased $105 of HEX at its low of $0.00006 would have become a millionaire.

In fact, the “success based on past performance” approach extends to many other marketing media, including print ads, airport posters, and painted cars.

By necessity, Schiff frames success in a more subtle way. Gold price charts don’t tell as compelling a part of the story in terms of recent performance.

Over time, gold has grown in dollar value — but it’s grown a lot more slowly than crypto. Also, in 2010, Schiff suggested a future gold price of $10,000 on CNBC — and so far that prediction has only come within about 20% of materializing.

Gold Price 1970-2022

Is There a Marketing Lesson Here?

Regardless of whether you believe that certain cryptocurrencies will go to zero or go to infinity — or whether you believe that gold will stay flat for the next decade or double in a year — this is an interesting case study for those of us who market more garden-variety products and services.

For many marketers, a B2B client’s future success is a less speculative proposition than the dollar price of cryptocurrency or gold. There is also less at stake financially.

For services businesses, the value we create is not as much based on what we have done as much as it is on what we will do — how well we are able to execute on a plan for the next client.

Having said that, if an ascending chart of your past success is part of your marketing story, that may result in more sales conversations.



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