Google has joined Facebook and Twitter in banning bitcoin/cryptocurrency ads – citing a need to tackle “the kinds of risky investments that verge on gambling”. This raises questions around how far an ad platform can go to protect its audience before being accused of censorship (esp. when they do actually take gambling ads), but we’d like to take the opportunity presented by a respite in Bitcoin hype to look back on December’s price increase, and use it as an example to highlight the importance of understanding the thoughts and feelings behind consumer behaviour.

Google searches for bitcoin’ are now back to pre-December levels, and we see a similar return to the norm for its value; $6k in Oct 17’ and $7k in April ’18, with a $19K spike in Dec ‘17 ). But should this have come as a surprise?
Firstly we saw big brands getting involved. As MarketingWeek put it “big brands are capitalising on the blockchain buzz”, with the likes of Burger King offering their own coins in gimmicky stunts, and Walmart using the technology for stock & provenance tracking. However, knowledge of such innovations is likely to stay within the tech/marketing industries.

The real context is with the general public. Our most recent QT study asked finance & cryptocurrency questions to a nationally representative UK sample. We found that there’s a strong lack of confidence in financial institutions (-26%), and more people feeling less well-off vs. last year (29% vs. 24%, with a greater increase for young males). Considering this context, it’s no surprise that the idea of a bank-less peer-to-peer system that promised profits garnered lots of attention. A huge 90% of people are aware of Bitcoin and half of them (46%) feel that they understand it, again driven by the younger males.

Whilst only 4% of people claim to own Bitcoin (for a raft of reasons from price volatility to its use by criminals), the context of declining confidence in banks and people tightening their belts, plus the interest from 31 million people in the UK (46%) familiar with Bitcoin, all contribute to the rocketing of its price. We’re unlikely to ever be able to predict financial markets, but this recent phenomenon has highlighted the important of understanding the consumer behind the behaviour. By keeping a close pulse on consumer’s thoughts and feelings, Bitcoin’s meteoric rise (and fall as hype & profits fade) comes as less of a surprise.