MAY 02, 2014
USEFUL METAPHORS: WHY ROBOCOIN IS REBRANDING ITS ATMS
Robocoin appears all too willing to dismiss the success it found last year with its Bitcoin ATMs.
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Robocoin appears all too willing to dismiss the success it found last year with its Bitcoin ATMs. The company has since rebranded those machines as “bank branches” as part of a larger initiative called Robocoin Bank, set to launch this summer.
In addition to the repositioning, Robocoin Bank will introduce a few new features to Robocoin, including online account management, cryptographic Proof of Solvency, instant BTC-to-fiat cash withdrawals and an entire remittances platform so users can send cash (even fiat) internationally.
“We realized very quickly that we needed to build an online bank,” Robocoin CEO Jordan Kelley told Coindesk. “That way, our customers don’t have to worry about private keys anymore.”
There is an insight in Kelley’s comments that harkens all the way back to professor Everett Rogers’ theory of the diffusion of innovations, first set out in 1962.
Rogers laid out five factors that led people to adopt an innovation: Relative advantage, compatibility, complexity, triability and observability. It’s that third factor, complexity — which gauges whether the innovation is perceived as complicated or difficult to use — that causes friction among customers, stalls adoptions and leads to outright confusion as to what cryptocurrencies even are.
That’s where metaphors come in. The Bitcoin ATM itself is a useful metaphor to make sense of BTC-fiat transactions: These machines don’t actually allow you to withdraw cash from your personal bank account, but the interface and the process are similar enough that the metaphor works. Robocoin could have called their first machine, with similar accuracy, an “automated bureaux de change,” but that metaphor would have been lost on many users.
(To that end, the actions of “buy” and “sell” have been replaced in the company’s new vocabulary with “deposit” and “withdraw.”)
A better example of how this metaphor works is in Steve Jobs’ decision to call his company’s pocket computer “iPhone.” Although the iPhone in 2007 was really more of a next-generation PDA, calling it a phone evoked much more familiar imagery among a much wider group of people.
What Robocoin is Doing
By using the imagery of banks and branches, Robocoin is trying to evoke that same familiarity from the Early Majority, the third wave of adopters of a particular innovation in Rogers’ model.
It is ironic that the bank-and-branch metaphor could help sell cryptocurrency adoption, but that is exactly what got many of us excited about Neo & Bee, before that business turned out to be something else entirely.
Information technology long ago passed the point where the average person could actually understand how it worked, so most of us need metaphors to make sense of the innovations revolutionizing how we connect and transact.