Is polkadot a brand?

This post is inspired by ongoing discussions / debates about the positioning of the Polkadot brand and communication in general see: Polkadot Summit - Brand Refresh Workshop, Polkadot Messaging/Positioning/Narrative Thoughts and Polkadot Brand Refresh

The problem (edited for clarity)

The solution (edited for clarity)

Let’s take a few steps back… just what is a brand?

A brand is a name, term, design, symbol or any other feature that distinguishes one seller’s good or service from those of other sellers.[2][3][4][5]. - Wikipedia

Ok, so a brand sells something. Got it.

David Ogilvy (a famous ad creative defined a brand as: “the intangible sum of a product’s attributes: its name, packaging, and price, its history, its reputation, and the way it’s advertised.”

Ok, so a brand exists to focus narrative power into identifiable mixed media symbols - let’s just call this synthesis a feeling.

So what is Polkadot?

Ok simple enough question, but not as easy to answer as you’d think…

Polkadot the brand

Is a feeling a trademark? Hmm. Did everyone descend on this forum due to the threat of legal action? Not sure, but probably not.

Polkadot the idea

Yes. This feels better. People were excited by a vision. A fairer internet. A Web3 world. Bring down the establishment! own your data! disassemble the patriarchy! Anyways. Yes, this is great.

But was that the Polkadot vision, or the Web3 vision? Hmm. Ok.

Let’s leave Web3 for now, - let’s get back to Polkadot - after all, its not just a philosophical idea (Web3), it’s a design idea - a relay, shared security, parachains, collectives, coretime, XCM, we could go on.

Right. So are all relays, parachains and collectives ‘Polkadot’?

  • Is Kusama ‘Polkadot’?
  • Is Karura- ‘Polkadot’?
  • Is The Fellowship?


If Kusama is bridged to Polkadot, does it become a parachain?

Or is Polkadot a parachain of Kusama?

If a tree falls in a forest and there is no one to hear, does it make a noise? Good questions.

Quick lets move on.

Polkadot the person

Let’s cut to the meat, Polkadot is also a belief in a singular vision.

In a founder who sees the future.

With a track record. With a cult following. This is power.

Great brands are really just stories about people. After all, we are all people (other than a few SuperIntelligent Anon Flagging AIs), and therefore we tend to see the world through the stories of other people…

So really, Polkadot is a bet on one man’s ability to change the world.
Ok, we’re on firmer ground again thank god.

Polkadot the token

Now as much as everyone loves defending trademarks, chewing on world changing ideas and witnessing the singular power of founders to create reality distortion fields there’s also the small matter of, well, getting stinking rich.

Polkadot is also DOT.

If by some unfortunate fluke, a grumpy parity core dev wiped all balances in some ode to the end of Fight Club, what would happen?

  • Would the trademark be defended with continuing determination?
  • Would the idea remain as potent, would it still capture the attention of followers?
  • Would the visionary continue to be elevated to grand heights?

Anyways I hear you cry, this is all hypothetical nonsense.

DOT is a $6bn monster and we’re all going to the moon.

Move on.

polkadot the protocol

Ok. note the lower case - because there’s this messy thing called the polkadot protocol.

It’s not a trademark.
It’s not an idea - since it has hard edges.
It’s not a person - though it is designed.
It’s not a token - though it is coordinated through one.

So is Kusama part of the protocol.

Yes. And no. Well sort of.

What about Substrate?

Yes that’s the protocol. And no. Well sort of.

polkadot the software

Yeah, now this makes sense. I think. You see polkadot is software - fu SEC #bullish.

It’s not just a trademark, an idea, a person, a token, a protocol, it’s also good old fashioned tech.

So what does the software do?

Well it’s software to coordinates the development of itself. Hmm. Deep. Itself?

Yeah, it’s a machine, building a machine.

Sure. So what does the machine do?

Well, it does what it does. Unless it changes. Then it becomes something new.


polkadot the product

Yeah. What’s the product.

Well it’s shared security.

But I thought it was coretime?

Oh yes. It’s both.

But more. It’s also a software called Substrate for developing new versions of the existing version, that may or may not connect to the current version.

Right. And so these new versions. What are they? Well they’re parachains. Or apps. Or they could be anything that needs blockspace.

Blockspace? Ok. Right. I’m going to have to lie down.

Summary: polkadot the narrative

So lets try and summarise things.

  • Polkadot is and isn’t a brand.
  • Polkadot is definitely a trademark… but its sort of irrelevant.
  • Polkadot is an idea - though that idea is open to interpretation
  • Polkadot is a person - but for it to succeed, it needs to be apolitical
  • Polkadot is a token and a market cap (but speculation tends to work directly against adoption).
  • Polkadot is a protocol - but it’s pretty hard to see the edges…
  • Polkadot is software - but its software for creating itself…
  • Polkadot is a product (or products?) - it’s security, its coretime, it’s ‘quality blockspace’…

You cannot tell us what Polkadot is.

Polkadot is whatever people want it to be.

In the end, it it already a ‘headless brand’.

I personally have no interest in the brand narratives being presented or discussed, others might, but they all seem generic, undifferentiated and already behind the curve.

You don’t get anywhere interesting with focus groups. Just mediocrity. Middle of the road. Grey.

But I get it, people have jobs. They must follow a process.
They must deliver the work. They must be, busy.

Despite the market cap and the billboards in airports, Polkadot is not a ‘blue chip brand’… billion dollar valuations do not make crypto-networks comparable to Nike, or Apple, or Vodafone.

To think so is the height of hubris.

Polkadot is a scrappy startup, reaching for product market fit, weighed down (like the rest of crypto) by astronomical valuations that are so far detached from reality it is absurd.

On top of this, most of the people attempting to dictate it’s brand story have never actually used it, nor considered the fact that there may just be a different way to create coherence from the noise…

Reassuringly, this is a standard pattern for social networks… (which Polkadot/polkadot is), since it is the culture of the people who inhabit the protocol who define its purpose.

YouTube was designed as a dating app.
So was Facebook.

You cannot tell people to use Polkadot.

It takes the users of the technology to shape its purpose. To define it culture. To ensure its adoption.

We are the users we seek.

Once you forget the valuations and disregard the treasuries and the zero sum games the incentives create, you find yourself free… free to think bold, lateral and dare we day dangerous thoughts.

For polkadot is at its core, just an idea… and that idea is at its most potent about rebellion.

  • It is rebellions that light fires in hardened hearts.
  • That motivate actions with no interest in economic reward.
  • That sends people into a battle they can’t win, simply because they feel something.

This is how polkadot - the idea - succeeds. There is no other way.

Undermine their pompous authority, reject their moral standards, make anarchy and disorder your trademarks. Cause as much chaos and disruption as possible but don’t let them take you ALIVE - Sid Vicious

1 Like

We think that hyperstructure is the concept that better defines what Polkadot is.

For reference Hyperstructures


what do you consider ‘Polkadot’? what is not ‘Polkadot’?

for example say DOT retains a high market cap, but struggles to generate fees / adoption, and some other relay/parachain with the same design principles, also built on Substrate, delivered more effective ‘adoption’ - is this also Polkadot?

If this fulfils your hyperstructure narrative is it ‘polkadot’?

Leaving out the obvious legal constrains of a registered trademark, we would say that Polkadot can be classified as a hyperstructure, but not all hyperstructures are Polkadot.

Delving into the concept of identity as the invariants within a stream of changes constituting a historical sequence, we find that the decentralized automata Polkadot has an origin—the genesis block—and maintains an ongoing integration of changes into the current consensuated state. These changes are produced either by external agents or by the automated logic of the software itself. The regulations governing the automata’s transitions and resulting states are precisely defined and enacted in a decentralized way by the nodes executing the software.

This perspective accounts for the technical side of Polkadot’s identity embodied in the chain. However, it is only a partial viewpoint if we neglect to consider the social system structurely coupled with the technical one. This coupling involves users, who can be either human entities, collectives or other automaton like parachains. A prominent instance is the governance and software development social systems, which wield the authority to influence the technical and economic trajectory of Polkadot.

for example say DOT retains a high market cap, but struggles to generate fees / adoption, and some other relay/parachain with the same design principles, also built on Substrate, delivered more effective ‘adoption’ - is this also Polkadot?

My answer would be no :smiley:

Let’s take the infamous DAO fork of Ethereum as an example. The fork caused two versions of Ethereum to emerge: the version where the hacked funds were recovered and the other version which continued on without these changes that require a hard fork orchestrated at the Ethereum social level. In the end, the hard fork maintained the identity of Ethereum while the other is now known as Ethereum Classic - a complete different network. What or who decided on this identification? I would say that it’s the Ethereum community. Since (1) the majority of the community supported the fork and (2) it kept the current chain state, it remained as Ethereum. In the case of a new chain, as described in your question, the network effects (accounts, balances, gateways, exchanges etc.) are lost and thus it is a complete new entity. As another recent extravagant example, there is PulseChain that cloned the Ethereum chain state but switched the community.

Wild and crazy times xD

1 Like

Thanks for the thoughtful response.

So let’s bring things back to Polkadot with this context in place.

How do you see Polkadot (DOT) and Kusama (KSM) through this lens?

How are they “the same”, how are they “different”?

Well, Kusama has its own synthetic identity: its genesis (connected to Polkadot), history (building up its security) and its current onchain state so it’s empirically distinct. The imcumbents are as well different, regardless if they are as well incumbents of the Polkadot social system or not.

There are relationships between one and the other, Kusama serving as a canary network, but that implies that they are separate entities. There is as well the analytical identity Dotsama that abstractly joins the two entities under the same syntagma, however the respective synthetic identities with their own content and expression remain differentiated.

From this perspective, Polkadot and Kusama are not essentially brands, although they could use branding as a way to sell their blockspace. However, this seems to apply more to service providers that are end-user facing e.g. DApps, parachains. What Polkadot needs is to fund good projects that could stimulate the demand, knowing that, for example, the Ethereum L2s and DApps are bound to its stake in ETH and they are unlikely to migrate to Polkadot even if its blockspace is technically superior and cheaper.

1 Like