When the cryptocurrency Dogecoin (DOGE)’ comes up in conversation today, it is usually mentioned alongside household names like Elon Musk’ or the now-notorious r/WallStreetBets Reddit page. Four years ago, however, you would be lucky to find anyone that knew of its existence. So what PR magic transpired that propelled DOGE from a meme-inspired marketing joke to one of the biggest names in the crypto-sphere?
Dogecoin was created from a fork of Luckycoin (previously Litecoin) on December 6th, 2013 by Adobe Product Marketing Manager Jackson Palmer and software engineer Billy Markus but the project was never intended to be an earnest venture. In fact, you could claim that its creators did just about everything they could to make sure that DOGE was never taken seriously.
The DOGE image was based on a bizarre internet meme of a Japanese Shiba Inu dog that barked meaningless catch-phrases. There was also the matter of a supply of 100,000,000,000 tokens, and a random mining block reward schedule that offered miners no assurance of even breaking even for their efforts. Hardly the recipe for the next big altcoin sensation.
The story reads much like the Mel Brooks film “The Producers” in which Max Bialystock and accountant Leo Bloom set out to make a theater production with the intention of failing so they could avoid paying their shareholders and pocket the proceeds themselves. Well, Jackson and Billy never intended to bilk anyone out of their money but by all appearances, they did set out to make DOGE a commercial failure. Much like Max and Leo, though, they failed to account for people’s penchant for the ridiculous.
Despite setting out to make the project as “as ridiculous as possible”, the Dogecoin Reddit page r/dogecoin surpassed 19,000 users and the token price saw a 300% rise in market value after just two weeks. Shortly after, its developers tweaked the mining schedule to one similar to Bitcoin in early 2014 to make it more attractive to miners.
Strong early adoption of DOGE was spurred on by the tenacious and generous nature of the Dogecoin community, which donated to multiple sports-related causes throughout 2014. This generous reputation is one that still rings true today and is one of the early factors attributed to the coin’s continued success. The Dogecoin Reddit community gave generously to various charitable causes throughout 2014, including:
These acts of philanthropy furthered the project’s reputation and attracted attention in the mainstream media. The Jamaican bobsled team funding story had an air of Disney about it and was picked up by major news outlets in the US, UK, and Russia. The #98 Moonrocket Nascar was also adorned by the Shiba Inu meme, representing the first time the face of DOGE was seen by patrons at a real sports event. That proved to be a marketing masterstroke.
The years that followed saw DOGE spend time in the doldrums, relative to the success of Bitcoin and others in the same period, as its original creators abandoned the project and development stagnated.
But the last 12 months have seen a meteoric rise of DOGE with the project gaining a growing list of influential celebrity followers including Netflix’s “Tiger King” star Carole Baskin, Snoop Dogg, Gene Simmons, and most notably, Tesla CEO Elon Musk.
On the actual moon
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) February 24, 2021
A series of Tweets (to 46.9 million followers) from the world’s richest man’s official Twitter account starting back in 2018 have helped to propel DOGE into viral stardom. Voted as the most desired replacement CEO of Dogecoin in an April Fool’s day Twitter poll in 2019, Elon already had a loose affiliation with the project and was on the Dogecoin community’s radar, with Jackson leaving the project back in 2015.
Doge-mania continued to grow for the next few years, peaking in Q1 2021 when DOGE transactions briefly exceeded that of Bitcoin and on February 8th, the circulating supply reached a total market cap of $10 Billion, helping it to climb into the top ten cryptocurrencies for the first time since 2015. This herculean feat was largely aided by an organized pump by notorious Reddit group r/WallStreetBets, who pushed the price up 800% towards a new all-time high above $0.08 at the same time Elon released another Doge-related Tweet.
From a marketing perspective, Dogecoin really should not have succeeded in the way that it did — but with an almost cult-level status now, it seems that the story is far from over. Perhaps Elon summarized the Dogecoin conundrum the most eloquently when he stated: “Dogecoin was made as a joke to make fun of cryptocurrencies, but fate loves irony.”
With this irony in mind, it seems fitting that the coin that was once the mockery of the crypto space is superseding more technically-advanced projects in market value and industry adoption. Only this February, CovCare became the first company to accept Dogecoin for medical-related payments, with the medical supplies leader now accepting DOGE for its online PPE purchases.
The project’s remarkable resurrection over the past few years is largely due to people’s infatuation with the bizarre. It represents a unique type of viral magnetism, the growing popularity of meme culture, and is one of the most resolute and proactive communities in the crypto industry.
The only question that remains now is what direction the project will take going forward. Industry leaders are seriously starting to look at Dogecoin as a viable partner and method of payment, despite the fact that the software has not been upgraded since June 2019. With a new level of fame to contend with, it is now on Billy Marcus to take the reins and bring the DOGE source code up to 2021 standards. Aided by Dogecoin lead maintainer, Ross Nicoll, and four other lead developers, the project is now set to roll out another major release to address Dogecoin’s scalability and security issues by the end of 2021.