Bitcoin currency: You’ve got a long way to go, baby.


Whether it’s defaulting to preparing the same half-dozen dinner recipes, always taking the same travel route, or preferring traditional hyms and liturgy at religious services, humans tend to be creatures of habit.

Of course, there will always be the minority who revel in being the first to try out novel communications technologies … adopt the newest fashions … or take advantage of the latest investment schemes.

But most people would prefer to hold back and let someone else take the plunge first.

That’s precisely where things stand at the moment with the Bitcoin alternative currency.  The “virtual currency” has been around long enough so that it’s now getting coverage in the “popular” press … and there are even a few folks who have begun using it as an alternative to established currencies.

Indeed, for the past year now, a few national retailers and chain foodservice establishments have been accepting payments in Bitcoin currency.

But a just-released survey that queried consumer attitudes about the new-fangled currency – referred to as a “crypto-currency” by some – underscores how steep a climb the Bitcoin has before it can ever be considered a viable alternative to the Dollar or other established currencies.

TheStreet, a digital financial media company, commissioned the survey which was conducted in January 2014 by GfK Custom Research North America’s OMNITEL unit  A total of 1,005 telephone surveys were conducted with Americans age 18 or older.

Let’s start out with the most basic finding from the survey:  Three out of four respondents aren’t even familiar with the Bitcoin term.

So right off the bat, that’s a major hurdle.  The Bitcoin may have been the subject of numerous press stories and broadcast reports, but the news hasn’t seeped into the larger market consciousness to any great extent.

NoNext … even after the concept of the Bitcoin was described to them, the survey respondents remained distinctly chilly to the idea:

  • Nearly 80% would “never consider” using an alternative form of currency like the Bitcoin.
  • ~80% would rather own gold than Bitcoin currency.

Did the survey uncover different attitudes based on the age of the respondents?  Yes – to a degree:

  • Just under one-third of young respondents (age 18 to 24) would consider using an alternative form of currency like the Bitcoin … versus only about one in ten seniors (over age 65).
  • ~15% of the young respondents would prefer to own Bitcoin over gold … versus only ~4% of seniors.
  • ~57% of young respondents feel that Bitcoin currency helps the global economy … while just ~14% of senior feel the same way.

The main takeaway from the GfK/OMNITEL research?  Bitcoin proponents are going to have to keep plugging away for a good long time before positive public perceptions of an alternative currency take hold — including needing to focus on the most basic educational elements.

Considering the level of financial literacy out there … good luck with that effort.

If any readers have ever used Bitcoin as a currency and would care to comment on their experience pro or con, please share your thoughts here.

What do consumers think of America’s corporations?

Corporate Trust ... Corporate ReputationWith the budget negotiations in full swing – and high dudgeon – on Capital Hill, naturally the public’s critical eye is trained on our political figures. And Congress is most assuredly taking a beating in the political polls, with approval ratings plunging astonishly below the 20% figure.

[Of course, is that really so surprising? After all, Congress is pretty evenly matched between the two parties … so partisans see much to criticize on both sides.]

The focus of attention on Washington has taken the spotlight off of corporate America – at least in terms of media attention. But that doesn’t mean that “John Q. Public” is giving companies much of a break.

I’ve blogged before about corporate reputations — most recently commenting on a field survey conducted early this year by Harris Interactive that measured the appeal of 60 of the “most visible” American corporate brands. That survey showed an uptick in positive opinions about those firms when compared to prior-year results.

But a May 2011 survey by GfK Custom Research North America shows otherwise. The findings from GfK’s online field survey of ~1,000 U.S. consumers include this doozy: Two-thirds of respondents believe that it’s harder today for American companies to be trusted than it was three years ago.

Furthermore, ~55% say it will be harder for companies to gain their trust in the years to come.

What’s bothering people about U.S. corporations? In order of significance, here are the key concerns:

 The perception that CEOs and other senior executives of corporations are overpaid.

 Corruption in senior management circles.

 Companies make up lost earnings at the expense of their customers.

 More products than ever are being manufactured overseas.

Interestingly, there’s less concern about declining product or service quality as a reason for lower levels of trust. And as has been found in other studies, the public’s view of technology companies is somewhat higher than its trust for companies in other industry segments.

But back to the rather grim overall findings … fewer than one in five survey respondents anticipate that corporate corruption will become better over time – a result that’s substantially lower than what was found in similar field research conducted by GfK a few years ago.

This survey underscores the fact that corporate America has a long way to go to change the sharply negative impressions consumers have of the world of business. Clearly, the financial crisis of 2008 continues to extend its long shadow more than two years later.

And it looms over everyone – public and private sector alike.

This helps explain the generally sour mood people are in these days.