OKX wants to build a ‘generational brand’ like Fidelity, says CMO

OKX CMO Haider Rafique talked about marketing in a bear market, celebrity deals and how to approach regulators in an interview with Blockworks


OKX CMO Haider Rafique | Permissionless II by Blockworks


OKX’s chief marketing officer Haider Rafique wants OKX to be as trustworthy as Fidelity. 

In an interview with Blockworks, Rafique explained how he’s approaching the company’s rebranding, advertising and the overall state of crypto.

In December 2021, OKX announced that it was planning to rebrand from OKEx to OKX. Rafique helped lead the rebranding, and acknowledged that the campaign has been tough.

“There’s still an appetite to push and bring utility,” he added. 

The company is looking to build itself as a “generational brand” like Fidelity, a brand that Rafique himself trusts.

Read more: Tech-first, trust-next: OKX’s roadmap for regaining consumer confidence

“What’s important for us as a company is that we build the right market share; people who are going to stay with us if our aspirations are to be a generational brand,” he told Blockworks. 

“I’m still a Fidelity customer from day one. I’m very happy with Fidelity because I trust them, their customer service is great, they’re reliable, I don’t have solvency concerns with them, so on and so forth.”

But building out a generational brand isn’t keeping Rafique or OKX from pursuing brand partnerships or celebrity deals.

Rafique said that other companies were “on the table” when OKX originally reached out to McLaren. 

Another firm “had a much more sizable check than us. And the first conversation I had with McLaren was [that] I’m not going to be the largest check,” Rafique said.

But that didn’t dissuade OKX, and Rafique said that OKX will “absolutely” pursue more “celebrity-driven creative installations.”

Here’s more from Rafique’s interview with Blockworks:

Blockworks: The last time we spoke [at Permissionless], we touched on how OKX is marketing or is changing its marketing strategy during a bear market…can you explain what kind of upside you see in the market we’re in currently?

Rafique: Well, I think marketing doesn’t just have to be ads. Marketing can also be our overall company posture as we show up in the market. When we think really hard about what the market needs, one thing that is very clear is that the world needs more trust with crypto and crypto firms. We have this debate in crypto on whether you trust a system — a centralized system — or you have trustless systems or permissionless systems. For us, we really lean in on helping customers see why they should trust us and point them to the systems that they should be looking at to develop or regain trust back in the crypto community. I think that’s going to be our continued focus, at least until regulations [in the US and globally] are a little more settled, like what’s happening in the UK. Following the [Sam Bankman-Fried] trial, the regulatory standpoint is hopefully going to look a little more established. I have always said, OKX aspires to be a generational brand. And to be a brand, it’s not about being in [a] bear or bull market.

Blockworks: Do you think you can re-earn or work back to earning trust from people who feel like they’ve been burned by companies such as FTX through being more creative, through showing them that OKX is transparent, but also here to ensure that the customers don’t feel that they’re pushing advertisements to you?

Rafique: I think so. However, it’s gonna take us a little bit of time to do it. I don’t think it will be easy to win the trust from those who got burned on Luna or FTX. I think it will take time, they’re very skeptical. But I am also not going to lie to myself. It’s gonna be really challenging to get those people to trust anyone in the industry anytime soon.

Blockworks: Do you think that the FCA’s new rules actually help OKX?

Rafique: My point of view on rules and policies from regulators, or advertising bodies, is none of them have the perfect playbook for us. However, the most important thing is to first show them good behavior and show them support. What we’ve done is have continuous dialogue with them. Their requirement for disclaimers is a lot. That hurts when you’re putting that in [the] product, but we did it anyway despite our differences on point of view. We respect them, and over time as we gain their trust, and have more discussions together, we can shift policy to be a little more balanced so to speak. 

Blockworks: Do you feel similarly about the EU’s markets in crypto-assets (MiCA)? 

Rafique: My point of view on regulations globally, whether it’s [the] United States, MiCA, Hong Kong or Singapore, is that we take a collaborative and comprehensive approach. We want to gain regulators’ trust, which starts with first complying. Secondly, it’s equally important to be transparent about our business. Once that fundamental trust is established, regulators see our sophisticated legal and compliance teams as well as the systems we’re putting in place and investing in. Then, we’re able to have a dialogue around what should be adjusted or considered to be adjusted. There are often two schools of thought: go to Twitter, and start sharing your frustrations with the rest of the world, [or] you can start to build and gain trust with regulators. I think we fall in the second group.

This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.

Updated Oct. 26, 2023 at 2:39 pm ET: OKX announced the plan to rebrand in 2021.

Updated Oct. 24, 2023 at 5:35 pm ET: Interview edited for clarity.

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