Marketing is a risky business.
We’re always looking for new means for capturing an audience, to enthral our clientele in ways they’ve never seen before. Some companies put shirtless dudes with big muscles on horses, others create blogs with great writing and engaging content, (wink wink). But, whether it’s a passion for the job or trying to get your boss off your ass, marketers are constantly fighting tooth and nail to get an edge.
For many, blockchain is that edge.
While blockchain is best known as the tech that makes bitcoin tick, innovators from banking to the banana industry are building off of it’s vast potential. Seriously, bananas have their own cryptocurrency now. No, I’m not joking, and yes, I’m excited.
We’ve heard a ton about the large scale applications of blockchain technology. Security, transparency, and speed are the benefits lauded by any company sticking “blockchain” onto its name to make bank on the recent boom. But what about more practical applications?
Can blockchain change the way we think about marketing? Those big ideas and concepts can be realistically utilized to help marketers reach a customer base in a way that’s never been done. By leveraging the secure and transparent nature of blockchain, marketing departments may never be the same.
So what is the blockchain?
“Anything that you can conceive of as a supply chain, blockchain can vastly improve its efficiency – it doesn’t matter if it’s people, numbers, data, money.” – Ginni Rometty, CEO of IBM
A blockchain is what’s called a “decentralized distributed ledger,” which is a record of transactions that’s multiplied and dispersed among a network of users. These users can be individual computers or entire servers around the world, that are connected and secured through encryption, hence their use in cryptocurrency transactions.
Each block contains a timestamp, and the transaction data of the entire ledger. This means that no one person holds all the cards, but they’re spread out all fifty-two-pickup style. The safety, speed, and cost-effective nature of this style of recordkeeping is what attracts everyone from Warren Buffet to banana farmers.
With all this talk about finance and currencies, you might be thinking that there’s no way marketing could use this tech effectively. Well, you’d be wrong. Here are just a few ways that blockchain technology could revolutionize marketing.
Everyone’s used Wikipedia. The open-source online encyclopedia is the fifth-most visited website in the world, running entirely from user-edits and donations that it annoyingly asks you to give a few times a year. I don’t know why it needs to interrupt me when I’m clearly neck-deep in research about sloths, but what can you do.
The site runs pretty smoothly, aside from Satan being called Chad Kroeger’s Dad and and the first law of thermodynamics being changed to “not talking about thermodynamics.” But what if these (admittedly hilarious) hiccups could be fixed, or even avoided?
With blockchain technology, marketers could work collaboratively on a writing project with the ability to see when an edit was made, who made it, and where. On top of that, the document would be decentralized, meaning that no single user has full ownership of a particular project. Workplace equality, anyone?
Google Docs and other cloud-based platforms have taken care of the collaboration half of this equation, but the issue of centrality and tracking still need to be addressed. Applications like CryptPad have begun the process of integrating blockchain technology into writing and editing programs to pick up where others left off.
Caleb James DeLisle, a developer on the CryptPad project, describes the process of information collection as wanting “to know everything about people, we want to know how people use CryptPad, why people use CryptPad and how we can make their experience easier. However, we don’t want to know anything at all about you.”
Though anonymity and encryption might not be high on your priority list, the potential of the blockchain to change the way we collaborate on written marketing projects is huge.
You can even figure out who and when your coworker made that gross joke about your Mom.
2. Smart contracts
If you’re in marketing, you’ve probably hired a contractor, or been one yourself.
Contract employees are generally hired for a specified term or to complete certain tasks like writing, taking photographs, washing your car, anything really.
But, what do you do if your windshield’s still dirty? What if they used an innovative car-washing method that you want to steal, but you can’t get the licensing rights?
Okay, that went a little far. But, smart contracts can solve these issues. According to Robert Aitken, a frequent Forbes and Financial Times contributor, smart contracts are “code that can keep track of terms of agreements and automate the steps towards each term’s fulfillments.”
Basically, instead of confirming that your car was washed manually, smart contracts automatically verify that it’s clean. (Last one, I promise)
Especially in the digital space, marketers benefit from this blockchain application in many ways. For example, in terms of ad enforcement, marketers could outline a smart contract breaking down the terms of an agreement between your company and a publisher.
Once your number of impressions has been met and the fees are paid, the contact’s fulfillment is automatically confirmed, and your payment to the web publisher is released. Pretty slick, right?
Smart contracts can also be used to purchase or license rights from content creators. If you’ve ever used a song, photograph, or written piece for a marketing campaign, you’re sure to have encountered some issues with copyright or licensing.
In the age of Google Images and Reddit, this issue becomes much more widespread.
Recently, Kodak announced that they’re working with a company to offer a blockchain-based service that pays photographers whenever a company or individual uses their images.
This way the creators get paid, and your marketing department doesn’t have lawyers breathing down their necks.
3. Performance vs. time
Wouldn’t it be great to be able to work on a marketing campaign to completion without anyone pushing you to get it done as fast as possible?
But it’s understandable, right? It’s hard for your marketing director or manager to track the effectiveness of a project aside from the time spent on it. Some people assume that more time spent means a better product.
But, this isn’t true of everything. Especially milk, and mullets.
But seriously, how a marketing campaign performs is always more important than the time spent on it, but performance is very hard to track. If a marketer wants data on the performance of a project, or any leads or conversions that come out of it, it takes a lot of time and collaboration with intermediaries. Affiliates, ad networks, and more in-betweens that connect the producer of the content to its audience.
Even worse, the data “degenerates” with every intermediary. Who owns that data? Who can take credit for how well (or badly) a campaign did?
Lack of transparency can even make you vulnerable to fraud and other issues. Jeremy Epstein, CEO of NeverStopMarketing and author of a new book on blockchain in marketing, notes that “if we can coordinate around this new database that nobody owns, [blockchain] can address this.”
If every participant in the marketing campaign has a copy of the performance information, there can be no doubt as to who contributed to performance. Plus, if no one fully owns the information, there’s no need to worry about tampering. “It changes the conversation,” Epstein says, “from who owns the data to who gets it the fastest.”
The ability to track performance-based data is a major update to marketing strategies. Marketers everywhere can rejoice in the death of the timesheet.
4. Targeted advertising
Have you ever been talking about buying something, just to suddenly have ads popping up on Facebook, Twitter, and Google for it? Slightly terrifying, right?
Well, as marketers know, this is an advertising tactic used by big-name companies such as these through “data-collection” processes. What companies like Google do is stockpile information about your searches, and target ad campaigns on the basis of your likes and dislikes.
Though it doesn’t always work, it can work so well that it’s a bit creepy.
The current method of data-collection has sparked many internet privacy campaigns, and even some lawsuits. With blockchain technology, marketers can not only beat out the big guys like Google and Facebook, but can get the information legally, and transparently.
The idea is to have internet users compensated for giving out their information and allowing advertisers to target marketing campaigns to them.
Daniel Newman, CEO of Broadsuite Media Group, notes that “in the past, advertisers gained information about customers from various disparate sources.” However, “using blockchain,” Newman continues, “advertisers will now have the ability to build a customer profile directly from the customer – gaining all the information the customer is willing to share in one swoop.”
How this’ll be done is a bit vague for now, but a few companies are getting a head start. BitClave in particular has created a blockchain-based search engine that, when used, allows businesses to reach out to them for compensation.
The ability to incentivize users for their data, and have them consensually give it, gives marketers from smaller companies a leg up over giants like Facebook.
Though this tech has a ways to go, it’s bringing the data-collection conversation into the present, and is revolutionizing the way we interact with our audience.
5. Validating pay
Have you ever worried about payments? Paying a contractor, freelancer, or other firm can be costly, time-consuming, and plainly unsafe.
Especially in the affiliate marketing arena, it may be confusing to figure out who gets what pay, when, and why. If you wait too long figuring out the logistics, you risk upsetting or losing a partner, or drawing legal fire.
If I weren’t paid on time, my head would fly through my ceiling. If I still have a ceiling, or a roof for that matter.
In these ways, money is the facilitator and maybe the most volatile part of your job as a marketer. Whether you’re receiving or dolling it out, payments are a sensitive subject that desperately need an upgrade. Because blockchain began in currency exchange, implementing it in the marketing space could upend how we work financially.
Payments could be sent across the world on the blockchain without the use of slow, fee-garnering banking systems like SWIFT. Coupled with the transparency to see who did what, marketing professionals are avoiding hassle at every turn.
Add to that smart contracts to automate the payment release process, and you’re saving the time it would take to manually release and process a payment to a partner that’s itching to get their money.
Many payments processing companies are helping businesses large and small adapt to the blockchain revolution. Veem, a B2B payments processor, is currently using blockchain technology to help small businesses send and receive global payments securely, quickly, and at low-cost.
We are to fintech what Shopify is to ecommerce. What’s not to love?
It isn’t surprising that a technology originally created for processing funds is still best applied in that space. But, many people don’t realize that this technology isn’t just meant for processing cryptocurrencies. Any asset in any area can be exchanged, tracked, and encrypted.
Marketing needs a facelift. With its huge potential in these areas, blockchain technology will revolutionize the way we deploy, consume, and understand marketing campaigns. But, these are only a few possible avenues for the blockchain to take.
Where the blockchain ends up is a mystery. But, with the leaps and bounds it’s made so far, we can go anywhere.
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