Blockchain in marketing: Will 2019 be a year more of hope or hype?

Mark Miller is a proven marketing leader with more than 20 years of experience managing data-driven digital, direct and 1:1 marketing programs. His client industry experiences include Telecommunications, Entertainment, Automotive, Casual Dining, Utilities, and Health and Beauty. Mark currently serves as the VP, Group Account Manager at RAPP Dallas.

The future of cryptocurrency is murky, at best. The same cannot be said for blockchain, which is the technology that enables cryptocurrency’s existence. Global spending on blockchain technology is on pace to reach $11.7 billion by 2022.

There’s a good reason for this. While blockchain is synonymous with cryptocurrency or bitcoin, the underpinning of the technology may provide greater value to a multitude of industries — especially marketing in regard to building valuable, individualised customer experiences. 

Take fashion brand Babyghost as an example. In 2016, the company introduced blockchain technology into its clothing, which allows consumers to access detailed information about any piece of apparel: where it was designed, how and where it was manufactured, and even notes about the model.

Given that blockchain’s adoption is in its near infancy in business categories beyond finance and manufacturing, it has the potential to evolve many aspects of marketing. Beyond the customer experience, the marketing industry could use it to create accountability in ad buys, improve a brand’s transparency, or understand customer engagement better.

When it comes to ad buys, transactions created by bots have caused engagement metrics to become inflated. With blockchain in place, however, marketers and consumers will have the ability to see and account for actual consumer engagement directly.

Once you can understand what customers are doing, gaining insights from that engagement will be a massive win with today’s traditional advertising efforts. Comcast announced in 2017 that it would be launching a Blockchain Insights Platform to track consumer engagement with TV content. This will help determine how companies can optimise addressable TV advertising, taking some guesswork out of the medium.

The blockchain of tomorrow

Blockchain will continue to evolve and to be adopted. While bleeding-edge companies and brands are leading the way, the full realisation of blockchain technology will reside with consumer adoption.

Some companies are already actively using blockchain to optimise marketing. Walmart, for example, is making companies that sell lettuce leverage blockchain. Why? Lettuce is the leading produce when it comes to recalls. Now, during an E. coli outbreak, Walmart can identify which batch of the produce was affected, down to the farm it came from.

But figuring out which batches of lettuce to recall is a passive benefit to the consumer. The future of blockchain in marketing is with active consumer engagement. Here are three predictions for how this will happen:

Brands will reward consumers for opting in to the blockchain

As consumers realise the benefit of content that is personalised to their needs, many will join a company’s blockchain environment. And to further engagement, brands may incentivise consumers for their attention. Given that there might be a reduction in the need for media intermediaries, companies can afford to take some of their cost-per-thousand savings from media and transfer that to the actual audience. 

Engaged consumers will be paid for reading brand emails

BitBounce is a new email provider that will pay users in cryptocurrency when they agree to open an email from an unfamiliar sender. Basically, brands will pay for the ability to be seen by you. This should provide significant value to the consumer and brand as the engagement is purely opted in by the consumer, and blockchain’s promised security will help consumers find trust in new brands.

Consumers and brands will be better informed

While consumers may not understand blockchain, they will see the benefit from companies that use it. As noted in both the Babyghost and Walmart examples, consumers who want to know the origin of a product and the story behind it will now know. This will keep fraudulent practices to a minimum when consumers can learn the provenance of the product they desire. Brands, meanwhile, will know precisely what information, offer, or product is the best for each customer. 

To make these predictions come true, it will take more than a couple of large adopters. Companies that want to fold blockchain into their everyday marketing tactics have one crucial thing to do: align it with their goals.

As with any new strategy that requires technology adoption, databases, or third parties, the first step is to understand how the introduction of blockchain will fit with your business’s vision and objectives. What do your consumers want? And how can you build better relationships with them? If having full transparency is valuable to you and your consumers, then you should investigate blockchain.

Don’t let your business fall behind. Blockchain is here to stay, and the sooner you can start experimenting with it — as long as it aligns with your company — the sooner you can take advantage of its benefits. Interested in hearing leading global brands discuss subjects like this in person? Find out more at the Blockchain Expo World Series, Global, Europe and North America.

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