The debate around gathering and using personal data meets us at every turn these days. Realizing the importance of data to the overall customer experience, businesses are racing to determine how to gather accurate data, where to utilize that data for maximum impact, and how to do so in a way that meets the approval of its customers.
Many tout the recent introduction of blockchain technology as the key to unlocking the potential of data as a value proposition, so much so that blockchain has been compared to the biggest digital development since the Internet itself. Technology marketer Jeremy Epstein penned the analogy, “The internet was about the rapid transfer of information. Blockchain is about a rapid transfer of value.” For marketers, this value resides in the wealth of customer data to which blockchain could offer access.
Juicing Up Through Information Sharing
In the book “Blockchain Revolution,” authors Don and Alex Tapscott explain, “The blockchain is an incorruptible digital ledger of economic transactions that can be programmed to record not just financial transactions but virtually everything of value.” It functions as a shared spreadsheet that can be maintained simultaneously across a multitude of computer devices with no central data storage, no owner, and no breaches. In the simplest of terms, blockchain is Google docs on steroids.
More and more businesses are getting in on the action. An October 2017 report from CompTIA found that 16 percent of companies had purchased blockchain-enabled tools, while 22 percent were developing tools using blockchain. Another 24 percent said they were exploring the technology. Early applications include digital identity (51%), asset management and tracking (49%), regulatory compliance/auditing (49%), distributed storage (48%), smart contracts (45%), and cryptocurrency/payments (44%). Investors are intrigued and keeping a close watch on new developments.
A Different Playing Field for Marketers
What initially began as a tool for the financial industry now has marketers considering how this technology can help tackle the age-old challenge of engaging audiences in an increasingly digital world. Marketers recognize the potential and are eyeing the promise of a marketing environment with a mutual payoff for customer and brand. The “how to achieve” remains elusive, however, as marketers ponder, “Does blockchain enable us to finally change the game?”
Four areas have emerged in which blockchain can do just that:
- Data, Data and More Data. Blockchain offers the potential for gathering an abundance of meaningful, accurate customer data, the marketer’s holy grail for campaign development. It facilitates the collection of behavioral and psychographic data that enables marketers to identify and target the emotions and motivations of the end user. More importantly, blockchain provides transparency to customers around how their data is being used. The increase in trust and reduction of skepticism invites more data sharing and, as the cycle continues, deeper insights. The result is the formation of an authentic two-way relationship between consumer and brand.
- Content Value Creation. Equally intrinsic to data is content. While data and content may resemble the old chicken and egg analogy, the ability to interact with customers so transparently allows for more accurate and effective content creation and sharing. As content sharing proliferates, both company and customer participate in payment and reward. Blockchain forms the avenue for sharing so that marketers can create personalized experiences for customers using highly relevant content, thus achieving a true value exchange.
- Personalized Advertising. In digital advertising, blockchain can have immediate impact. The technology offers solutions to so many of the challenges in digital implementation, allowing marketers to verify delivery, measure engagement and performance, prevent overserving of ads, and optimize frequency. The data gathered and content generated allow for truly personalized ad experiences with greater customer impact.
- Influencer Legitimacy. Blockchain also empowers marketers to accurately identify true influencers, something that is currently difficult at best. Several techniques are available to distinguish a person from a robot and to verify that he or she is a true influencer and brand advocate. The technology can ensure that people are who they say they are and safeguard against bot infiltration. While this could decrease the overall number of influencers, it will increase the quality of true influencers and the accuracy of audience reach and measurement.
Everyone is a Winner!
Certain blockchain benefits make all marketers sit up and take note: increased trust, accurate targeting, stronger customer connection, increased loyalty, meaningful engagement, high relevance and the ability to qualify and create value. Consumers want many of the same things from brands: greater transparency, true accountability and the ability to define and direct when, where and how they participate in the conversation.
What makes blockchain so tantalizing to marketers is the promise of a mutually beneficial end result for company and customer alike. Improved customer experience, enhanced customer journey, increased personalization and the opportunity for a true two-way dialogue between brand and consumer will revolutionize the game. While there is certainly a lot of talk right now, very few companies have already achieved implementation. Those who succeed first will have an immeasurable advantage.
A Civil Revolution in News Media
The Civil Media Company, a decentralized communications platform for journalists and citizens, uses blockchain to support independent newsrooms by limiting the influence of third parties such as advertisers, publishing conglomerates and other outside influencers. The Civil model creates a dynamic of more direct, transparent communication between journalists and citizens while using blockchain to strengthen trust with readers and news reporting. This stimulates both appreciation and financial support for journalism. In other words, blockchain provides economically incentivized self-governance and permanent recording of authorship and content. This model empowers newsrooms to seek compensation directly from the readers they serve and encourages readers to reward quality news or flag journalists who do not follow proper protocol. The objective is to use technology to revive an important but struggling industry under recent scrutiny for an unsustainable business model.
While most are still racing to figure out how to maximize their opportunities with this new technology, interestingly, the industries exploring blockchain are incredibly diverse – from financial managers to auto manufacturers, oil and gas refineries to retailers and food companies. The potential for marketing and communications applications remains virtually untapped. Whoever discovers it first will redefine the standard for the customer/brand relationship, while others will undoubtedly struggle to even the playing field.