Imagine a Google spreadsheet. It can be accessed across a range of computers and updated in real time for all of those computers to see. There’s no delay in processing the updates and no gatekeepers preventing those updates from happening.
That’s the kind of transparency blockchain can provide.
Sure, cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum get all the hype. But the most exciting thing about these revolutionary systems is the technology that they’re built on — blockchain. It’s essentially a database of economic transactions that is public and shared. As a result, it’s easily verifiable and virtually incorruptible.
The benefits for finance management and world economies are obvious. But there’s a natural next step that some are just catching onto: Blockchain could transform how brands build campaigns, interact with customers, and gather data.
Companies are already using blockchain to reshape marketing. IBM launched its Blockchain-as-a-Service (BaaS) solution and has been working with brands like Walmart to track food production. It’s also predicted that blockchain will be the foundation for all websites in the future, which will surely affect digital marketing initiatives and e-commerce.
Still, we’re just scratching the surface of blockchain’s potential in the advertising realm.
That’s why we’re looking at a few ways brands could use blockchain in the near future.
User-generated content (UGC) checks a lot of boxes. It inspires your audience to create posts on behalf of your brand; it give you an opportunity to showcase the customer’s voice; and it helps build trust and affinity. In fact, 85% of consumers find UGC more influential than any form of brand content.
Still, there’s one issue that has been a thorn in the side of UGC campaigns: proper accreditation and compensation. That is, brands risk using people’s work without their permission or without attributing it to the right source.
Blockchain can help solve that problem. Not only can it be used as a quick and easy way to pay people for their creations, but once a payment is made, it can be seamlessly traced back to the original creator. This mitigates the risk of a PR disaster makes UGC an even safer bet for brands.
Let’s get back to that Walmart example for a second. In an effort to prevent outbreaks of contaminated food, and to promote its freshly sourced products, the retail chain is using blockchain to track food production — from the field where it’s grown to the shelves in the store.
This doesn’t just ensure the quality of its products. It’s also a great marketing move. It shows that the brand cares about where its food comes from, and is willing to be transparent about the entire process.
Going forward, more brands could use this technology to pull back the curtain on its company. They could even launch interactive, social good campaigns that showcase their sustainability efforts and challenge customers to get involved in the blockchain, recording their own responsible efforts and joining the cause.
Influencer marketing has an authenticity problem. In 2017, the US Federal Trade Commission sent 90 warning letters to influencers and marketers, reminding them to clearly disclose their partnerships on social posts. And there are plenty of companies that sell fake social followers to influencers to help them gain clout and land brand deals — fraudulent brand deals, that is.
That’s where blockchain comes in. Marketers can use this technology to prove influencers’ authenticity and track the engagement they receive from their campaigns. A company called Patron is already working on this capability, aiming to help brands verify an influencer’s value by tracing and recording their social information via blockchain.
Brands can also use blockchain to bind influencers into “smart contracts” — snippets of code that send payment once a specific action is completed.
As James Murphy wrote for Forbes, “The enforcement mechanism of the contract is the decentralized, open and immutable nature of the blockchain itself. Given the historical assumption that agreements between individuals are impossible to enforce outside of a governmental or judicial framework, the potential impact of smart contracts is massive.”
This is just the beginning of blockchain in the marketing industry. In fact, it’s just the beginning of blockchain in commerce as a whole. But that doesn’t mean brands should sit back and wait for it to transform the world. They should be on the edge of their seat, researching how it can change the future of transactions, payments, information sharing, and data collection — all of which lie at the heart of marketing.
Companies like Walmart and IBM may have gotten the conversation started, but there’s plenty of room for brands to use this technology to build stronger connections with customers and reimagine their marketing operations for a blockchain-powered world.