Dorian Martin, a senior writer and content marketing specialist who is a frequent contributor and consultant to Studicus and Best Essay Education, and who maintains a personal blog, NotBusinessAsUsusal, containing articles on startup strategies and content marketing for entrepreneurs, explains how to incorporate blockchain into digital marketing.
Blockchain has become much more of a “household term” since its early days as simply being the technology that supports the cryptocurrency world. Cryptos are certainly moving into the mainstream, with many retailers now accepting them as payment.
But about the technology supporting cryptos? This thing called blockchain? Well, it has soared into the mainstream and is disrupting the traditional way of doing things in both private and public sectors.
The Basics of Blockchain
In fact, blockchain is a storage place for anything of importance – contracts, legal documents, voter identification, educational records, transport routes of goods, payments, healthcare records, financial services, and much more. The differences between traditional storage and that of blockchain are the following:
- Blockchain storage is permanent and unchangeable.
- Blockchain storage is housed on many computers, and each “block” is date and time-stamped.
- No organization or body of people specifically control or manage the chain of blocks, so entered documents cannot be changed or manipulated by anyone. If a document, such as a contract, is amended in a future block, both parties to that contract must agree to that amendment before it is added. Those parties must have an encrypted key code in order to add that amendment to the original agreement.
- While anyone in a blockchain network can view anything in that chain (public access), only a person with a key for a specific item can access the details (private access) and even then, cannot change them.
- The goal of blockchain in public and private sectors is to prevent fraud, forgery, hacking, and other nefarious activity. It can also be a huge factor in identity verification. Consider this, for example. When a person’s identity is verified and stored, it can be used to verify citizenship, voting registration, TSA checks, and much more, including online purchases. And because that identity is stored in a block, it cannot be hacked by anyone.
Blockchain technology is still evolving. But its potential to disrupt and transform every aspect of our lives is really upon us. It can provide safety, security, and confidentiality that traditional behaviors and database storage do not.
One area in which blockchain is beginning to cause a disruption is digital marketing. It is often neglected when the benefits of blockchain are discussed, but it has big implications about how both marketers and receivers of marketing efforts will be changed.
Just How Blockchain is Transforming Digital Marketing
Technology has allowed marketers to become pretty intrusive. Both group and individual consumer behavior is gathered, analyzed, and tracked, using some pretty amazing tools. Suppose a consumer conducts a generic search for winter jackets. Immediately on his Facebook page, he is inundated with clothiers marketing jackets. It’s intrusive and irritating, and the consumer comes to believe that he simply has no power over what he is continually bombarded with. And suppose that same consumer makes an online purchase. Now the worry is that he has to submit his banking information and hope it isn’t hacked.
Not to mention the fact that the consumer can be defrauded by a company in terms of product quality as well as the production process or where that product is produced.
Here are ways in which blockchain technology can and will change all of this.
One of the most alarming and upsetting impacts of online activity for consumers, is the amount of personal data businesses collect, all automatically. What happens to that data is in the hands of the business, not the visitor or user. That data is really valuable and can be sold, leased, or traded with other businesses, with no awareness on the part of the user of an app or website.
Even making a small purchase means a consumer must turn over a lot of personal information – name, address, email address, and phone number, at a minimum. This is valuable stuff for a company to have and hold onto.
In an attempt to counter this somewhat, most companies now have privacy policies which speak to how a consumer’s information is protected. Steve Briggs, Technology Director for BeGraded, an online writing service, puts it this way:
But even giving up personal information to a business that promises no sharing does not prevent that business from continued marketing to a customer, via a lot of venues and on all of their devices. This becomes irritating to consumers who only want to hear from a company under certain conditions that they would like to control.
Blockchain technology can allow such control by preventing any business or organization from holding and storing personal information for future use, at least not without providing some reciprocal value to that customer. Two recent blockchain technologies are disrupting a company’s marketing to its current and potential customers.
- Blockstack: This blockchain technology allows a consumer to keep their personal information from being stored by any apps, websites, etc. Users keep control of their data, only unlocking what they need to provide for access or purchasing. Once that use is completed, the information is returned to the user, never to be held by the app, website, etc.
- Brave Browser: This is a cool option for consumers. Basically, they can opt-in to the types of ads they want to view. In return, they receive Basic Attention Tokens (BATS) for the ads they do actually view. In brief, here is how this works:
- Advertisers can purchase ads using the Brave platform.
- Users then get to decide which types of ads they want to see.
- The BATS are small payments to the user out of what the advertiser paid for publication. But the publishers receive much more, of course.
While marketers may not love these new technologies, it does set up consumer protections and benefits for selective viewing of ads. Best of all, it will avoid all of those mass advertising campaigns, when marketers are not sure which specific advertising will pique an interest in which of their current or potential customers. (Yes, all of those popups are really irritating). In the end, marketers benefit as well, although they may not see it in the short-term. Giving consumers a choice of which ads they actually want to see endears those consumers to a company that gives them such a choice.
Cutting Out the Middleman
Here is a real cost saving for marketers. When they can place their ads directly into a blockchain platform, they will cut out the middlemen that always take their cut. Further, they will allow their target audiences to pick and choose which ads they want to see. This cuts costs in a big way.
Ad spend has always been confusing to marketers when they must go through an intermediary. Blockchain allows a transparent chain from the ad money spent by a marketer and the consumer who views those ads. A clear case use of this is a partnership between Unilever and IBM to cut the waste in ad spend, through the use of blockchain, and Unilever has already realized millions in savings.
Transparency for the Consumer
Shopping online has risks other than personal and financial information disclosures. When consumers purchase products online, even through “trusted” retailers (eBay, Amazon, Craigslist, as well as smaller ones), they do not have all of the information about a company they may want. Are they really going to get exactly what they ordered? Do they know that a company conforms to their principles of how and where an item was manufactured? Is the company environmentally responsible? Does it practice fair labor standards and practices?
Consumers demand such information on a far greater scale today. They want to know that products are authentic and that processes conform to their personal principles of integrity and social responsibility.
Sy Moreland, Marketing Director for the online writing service, Subjecto, puts it this way:
“The days are gone in which what a company promises to deliver is taken at face value. And all of the ‘testimonials’ a company may present mean nothing. Our customers demand to know who is providing their translation services, their credentials, their expertise and background in the specific niche. We must provide all of this if we intend to gain new clients. Full transparency is no longer an option.”
Companies can provide this information through a blockchain environment so that consumers can access these details and ensure they are doing business with the “right” companies.
The Future is Upon Consumers and Marketers
There is no turning back from this new rapidly emerging marketing environment. Everything from product searches to consumer control of their data, to verification of company authenticity is going to change. Even the online gaming industry is getting in on the act. Blockchain will disrupt marketing in ways that are now just beginning to have impacts. Smart marketers will become proactive, accept the changes on the horizon, and adapt to this new environment.